If you are in Brisbane, I would love to see you there. Apparently refreshments will be served after. Please feel free to pass this on to anyone who you think might be interested. As well as the usual Jane Austen devotees I imagine this might be of some interest to people who work on genre and on fan studies.
“Warming the imagination with scenes of the past”: Time-travel romances about Jane Austen.
How can we really get into Jane Austen’s world? Do we fall through the looking-glass or stumble through the back of the wardrobe, or will a good old-fashioned concussion do the trick? Amongst the flood of new products recently marketed by the ever-resourceful Austen industry is a fascinating group of fictional works – novels and a television show - dealing with time-travelling contact between our world and Austen’s.
In these works, passionate Austen aficionados from the present are magically transported back to Austen’s England where they attempt to ‘pass’ as Regency types, notice what the novels 'exclude' (dirt, bodies, servants, Americans) and encounter both the elusive authoress herself and Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, who, somehow and surprisingly, appears to be even more explosively sexy in person than he is in fiction. Although the ‘reality’ of Jane Austen’s world is never exactly how they had pictured it, the time-travellers must somehow reconcile their fervent attachments to the scenes of the past with their knowledge of themselves as essentially twenty-first century persons.
Bizarre and occasionally perverse as these works are, they offer a rich vein of insight into the bizarre and often perverse nature of Jane Austen’s immense and durable popularity among readers of all varieties. These time-travel fictions make full use of the imaginative possibilities afforded by fantasy and romance to explore passionate readerly experiences of the kind that ‘disciplined’ literary criticism has difficulty thinking about.