Books, Bras and Bridget Jones: reading adaptions of 'Pride and Prejudice'

Olivia Murphy


At no time in the two hundred years since Jane Austen submitted First Impressions for publication has her work been more popular than in the last decade. The phenomenon of Austenmania has seen Sense and Sensibility-a novel that for years struggled for inclusion among Austen's 'mature' fiction - on the New York Times bestseller list, one hundred and eighty-four years after its first publication. The impetus for this sudden explosion in interest in Jane Austen can be traced to one week in September 1995, when ten million people in Britain watched Mr. Darcy dive into his pond at Pemberley. Before the end of that year, film versions of Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility would be released and the BBC would immediately replay the entire six-part series of Pride and Prejudice. In the following year Clueless would be joined by separate film and television versions of Emma. Eventually, Pride and Prejudice would become one of the BBC's (and the American A&E station's) most successful programmes.8 Its popularity brought new readers to Austen's best-known novel, readers who, for the most part, read outside of any academic context. It is these new readings of Pride and Prejudice, however, proliferating in the wake of its adaptation, which contain the greatest significance for our contemporary understanding of Austen, and compel us to examine and re-examine the novel and its adaptations in light of one another.

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