The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Regency has taken retreat, Pride and Prejudice has been given an all-American modern overhaul!

 

Perhaps the most famous modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is the 2005 film version staring Kiera Knightly, however does this make it the best? I think not.

 

Termed by The Guardian as the ‘best Jane Austen small-screen adaptations’, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, is a modern, upbeat and highly addictive series of home video style vlogs by the leading lady herself, Lizzie Bennet.

 

True to the original, Austen’s Mr Bingley becomes the object of desire, yet is characterised to be the infamously rich single neighbour and trainee doctor, Bing Lee. Mr Darcy has also been given a modern twist characterised as an assumed ‘Dub Step Dj’ named just Darcy. Lydia, takes the form of the slutty younger sister whilst Jane and Elizabeth (despite the abbreviated name) remain true to their original regency selves, with a few modern twists. In fact, I believe that this adaptation has become so successful as despite the modern overhaul, this unfiltered feed remains true to the general narrative of the 1813 novel, as the concerns of marriage, morality and overbearing parents still remain current themes and concerns to 21st century women.

 

Pride and Prejudice has remained so popular since its publication to the current day because the of the characters created by Austen. Despite their then social constraints, they still remain relatable as they are at the end of the day teenage girls, troubled over relationships, a social normality that will never change. However, the use of technology here and viewer interaction via Facebook and Twitter, can almost make it feel like you’re involving yourself in a little piece of Austen as it really brings to life the original characters in a way that is interactive and true to the modern audience.

 

The vlogging style is clearly aimed and to be appreciated by the teenagers of the YouTube generation where talking frankly about life’s worries to an anonymous audience is the norm. Yet, I think that this is a style that is perfectly suited to the original as the reader also is fed a conscious stream of thought and information by Austen.

 

I also the fact that cleverly, archaic language has even been worked into the script for comedic value. Lizzie demonstrates this through the constant allusion towards Jane’s use of ‘feminine favours’. I think we all know what she means by that…

 

Initially when watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I immediately compared this to the film Easy A (which makes reference to the novel The Scarlett Letter). However, I believe that this adaptation is so much more successful as it encapsulates the entirety of the original Pride and Prejudice novel without the need for many changes or even direct reference to the original text and places it in 21st century society in a technological way which could be realistically achieved.

 

The Waste Land: Taking on a Giant

The Waste Land: Taking on a Giant

T.S Eliot It is no surprise that Faber and Faber would try to tackle the great behemoth of Modernist poetry that is The Waste Land. T.S Eliot did, after all, work there for 40 years, so what better place would there be to start in digital adaptations? But inevitable questions have to be asked of an app that tries to adapt and engage with such a complex text, and you are forced to wonder whether the adaptation has to be as ambitious as the original, after all, as the app store does say, ‘The Waste Land for iPad brings alive the most revolutionary poem of the last hundred years for a 21st Century audience.’

At the very core of its purpose, The Waste Land refuses to open itself up for a novice readership. Faber have taken on the role of teacher and mentor for the poem, providing what they deem to be an appropriate range of material sourced from their archives, or created for the app. It provides a variety of information, from videos interviewing academics, to a slightly bizarre interpretive reading. Each feature works well with understanding a few elements, but mainly they simply create a more complex reading. The app allows the ability to choose from seven different poets or actors to doing readings, with two different versions of T.S Eliot; they can view annotations of the original manuscript and are offered 22 images related to the poem from an in-built gallery, but these do not aid in the reading or understanding, they instead draw your attention away from the text itself.

The trouble with trying to evolve from the book in its physical form into an app is that the process can omit a traditional opening. That does not mean the first chapter of a book or poem, but instead an introduction, foreword or even an ‘about the author’ page. This is where one might start trying to grapple with the poem, if they were previously unaware of The Waste Land’s impact on culture. They would find an introduction explaining the history of the poem, read the poem (or, perhaps vice-versa) and then move on to explanations of the aesthetics of the poem. But there is no first page to turn to; there are tops and bottoms, but also lefts, rights, ins and outs. There is a menu, yes, but this gives the poem no significance or hierarchy over the rest of the content available. Faber and Faber attempt provide everything to decode the poem, but it starts to feel as though, in an attempt to release a quick digital adaptation, they have simply thrown a previously unseen archive of information into an app and left out the almost essential Prufrock that you come to expect with a hard copy of The Waste Land.

The lack of direction and introduction aside, the app does provide an interesting concept of what can be achieved through digital adaptation. When browsing through the menu and applications it is apparent that aesthetics are appropriate to the text. They are somewhat plain but purposefully academic, though often clunky, with a frustrating fading scrolling feature. For those who were previously aware of T.S Eliot’s purpose in literature, this app would go far to provide a lot of interesting material, but as the makers are fully aware, it is clearly not the next stage in publishing.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore

Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore

I love this novel! I’d really like to read your thoughts on the following questions:

  1. On Page 35, Mr Penumbra states that ‘the relationship between book and reader is private’. What does he mean by this? How does the novel complicate this relationship?
  2. On page 58, Kat says: ‘But I think writers had their turn…and now it’s programmers who get to upgrade the human operating system.’ Does the novel privilege programmers/digital over writers/print? Do you agree that programmers are now more important than writers?
  3. At the heart of the novel is the collision of old-world handwork and the automated digital age. How do Clay and Mat build a bridge between these two worlds?
  4. The characters remind us that fifteenth-century technologies of the book—from punch-cutting to typesetting—were met with fear and resistance, as well as with entrepreneurial competition and the need to teach new skills. How does this compare to the launch of e-books? If you try to picture what literacy will look like five hundred years from now, what do you see?

I like the smell of books…

I like the smell of books…

This week’s lecture is entitled ‘I like the smell of books’. This seems to be the most common reason people give for preferring printed books. So my questions are:

What is it about the physical book that remains such an attraction for readers? Is it the smell? What are your reading habits?