Jane Austen House 2022 Annual Lecture: What Makes a Good Austen Adaptation?

Jane Austen’s House Ambassadors for 2020-21, playwright Laura Wade and actor Samuel West, join highly acclaimed Austen expert Professor Kathryn Sutherland for a stimulating discussion of Jane Austen’s works, from a dramatist’s point of view. Gathered around the Dining Room table at Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, they discuss the question, “What makes a good Jane Austen adaptation?”

Some take-aways from this talk by Laura Wade (author of the acclaimed adaptation of The Watsons), her partner Samuel West (Mr. Elliot of the 1995 Persuasion), and Professor Kathryn Sutherland:

-Even the early illustrated versions of Austen can be regarded as adaptations, given what they choose to illustrate and how they position and depict the characters.

-Austen’s free indirect discourse is very difficult to render on screen. Film tends to make the viewer fall in love with what is on the screen, rather than hold it at a distance. This is why Clueless and its ironic perspective upon the heroine is such a successful adaptation of Emma.

-Although the 1999 Mansfield Park is controversial, it’s important that this is presented not as a straight-up adaptation but is transposing Jane Austen into the novel and offering Patricia Rozema’s version of the text.

However, this only skims the surface of this wonderful, erudite lecture! Give it a listen!

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