Jun 262015
 

Fan PhenomenaA Celebration of Jane Austen Fan Culture

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: Review Copy from Publisher

SERIES OVERVIEW:

The Fan Phenomena series by Intellect Books is a collection of books that celebrates the many iconic and popular fandoms in our culture today. To date there are fourteen books published in the Fan Phenomena series with two more expected to be published later this year. Some subjects in this series include: Star Wars, The Hunger Games, Audrey Hepburn, Sherlock 17674039HolmesDr. Who, and of course, Jane Austen! Each book in this series highlights different facets of each fandom and explores how fans celebrate, appreciate, and share their love for these specific subjects, shows/films, or people.

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BOOK OVERVIEW:

Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen is a collection of eleven essays and four interviews. Each essay is contributed by various literary scholars, writers, and academics and focuses on a different area of of the Jane Austen fandom. Included in this elegant collection is over 70 color images representing book covers, memorabilia, media screenshots, and Janeites attending various Jane Austen events. The essays range from eight to thirteen pages in length and include works cited and end notes.

MY ASSESSMENT:

A book just devoted to Jane Austen culture and fandom?!? Sounds amazing, right? For me, it was like reading about the world in which I live! 🙂 For the most part, I thought all the essays were interesting, concise, and well-researched. I greatly enjoyed the interview segments – I loved the people selected to be interview and found the discussions thoughtful and enlightening. I especially enjoyed learning about the evolution of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath,  And overall, I greatly admired the elegant and attractive design and construction of the book, and appreciated the organized and progressive order of chapters. However, my one complaint about the book’s design is that the print feels unnecessarily small (especially when there is a very large top margin.) I think some larger images would have been a nice touch too.

Readers who, like myself, immerse themselves in all things Jane Austen may not find all the material presented in this compilation to be entirely new. Many topics such as Jane Austen monster mash-ups, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and Mr. Darcy have often been canvassed and the subject of articles and essays before. And while I still found these essays to be well-written and informative, there were others that I found more edifying.

My favorite essays were: “A Grand Tour of Pemberley” – which highlighted and gave the history of the various estates used in Jane Austen film adaptations, “Who Am I? Relationships Between Reader and Heroine Explored Through the Popular ‘Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You?’ Quizzes” – which expounded upon the personalities of Jane Austen’s heroines and how contemporary readers still feel connected to these timeless characters, and “’She’s Everywhere’: Jane Austen in the Blogsphere” – which explored my favorite domain – the world of Jane Austen blogs.” The one essay I wasn’t too fond of was “In the Regency Alternate Universe: Jane Austen and Fan Fiction Culture” – which provided a very narrow scope of JAFF online and highlighted only one Thor-inspired tale. (c’mon, the world of JAFF is soooo massive!)

CONCLUSION:

The celebration and fandom of Jane Austen’s novels truly is a cultural phenomenon! This compilation wonderfully combines fan appreciation with academic study and can be enjoyed by die-hard Janeites and new Austen admirers alike! I recommend this book for readers who like to “geek-out” over Jane Austen!

NOTE: I don’t usually comment on errors since they usually don’t hamper my reading, but unfortunately I found some careless errors made by the contributors in their essays that disappointed me a little – such as citing the wrong Emma adaptation and misspelling a blog’s name wrong in several places.

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  11 Responses to “Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen – Edited by Gabrielle Malcolm”

  1.  

    Terrific review, Meredith. I’ve had this on my radar for a while and look forward to reading it. It does disappoint me to not have more JAFF coverage. But, I’ll survive.

    •  

      Glad I got the chance to read it! 🙂 Hope you will too! I might be just a tad biased when it comes to wanting more JAFF coverage, it is an area I spend oodles of my own free time!

  2.  

    This sounds like a good read for me. Thanks for another great review, Meredith!

  3.  

    I didn’t know about this series of books. LOL! It would feel a bit like reading about myself when reading Jane Austen Fandom. I’m always curious what people have to share, but it’s good to know that it might not be all new stuff.

    •  

      It looks like a pretty awesome collection of books – I might pick up some others in the series eventually! It definitely does have a special connection for us Janeites who celebrate Jane Austen daily!

  4.  

    Loved reading your review, Meredith, and it was such a pleasure to meet Gabrielle Malcolm at the Jane Austen Regency Week in Alton! Looking forward to reading the book about the world we live in 🙂

  5.  

    Thanks Meredith – it was great to read the review and likewise to meet Joana and others at the festival. With regard to the coverage of JAFF in the collection – it’s a really interesting point that you and others raise and I think some of the background to the book will be pertinent.

    When I circulated the call for contributions (via many different sites and networks) the response was incredible! I could have filled a volume three times over just with the numbers of interested contributors – mostly from academia, but many others too – teachers, fans, historians, general readers. However, of all the submissions only a tiny number focused on JAFF – about two or three. By far the majority proposed chapters on the adaptations, Zombies, and The LBD on Youtube. The same happened with coverage of the blogs. The only submission I had on those was the one published – a great chapter by Chris Louttit. That, and the chapter by Eleonora Capra on Italian fandom, I am particularly pleased with.
    I am more than willing to hear from people who want to research, study, critique and write a 3,000 word chapter on JAFF! And on the blogosphere! With a perspective that deals with the interest and cultural significance of the forms. Some of the proposals took a rather condescending angle on romantic spin-offs and fan fiction and I don’t think there’s a place for that approach anymore!

    I am pleased with the interviews I conducted with JAFF writers. I wanted to discuss their work in a literary and creative context, as well as get them to consider the online networks of fans and what those mean to their output.

    This book started out as predominantly an academic/popular crossover – that’s the appeal that the publisher wanted – hence some of the content. But now that they see the immensity of JA fan culture they would be interested in more coverage and other titles. If we show there is a market for it then they will consider it!
    So, if this book is a success and enough people want to see some serious and entertaining coverage of JAFF in a literary critical context (and not as a specimen of the romantic genre!) then I think there is plenty of room for development and new publications!

    Plus I am shooting a documentary film about the fan culture. I already have a series of interviews – including one with Adrian Lukis – and I am looking for more people to interview, either in person or on Skype. I am happy to hear from willing participants. (Please!)

    thanks again
    Gabrielle

  6.  

    The book may well have been more credible to those who are most active in Austenesque literature had those few JAFF essays been included. There are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10,000 readers, thousands of unpublished stories, and close to a thousand novels that are not reflected at all, yet the same old Zombies and Diaries are rehashed as in every list or group we see.

    •  

      Thanks Suzan – a good point – which several people have made to me over the past few months. Hence my desire to shoot the documentary. JAFF as a genre contains many sub-genres. It is difficult to cover them all. I think that the book is credible, and does offer more than simply a rehash. I like to think that the contributors’ work has more to it than that!
      Most importantly now – I need to arrange opportunities to interview JAFF readers and writers for the documentary so would love to have the chance to discuss this further. thanks so much, and I hope we can talk some more one-to-one. There are a set of crucial questions that I want to look at with my documentary – foremost being the views of readers of JAFF about their various tastes and how they want to represent the genre to those who so far know nothing about it, despite the popularity. It’s one of those fascinating cultural situations – G

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