We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

Sister Novels but not Sister Films: _Northanger Abbey_ and _Persuasion_ · 10 April 07

Dear Marianne,

I could break this letter into two but that I intend a comparison between the two movies.

To begin with, to me Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are sister-novels. That’s how I first read them I surmize: probably in one of those editions where (like Chapman’s), they are printed one after the other in the same book. Thanks to Judy, I have been able to view the new film adaptations from ITV. Today I added the 2007 Persuasion. What interests me is how the two films, Northanger Abbey by one team, and Persuasion by another, succeeded as two different kinds of adaptations.

I’d call Andrew Davies and Jon Jones’s Northanger Abbey, a faithful adaptation in the manner of the BBC films of the 1970s. Austen’s story has been “modernized” by interpreting the gothic material sheerly sexually, on the basis of a pop notion of a young girl’s suppression of her sexual longing, and Davies has kept a minimum of the original novel’s dramatization of how reading and pictorial experiences influence the way people experience reality—alas, mostly ultimately to condemn Radcliffe’s books.

I’d call the film very artful, carefully or studiedly so, with an alternation of gothic dream and “realistic” domestic scene that engages the viewer. It begins with a voice-over (Geraldine James, a narrator voice) and ends with one, and very occasionally uses Felicity Jones’s voice as a voice-over as Catherine reads her gothic fictions and fantasizes. Some of this was done in the 1986 NA, the difference being Davies’ scenes were partly comic, with the actors playing the people Catherine saw during the day, and her overacting or posing as the distressed about-to-be-raped maiden. It was made innocent except in the case where the dream did mirror how Captain Tilney treated Isabella badly. In the first dream sequence I recognized a passage from Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest. Davies probably picked one of the most salacious and frank of the sexual passages from Lewis’s Monk for Catherine (Felicity Jones) to read aloud. Although in my comments on the original blog letter, I wrote the theme was how difficult it was to tell deceit from truth, now I feel the dramatization projected an unaccounted-for gothicism through the performances of Liam Cunningham, J.J. Fields and Eleanor Thorpe (Catherine Walker). This was cut off from the characters we were seeing in ways that is not so in the original book as it was done so parodically. Eleanor’s romance was a shadowy affair, and she too was deprived of any outside literary ideas (in the book she likes to read history).

Austen’s characters were less often caricatured: Sylvestra Le Tousel was allowed to be a home-y Mrs Allen (comic but not a caricature) and so Desmond Barrrit (Mr Allen). The couple tease one another genially. Catherine’s mother (Julia Deardon) was given strength of presence at the ending. Thinking about it, I’d say the focus of the film’s design was strongly on Henry Tilney (J.J. Feilds) and Catherine Morland (Felicity Jones) developing relationship against the backdrop of a barely-felt threat from John Thorpe (William Beck). It did bother me how Davies softened Thorpe’s character so as to make it almost acceptable that he lied, and dropped his boorishness; it also bothered me how Isabella was dismissed at the close with the comment Captain Tilney and Catherine’s brother have had a happy escape. Isabella (Carey Mulligan) was further stigmatized by having to wear one of these bras which push a woman’s breasts up and out in this ostentatiously strained way.

I also have tried to work out why I wrote a few days ago this NA seems to me aimed at a girl of 18 to 22 and successful. I think that’s because we have many scenes where Catherine is distressed or uncertain in the way a young girl might be. As she and Mrs Allen come into Bath, two boorish young men bang up against her with nasty sexual remarks. When she sits down to eat in the grand dining room of Northanger Abbey, she relies on Eleanor to show her which fork. In many scenes what is emphasized is the young girl’s view of things and awkwardness but also great sympathy for it. She is a piece of flotsam and jetsam often: driven along, advised her, pushed there, and finally rebelling now and again. This coheres with part of Austen’s intent.

If I liked it, and I did, it was the performances of J. J. Feilds (witty, sparkling, a delight) and Felicity Jones (an Austen heroine, good, kind, sensitive) and the power of Liam Cunningham as a gothic General Tilney (very fierce). Also the slowly developing friendship of Eleanor (Catherine Walker was perfect as the older girl in the friendship, reminding me of Emma Thompson) and Catherine and the walking and talking they did in the wood. Here was where money was spent. They rehearsed and crafted the scenes carefully. These were tightly controlled performances which were effective.

I felt there were moments where an original script had included a witty dialogue which had been cut, or the whole trip to Woodston (half-way there it rains so Catherine and Henry never get to go). They see the house at a distance. (Cheaper that way; you film, not rent.) Once I did recognize that the whole of Bath was made out of several angles from a courtyard and entrances of a single inn in Dublin, and the rest of Bath plus gothic castle from the grounds and estate and building of a magnificent castle in Country Waterford, Lisemore, I did feel I was watching a set. The set was no longer in the studio and instead beautiful and historical places:

Castle Lismore, Waterford, Ireland

There was not a lot of cinematographic originality.

I did say on Eighteenth Century Worlds @ Yahoo that NA is a work of Austen’s maturity. I’d like to explain what I meant by that. Much of the text we have, particularly the opening in Bath is thin in texture and reminds me of the opening of P&P and some of the passages in S&S I wrote in a paper represented the earliest writing of Austen in the serious novel mode we have. See my Chronology of Austen’s writing life. From my study the calendars in the novels I concluded the first draft of NA was indeed the earliest of the serious novels; but what Austen did was rewrite continually and the novel we have was first presented in the 2 volume form in 1798-99 (Cassandra has a note about this), then polished and sent out for publication in 1803. Austen got it back (after much hassle) in 1809 and rewrote some of it again in 1816. I have no magical technique for knowing what was rewritten but I feel the prose in the later parts of the novel (the gothic sections) is denser, more allusive, the chapters fuller and longer and guess some of the sophisticated talk about novels and history in the early part (the Beechen Walk part) represents the later Austen.

That is the work’s shape, its blended mode, and some of the most interesting things about it (the witty dialogues between Henry and Catherine as in P&P’s) are mature, or represent much rewriting. Nonetheless, the original conception and many of the earlier chapters are thin. I bring this up because I want to say Davies had a much easier task to fit what he wanted into 93 minutes than the team for MP or Persuasion whose texts are allusive & mature throughout, with suggestiveness & depth of insight continually. Davies did not try for the more interesting aspects of NA.

I’d call the ITV Persuasion a much freer adaptation, so free I’d almost class it with the commentary adaptations (1940 P&P, 1987 NA, 1999 MP and 2005 P&P and 2007 MP). I was deeply moved and almost burst into tears at the end.

It was to my mind deeply true to one aspect of the novel which suffuses and is central to it; it was truer and more serious about that than Davies was over the literary satire and romance perceptions of Austen’s NA. Anne Elliot’s agony: her near loss of any joy in life. Sally Hawkins was presented as deeply shattered, in a nervous state about to go over the edge, hardly holding on once she comes near Wentworth again. She really is left to walk alone a good deal of the time. She really gets exhausted on the country walk, and falls down.

The themes of deep loss, grief, retrieval, time’s wearing. Anne Elliot (Sally Hawkins) had a lot of voice over as she wrote in her diary (not in the original) and was given the narrator’s words and allowed to frame scenes. A sly smile to us is only once allowed—at the end when she’s won Wentworth (reminding me of Francis O’Connor winking at us over Edmund’s shoulder in the 1999 MP). She was a central presence as neither Fanny Price (Billie Piper) nor Catherine Morland (Felicity Jones) were—nor to complete this season’s Austen heroines (see below) Emma Woodhouse (Kate Beckinsale).

Nick commented about this new Persuasion the film-maker went quickly over the comedy. I saw hardly any comedy at all. I’ve found the comedy in the two filmed productions of Persuasion hitherto jarring and out of kilter; this production had Sir Walter and Elizabeth much quieter but devastatingly narrow and the sister especially using Anne. Anne does retort to Sir Walter at one point, saying aloud she knows of more than one poor widow without at title at Bath and refusing downright to visit Lady Dalrymple as she hurries off preferring her de-classee friend to her family. A striking moment. Mary Musgrove was made into a calculating whiner (the worst sort I suppose to the mass public view).

Many many other kinds of changes were made. The final scene in the book (the dialogue between Harville and Anne) occurs half-way through the film; as with the 1995 P&P and Emma Thompson’s 1995 S&S, there was an attempt to build up Frederick’s character to make it more substantial. In the original book we first get a view of Frederick Wentworth’s character at the end; in the film about half-way through he is talking to Harville and spills out he regrets he never tried to get into contact with Anne. Early in the movie Wentworth’s few words of self-blame in this regard (“why didn’t I write” is his refrain at the close of Austen’s novel) is brought out by Lady Russell as witnessing against his love: if he loved you, he would have written.

Some of the additions were simply explanations. The 1995 Persuasion assumes the viewers had read the novel: if you haven’t you will be puzzled. But there was more changing around to make the literary quality of Anne’s interest and Benwick subservient to the intense emotional neuroticism and melancholy that suffused the piece. When Anne plays, of course she plays Chopin’s melancholy death march. Mrs Smith was not a total invalid and ran out at the last minute to catch Anne in her run to tell her the truth about Elliot. Her words made more sense of what had happened than in Austen’s book where Mr Elliot’s motives are not quite explained. It seems Mr Elliot was planning to marry Anne and set Mrs Clay up as his mistress in London at the same time. This is the last we hear of Mrs Clay. (Ah her costume and that of Elizabeth Elliot were throw backs to the impossible elegance of the earliest of these adaptations, 1960s kind of thing, with overdone hair too. This was to stigmatize them I assume but it didn’t work.)

I’ve argued on my website where I studied the extant calendar that Persuasion is not finished. A third volume was prepared for where there would have been a devastating mortifying incident on Tuesday: Charles buys tickets for the play where Lady Russell would have given the Captain to understand he had no chance as Mr Elliot has won Anne. This idea is brought forward explicitly in this film by rewriting and Mr Elliot proposes to Anne in the movie, and we are given to understand Lady Russell has been spreading rumors they are engaged. Lady Russell is therefore blackened.

As in the 1995 Persuasion and a moment in the 1971, some of the cancelled chapters material is brought in. This is fascinating to me. There is this feeling it should have been there. Wentworth in the cancelled chapters offers the house of the Admiral to Anne as he believes she is about to marry Elliot. .She tries to disabuse him of this perception but doesn’t quite succeed. In the movie she does.

There are more scenes between Anne and Wentworth in this version than in the novel and they build up slowly—this is what was done in the 1995 P&P, but it was done in more than the service of developing and explaining the hero’s character. An interpretation of Wentworth as deeply congenial to Anne’s inner nature is the point here; this is in Austen but not made central as there is so much else. I’d call it a “take” on the novel – the way Rozema or the 1940 team or the recent MPs are take. Anne’s running back and forth was meant to “earn” Wentworth but it was also part of the intense desperation conveyed.

The surging sea at Lyme was just right; the storms. They had to film on the cobb; it’s iconic:

They also filmed in Bath and there was a country walk. I felt more money was spent on this production on what’s called “production values” of place and music: shots were varied, close, now far. The cinema techniques that were expended in the NA were for the effect of gothicism, and not much else. But in this Persusion less time was spent on rehearsing (the feature afterwards did show the actors in NA rehearsing a lot); the minor characters as in the 2007 MP were not always distinguishable.

Some things I didn’t like. All three film versions of Persuasion feel they have to avoid Austen’s way of not dramatizing anything at the end of her novels. (This is the problem with MP too—the last spoken words of the novel are Edmund’s at the end of the penultimate chapter). So in the 1971 Persuasion we have a large party where (like the 1940 P&P ball at the beginning of the earlier movie) all themes and characers are presented and the story brought to a satisfying conclusion; the 1995 Persuasion has 3 concluding scenes: the circus, a awkward moment at a similar brief party and then the pair at sea. I would have had it end as they walk behind a circus on Bath Street, but the ship is better than the way this recent film ended. Anne and Wentworth return to Kellynch and it’s his present to her. IN 2007 materialism on display; be sure and marry the man now and you can get this too.

This is scatty and not set up in an ordered way. It represents a few early thoughts about how the versions of the novels reflect the differing kinds of adaptations the movies represent.

I did gather from the commercial and “feature” about the 3 films afterwards that ITV this session also ran the 1996 BBC Emma by Davies and Lawrence, with Kate Beckinsale as Emma and Mark Strong as Mr Knightley. What a season it has been.


Posted by: Ellen

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  1. Nick wrote to me further about these two films as follows:

    "I do see some flaws and problems and found myself at moments dismayed (I agree with Judy’s assessment that astonishingly this production in effect damns Radcliffe’s and gothic novels so Austen I guess is ahead of our time as she’s clearly also enamoured of them). It is a girl's world seen from a man's point of view. It was not filmed in Bath. Indeed the same two places in Ireland (King’s Inn, a lawyer’s school, and Lissmore Castle and its grounds) were the set (in effect); very carefully photographed to suggest Bath and not give away they were in the same place beyond what might be inevitable.

    [And a little later]

    Well I look forward very much to hearing what you think of NA and Persuasion. But you are absolutely right: there is no stylistic connection whatever between the three films. Actually I think the positives of this (different visions and sensibilities) outweigh the negatives; but I can see that for those used to lengthy adaptations of uniform tone it is unsettling.

    Elinor    Apr 11, 2:32pm    #
  2. Judy wrote:

    “I’m so glad you loved this version of Persuasion too. I’d been doubting my initial reaction after hearing so much scoffing at the changes from the book and the rushed ending. I also nearly cried at the end, and was moved mainly by Sally Hawkins as Anne. I agree with you she is astounding in the role.

    It would have been good to have more space and time, as in the older adaptations, but I thought they made the most of all the time they did have, and I’m haunted by those windswept views of Lyme. (No, I’ve never been there – but I hope to do so.)

    I like your posting about the differences between the new NA and Persuasion, which is making me want to watch them both for a second time and try to see all the things I missed first time round.

    Elinor    Apr 11, 2:36pm    #
  3. I’d like to respond to Judy’s comment and Nick’s earlier blog letter. In a letter offblog Judy remarked: "the ending is rushed but perhaps in part supposed to be like a dream-sequence - I wonder. I really need to see it again to take it in better. It does look beautiful, especially the storm-swept Lyme."

    In one of my books, The Technique of Film and Video Editing, Ken Dancyger says a central feature of the modern film using sophisticated filmic computer technologies is to create a definite or central feeling state appropriate to the film. He credits the team who made the 1995 Sense and Sensibility (Ang Lee, Emma Thompson and Co) with bringing these techniques to film adaptations of high status novels -- commercial products you see.

    Enough money and time and serious thought was spent on the ITV Persuasion to do this. So the film experience becomes like a dream, analogous to listening to music. Davies trivialized the gothic in Austen so the attempt to make feeling states for the gothic was over-the-top and undercut; the result was a much shallower and less meaningful film.

    The deeply felt shattered depressive state, the edgy melancholy and intense neuroticism, the sheer melancholy of the feeling state created in this new ITV Persuasion is one I think appropriate to the deep mood of Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho. These "Austen" films often paradoxically shed light on Radcliffe: she herself was deeply influenced by Radcliffe; I think she learned how to create the deep feeling state from Radcliffe (letting herself go to be in a character, something Burney never allowed herself quite to do). Clueless with its expensive oil painting of her now dead mother on the wall, Ruby in Paradise with its precisely similar trope (a photo of her new dead mother on the wall) all show us the undertext or subtexts of Austen's Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, sister novels but not sister films :)

    One could argue the difference between the recent films (the 2005 P&P too) and the films of the 1990s is a more determined effort to create dream sequences, mesmerizing experiences, feeling states. Not so much in this new MP and I suspect it was partly a matter of money, time and perhaps discomfort with this classic novel. The comments in the feature made me suspect the team making MP *did not like the book!*

    Elinor    Apr 11, 2:38pm    #
  4. I’m very interested in your further comments on the dream element, Ellen, and by the thought that this Persuasion is actually nearer to Radcliffe than the jokey Gothic sequences in the new Northanger Abbey.

    After Nick talked about the differences in speed between the comedy and the serious story in Persuasion it struck me that the film-makers have particularly played about with speed in two sequences near the end. One of these is the bit where Sally Hawkins, as Anne, rushes fast through the streets to catch up with Frederick.

    In realistic terms, this seems slightly ludicrous, yet, since being taken aback by Anne’s running when I first saw the film, I’ve been realising there is something striking about the brief glimpses of all the famous streets of Bath, blurring together as she hurtles through them. This is one of the parts which seems like a dream sequence in a way to me – telescoping up the time which has passed and the distance which has grown up between them, and how desperate she is to break through all that.

    The other sequence is one where time is slowed down rather than speeded up – the agonisingly slow-motion kiss between Frederick and Anne, where it seems as if their lips will never meet. I think this again gives a feeling of how much time has passed and how difficult it is to come together at last.

    I tend to hold on to particular moments from films, and both of these will stay with me from this version, as will the windswept views of the Cobb.
    Judy    Apr 12, 4:42pm    #
  5. Dear Judy,

    On Eighteenth Century Worlds @ Yahoo I described a recent book on film by Robert Mayer called Eighteenth Century Fiction on Screen. In two of the essays, Peter Cosgrove on Tony Richardson’s (1960s) Tom Jones and Kubrick's (1970s) Barry Lyndon, and Janet Sorenson on Michael Caton-Jones's (1990s) Rob Roy, the writers argue that what is most meaningful in a movie is often the still and we do not watch movies for the story or characters or even remember them that way. We remember the striking still, the sequence. Other essayists in the volume simply concentrate on the still or sequence of scenes.

    The book I cited, Ken Dancyger’s Technique of Film and Video Editing has a long section on the non-linearity of movie experience, and Dancyger says film-makers are very aware of this aspect of what the realities of movie experience for their audiences are. The whole business of cutting and editing to make dissolves and to match different kinds of scenes depends on such an awareness. The creation of feeling states are just one aspect of sophisticated effective film-making.

    Mayer’s book is great fun. It goes well beyond the usual comparative fidelity of discourse and uses comparisons between the original book and different films intelligently and entertainingly. It is of course about films adapted from 18th century books (or previous adaptations on films). Among my favorites were the essay on Clarissa and Les Liaisons Dangereuses. I believe you cited another book from this new series on film (on Wessex Tales @ Yahoo), which book dealt with films adapted from Hardy's stories.

    Yes it seems to me what went wrong with the new MP was not just a matter of the team having a very limited budget; they also didn’t like the book. The feature showed the costume designer boasting about how much the wedding dress cost. I think perhaps the team would have done better to have spent that money on rehearsing the actors and hiring someone to help them who had some understanding of and sympathy for the book. People making films often do hire “historical” and other advisors. They were in need of one. While hiring young actors may be defended, the reason the older actors stole the show, was they knew how to act in an historical film, could say the lines, had some feeling for the earlier age; no one had bothered to coach these young actors very much. In the feature Billie Piper talked a great deal, and her intelligence came out; I can see why she would be chosen for a central role in a costume drama -- quite apart from her remarkable amount of golden hair :).

    Elinor    Apr 14, 8:32am    #
  6. Thank you very much to Ellen for these further thoughts and citing the books. My local library does have the Dancyger book (though unfortunately not the Mayer one) so I will hope to read it.
    Judy    Apr 15, 4:16am    #
  7. Dear Judy,

    Funny they should have the Dancyger book. It’s not that much of a reading as a schooltext book. It does give fundamentals, and I’ve thought it is the kind of book someone might assign in a film studies class. I bought it in lieu of ever taking such a class. I have a couple of books Yvette bought when at Sweet Briar and was taking film studies. I know I’ve mentioned Pam Cook’s book on costume drama, Fashioning the Nation; Cook's is more of a pleasant read like Mayor's as is another I mentioned on WW: Sarah Kozloff’s Invisible Storytellers, which makes you aware how much voice-over and other subjective techniques movies use (while film-makers often deny this). Another enjoyable reading one in the new intelligent style of film criticism is The Classic Novel: From page to screen, edd. Robert Giddings and Erica Sheen. This one has essays on film adaptations of Dickens, Hardy, on Middlemarch, Brideshead Revisited. I suspect we don't see The Jewel in the Crown because Paul Scott is not sufficiently respected and writing about the films would be hard work -- it's another of these many episode, many-book type costume melodramas.

    I saw your comment on the blog this morning too and now read your letter where I see you make the point we didn’t see the MP director or hardly at all. I wouldn’t pick up that kind of thing. I thought the man talking about the new Persuasion was the director; I recognized Wadey (the screenplay writer for MP—she was the one who made the comments which I thought showed dismissal of the book and a desire to escape it), and of course Andrew Davies just loves to talk away. His work often pleases and I find myself liking it, but when I think about it, it’s often finally superficial even if intelligent, and he's trivializing. His P&P relied (I thought) on Weldon’s structuring and patterning; he did have the idea of filling Darcy out but so did Emma Thompson fill out Edward and Brandon, and now the new Persuasion is trying this for Wentworth. I rather dread what he’ll do to S&S as he’s willing to say to the TV auiience (whatever he may think) Austen’s stories are about women growing into adults which appears to him to mean women going to bed with men and becoming wives and mothers and sex partners for men. That was not Thompson’s take at all nor do I think it’s Austen’s.

    I thought I’d bring up here a comment I’ve had offblog from someone who asked me where is the review of Stillman’s Metropolitan and Last Days. The answer is there is none. You say you need to rewatch the new Persuasion; after rewatching the Metropolitan 3X and reading the novelization (actually good) of Last Days I still have trouble really getting my thoughts together. It’s a complex movie about a class of people hardly ever seen in public media. The equivalents of Anthony Powell’s people: the upper class from which Bush pere came and Gore does. They are alive and well and rich still and they are found in the Ivy League schools. Yvette went to college with some of the daughters at Sweet Briar. Bush fils (present criminal President) is a Caliban out of the shed. The upper class, wealthy, well-educated, Protestant, and Stillman is intelligently conservative in the manner of Powell. He is the only one since the team who did the 1983 MP to appreciate Fanny Price and he did see her socially in ways that Foster and his group didn’t: they made Fanny into something of an hysteric—as did the new team for Anne Elliot made her on the edge. That’s not the whole story or only a psychoanalytical view. So when I finally write about Metropolitan in my essay (if I manage to finish it) I will be relieved. I have read a remarkable volume of essays about it: Doomed Bourgeois in Love. I don’t know if you can find that one were you interested. These independent films are not distributed well and what’s written about them seriously is even harder to find.

    On the attitude of the new ITV film-makers and those doing costume drama for TV compared to the people doing it in the 1970s: I also found through intelibrary loan a rare memoir by Denis Constanduros, My grandfather, and one by his aunt, Mabel Constanduros, Shreds and Patches. Constanduros write the original script which was used for the first (1981) Sense and Sensibility as well as the 1972 Emma—have you begun that one? Maybe you do not like it; that's fine. It’s a drawing room comedy and if you can make it to Fiona Walker you will at least see a brilliant Mrs Elton and the last couple of scenes are invaluable. Mrs Elton, Miss Bates and Mr Eltom play cards and he says “Better Knightley than me” and we get the strong feeling Miss Bates was well aware of what was happening between Jane and Frank, and Mr Woodhouse (played by John Ellis, an old line fine actor) really tries to stop the marriage between Emma and Mr Knightley. Mrs Weston is (I feel terrible to say this but here goes) too heavy and dressed embarrassingly (if probably accurately in her morning dresses). The team for this 1972 Emma took the book seriously, and were not afraid to say so. There’s a study of this Emma which quotes them on the criticism. They took the view Emma is neurotic or over-the-top for power out of frustration and they meant to make her dislikable and succeeded—a rare try. Like all the Emmas they do switch some of Emma’s cruelest remarks (like Jane is having an affair with her friend’s husband—a low and dangerous remark to make) to Frank, but nonetheless they do not mince Emma’s behavior. And they by the end nonetheless make her human and understandable. This is not a silly love story.

    Mabel Constanduros, Denis's aunt was a woman who wrote comedy for British TV in the early 1950s; she wrote for radio in the 30s and 40s. She depicts in her memoir a Britain I glimpsed the end of in 1968 and from which my mother-in-law came – and the actress who plays Miss Bates in the 1972 Emma. The world of writers for the BBC radio and TV in the 1930s and 40s and again 50s through 70s is an unsung remarkable group of people -- whom Fay Weldon latched onto in the later 1970s as she too made money writing screenplays regularly. Now Davies and Wadey do it. Davies has not been afraid to make himself visible: probably his academic appointment and background give him self-confidence. People like the Constanduros came from _non-English_ type people (they were Greeks), and I can see that Mabel did not at all enjoy the kind of pandering and flattery she had to to make the average British person laugh.

    Another way of seeing these TV films is as the product of auteurs, not just genre products. And it’s justified for these earlier films.

    Costume drama has been having a resurgence, but then the ITV people are very commercial minded and the BBC people have to compete with them. This is a very different situation from the 1970s in British TV.

    I’m struggling with the paper. I can with ease write postings, and blogs, but when it comes to papers it’s sheer anguish and intense struggle. You really do have to write to a different style and attitude of mind and I don’t do it at all naturally. I’m not theoretical in the way demanded: I’m really a close-reading person. That’s my real strength: close readings whether of texts or now films. But it’s not quite what’s wanted or not enough for publication. I can also do sleuthing and tell a story—that’s what I did in the Anne Halkett and most of my Anne Finch pieces. At heart all very old-fashioned scholarship. Probalby too I find myself more than a little intimidated and therefore disabled. Jim has helped give me a thesis and line of argument but now I’m struggling to try to define what is a costume and family melodrama, why these are women’s films, and are the backbone of costume dramas, and how these intersect with the very different mood of Austen’s stories and characters. There. I could say that to you swiftly, but it will take days of reading essays before I can find the words to put the idea into acceptable paragraphs for this essay.

    Elinor    Apr 15, 9:12am    #

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