“She’s prompted generations of readers to ask hard questions about living more meaningful lives.” Devoney Looser
Devoney Looser has just released a book that I have been waiting to read for quite some time; The Making of Jane Austen. Not only did she release a book, she made a pretty awesome book trailer for readers too! Now, she’s here on Just Jane 1813 to share with us a behind-the-scenes look at the making of her book trailer and the inspiration behind her book, The Making of Jane Austen, which recently recognized as a #1 New Release in British & Irish Literary Criticism on Amazon.
I certainly wish I had a college professor like Devoney when I attended college, because not only is she knowledgeable about Jane Austen, she shares her passion for Jane in such creative and interesting ways and I think readers will love the new light her book sheds on the way Jane’s image has been crafted over the last two centuries. Devoney will be in NYC at the end of June, where she will discuss her book at the New York Public Library. I can’t wait to meet her! If you’re in NYC on June 29th, drop by to see her presentation.
Please join me in welcoming Devoney to Just Jane 1813…
The Making of Jane Austen: The Video by Devoney Looser
I’ve long wanted to write a book on Jane Austen, and I’ve loved to roller skate since I was a kid. When my publisher suggested that my new book, The Making of Jane Austen, needed a book trailer, it seemed the perfect moment to bring those two unlikely passions together. That’s how this fun short video was born.
I’m an avid Austen reader, fan, and collector, and I’ve played roller derby under the name Stone Cold Jane Austen. Believe it or not, these things are all part of my job! I have the ridiculous good fortune to be Professor of English at Arizona State University, where I teach courses on Austen and the history of women’s writing. Outside of the classroom, I’m equally lucky to serve as the faculty adviser to ASU’s co-ed, flat-track roller derby team, the Derby Devils. I don’t just study and teach Jane Austen and popular culture. I live it, sometimes even on roller skates.
I’d never made a book trailer before. At first, it seemed like this might have to be an entirely DIY enterprise, but ASU Research (the Office of Knowledge Enterprise and Development) stepped up to the plate to bring together a team and resources to create the video. ASU’s Kirk Davis, himself a filmmaker, served as the director. I just had to write the script.
Trying to describe my book—offering teaser content that might make people want to read on–turned out to be quite a challenge. The book is 304 pages, and the video was supposed to be three minutes long. How could I set the tone and give a sense of what was new and exciting about the book in mere minutes? I wanted to try to make it lighthearted and funny, too. I also knew I wanted to include the roller derby team, if they were willing, and they were.
I started the book The Making of Jane Austen five years ago with a hunch and without any sense that it would have its own video. I began with the suspicion that we’d left out significant parts of the story of how Austen became a household name in the years after her death. I wanted to write a better history of Jane Austen as an icon, telling the story of how her popular reputation was built before her first bicentenary—the 200th anniversary of her birth, in 1975. (This year, on July 18, 2017, we’re of course celebrating the bicentenary of her death.) I had no idea how many big chunks we’d left only partially told or entirely untold when charting her early celebrity.
We often act as if Austen’s wide popularity only first heated up in 1995, with Colin Firth’s sexy Mr. Darcy. It’s true that his wet white shirt performance profoundly changed Austen’s image from that moment on. But I wondered, “Were there any nineteenth- or early twentieth-century Colin Firths?” Yes, there absolutely were! Dozens—hundreds—of Austen-inspired illustrators, activists, educators, actors, playwrights, directors, and screenwriters were actively making Jane Austen between 1833 and 1975. We’d been focusing so much on big-name authors and their opinions on Austen or on the first generations of highbrow critics to attend to her that we’d neglected a lot of her early popular history. I set out to remedy that with new, hard evidence.
The book trailer needed to capture this somehow—some of these little-known but crucial names of Austen innovators, showing how learning about them could change our sense of the history of her celebrity. I decided to focus on four under-sung but crucial figures: pioneering illustrator Ferdinand Pickering; the Colin Firth of Austen and book illustration, Hugh Thomson; the first known Austen dramatist, actor and teacher Rosina Filippi; and the bizarre first Austen dissertation student George Pellew, who died young and is said to have returned from the dead. Each made a mark on Austen’s iconicity that we can trace down to the present.
But I also wanted the video to offer a sense of the range of Austen’s reputation, in a way that was silly as well as serious. That’s why I chose to include scenes that set the stage for grasping highbrow, middlebrow, and lowbrow versions of Austen. We went with “Mantlepiece Theatre,” “Between Two Palms,” and a cut to the roller derby team as a way to communicate that. I hope it works! There were plenty of outtakes, and I’m especially sad that the scene in which a Regency-dressed skater is yelled at by her skater-“parents” to marry or not to marry ended up on the cutting-room floor.
Making this video was, like writing the book itself, a labor of pure love. That labor also depended, always, on the contemporary equivalent of three or four families in a country village, including filmmakers, students, skaters, librarians, and fellow scholars.
Long live Jane Austen and the ways she brings us together for fun and frolic, as well how she’s prompted generations of readers to ask hard questions about living more meaningful lives.
Meet Devoney Looser, Professor of English
Department of English, Arizona State University
P.O. Box 870302; Tempe, AZ 85287-0302
http://www.devoneylooser.com/; (480) 965-3925
on Twitter / @devoneylooser / @StoneColdJane / @Making_Jane
on Instagram @Devoneylooser / @MakingJaneAusten
Looking for 3 minutes of super-awesome, Jane Austen rollerskating video action? Watch The Making of Jane Austen book trailer
The Making of Jane Austen, a Publishers Weekly Best Summer Book (Nonfiction) title
Learn more (and sign up for the newsletter) at http://makingjaneausten.com
It’s Giveaway Time!
Devoney Looser and her publisher, John Hopkins University Press are offering a giveaway for my readers; a hardcover copy of The Making of Jane Austen. The winner of the giveaway must have a U.S. mailing address. If the winner would like his/her copy autographed by Devoney, I will bring it to the NYC event for her to sign for the winner.
To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment below this post. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this book and the book trailer. Comments for this giveaway should be made no later than June 12th. The winner will be posted here on June 13, 2017.
Thank you to Devoney Looser and Kathryn Marguy, publicist and social media coordinator for John Hopkins University Press, for this fabulous post and generous giveaway for my readers. I really appreciate your visit to Just Jane 1813!
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