Jane Austen wrote six major novels which were published between 1811 and 1818, one year after her death. Although the most famous of these was Pride and Prejudice, they are all incredible books in their own right: funny, intelligent, heartwarming love stories which took a sharp aim at the hypocrisy and unfairness of the upper classes. They have barely been out of print since they were first published, and now they are staples of English literature — inspiring remakes and parodies as diverse as the movie Clueless to the mock-horror Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Was Jane Austen a feminist? Her novels were not particularly radical, and her main characters usually conformed to society’s expectations by the story’s end. And yet Austen was unapologetic about putting the experiences of women front and centre. She gave them a voice — and her stories have been beloved by many women (and men) ever since.
BBC ‘breaking law’ with unequal pay for women
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Austen’s authorial voice is famous for its dry wit and wry observations. Her third person narration is generous and clear, yet always gently mocking society’s ridiculous standards for women and its intricate social rules. Is humour an effective way to highlight serious issues?
Britain’s Olympic show to star drizzle and jams
Spectacular plans for London’s Olympic opening ceremony have finally been unveiled. Cows, nurses and motorways all feature – but should Britain be showing off such an eccentric vision?
Satirists targeted for taking on the powerful
As Private Eye celebrates its 50th anniversary in the UK, French society has united to support firebombed satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Laughing at politics has a long and controversial history.
Turkey’s president ridiculed through poetry
A British magazine has made waves worldwide by asking readers to mock President Erdoğan in verse after he reacted angrily to a satirical sketch. Deserved mockery? Or tasteless bear-baiting?
The main characters in all of Jane Austen’s novels are united in their belief that women should marry for love (although it helps if the man you love is also rich). The romances are usually fairly complicated, full of misunderstandings and unexpected obstacles — but they always end happily.
‘Love Island teaches you more than Jane Austen’
Surely not? The TV show is smashing records. Some scorn it as low-grade trash. But others say its stories of relationships, courtship and rejection have more wisdom than the classics.
Meghan’s ‘dad crisis’ stirs marriage debate
Is marriage itself past its sell-by date? Just as the big day looms, Meghan Markle is facing a family drama: her father may not walk her down the aisle. Some say the tradition is sexist anyway.
New book offers love lessons from literature
Released this week to critical acclaim, a new book called ‘Much Ado About Loving’ distils the works of the world’s literary greats into useful relationship advice for modern readers.
Austen did not use broad strokes. Her novels are usually confined to a particular community in the upper classes, whose story is told with great care and detail — she called it the “little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush”. But she was an expert — the social manners of Regency England have been rendered perfectly.
Exposed! Daily life in Jane Austen’s England
An amazing new history book has disclosed the true squalor of British life just 200 years ago – very far from the ballgowns and parlour games of Jane Austen.
Crisis deepens over Westminster sex scandal
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Mother-in-law’s lesson in ‘manners’ for bride
An email from her future mother-in-law berating a young woman for sleeping late, fussy eating and general 'uncouthness' has been released to the world. Whose side are you on?
Perhaps obsessing over family or potential husbands’ fortunes now comes across as selfish and mercenary. Austen herself frequently poked fun at the practice in her novels. But she was also highlighting the unfairness which forced women’s economic dependence on men. Is the system fairer now?
Where billionaires go to change the world
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UK society is increasingly divided by class
A new film about privileged youth has sharpened the debate about class division in modern Britain. Top jobs increasingly go to the privately educated. Whatever happened to meritocracy?
Government plans to tackle unequal pay
The prime minister has outlined plans to force large businesses to say how much they pay their male and female employees. Will this bring about greater prosperity and independence for women?