Although the word ‘cult’ may seem a loaded one to describe the afterlife of Jane Austen’s most recognised novel, in many ways it is an apt term. What other label could make sense of the outpouring of attention to Pride and Prejudice in the past century and a half of popular literature, film and culture? How else might we explain a text that has attracted everything from paper dolls and board games to zombies and vampires? ‘Cult’ best applies to Pride and Prejudice in one of its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century meanings: ‘devotion or homage to a particular person or thing, now esp. as paid by a body of professed adherents or admirers’. (The meaning of ‘cult’ as ‘a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister’ emerged in the early twentieth century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.) Pride and Prejudice has reached near ubiquity, having become a long-term ‘media event’. The remarkable cultural history of this novel is impossible to tell succinctly. Entire books have been – and should be – written to describe the twists and turns in its afterlife. In this chapter, I provide broad brushstrokes designed to prompt us to recognise how it has carried different meanings for changing sets of readers at discrete historical moments. Pride and Prejudice may or may not deserve the term often used to describe its appeal: ‘universal’. Nevertheless, the ways the novel has been imagined, used and reinterpreted over the past 200 years have been far from uniform. Whether these trends proved transitory or gained significant traction, they deserve to be better known.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Title of host publication||The Cambridge Companion to Pride and Prejudice|
|Publisher||Cambridge University Press|
|Number of pages||12|
|State||Published - Jan 1 2009|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities(all)