I’m a self-professed Austen devotee, which I owe largely to a first year English professor who, besides being a staunch feminist, is also a man of excellent literary tastes, his speciality being British Romanticism (the best era for literature ever, if you ask me). I also owe to him my lifelong love affair with John Keats. Thank you for forever jeopardizing any relationship I could have with a living, breathing man because I, go figure, am hung up on a dead one (but c’mon, have you ever read Endymion or “Ode to a Nightingale” or any of his letters?!).
The professor in question first introduced me not to the quintessentially ‘Austen’ Austen novels, like Pride and Prejudice or Emma, but to a short little Gothic parody, Northanger Abbey, which is both hilarious and still romantic despite its very deliberate and completely self-aware campiness. I worked my way from Northanger Abbey to Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion to Pride and Prejudice then to Emma (my second least favourite) to the outright miserable Mansfield Park, which I was forced to read in a seminar on 19th-century transatlantic slave narratives due to its brief references to Sir Thomas’ slave ownership and his travel to the West Indies (my least favourite).
In the minds of many Austen fans and book lovers in general, Pride and Prejudice reigns supreme as both the ultimate romcom and her crowning literary achievement. This brings me to my titular question: can Austen survive casual sex, reality TV and the American midwest?