Who Was Jane Austen?

image via Wikimedia Commons

image via Wikimedia Commons

Kayla Katounas

Jane Austen is regarded as one of the most famous authors in the world, and is the author of several literary classics including Pride and Prejudice and Emma. While she is very well known to many, knowledge of her works and accomplishments is not as common as one may think.

Jane Austen was born in 1775, and died in 1817 at the age of 41. She is the author of six major novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. She wrote a few other novels, though they are not quite as well known. Austen published her books anonymously. Her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, was “By a Lady” and Pride and Prejudice was “By the Author of Sense and Sensibility.” 

Now, over 200 years after her death, Jane Austen’s work is still being read and enjoyed. She is sometimes compared to William Shakespeare for the notability and relevance of her novels.  “Austen is one of the biggest literary figures in English, at this point, she is somewhat like Shakespeare, her centrality is so established,” said Alex Woloch, the chair of the Department of English at Stanford University, in 2017. He continued by saying “There is a level of intelligence in her work that the reader feels, and it has to do with her psychological perceptiveness and the sheer skill of her writing. When you read Jane Austen, you sense that you’re in the hands of someone authoritative and reliable … But there is always this feeling that she is one step ahead of you.”

Even without knowing her books, or even her name, Austen’s influence can be found everywhere. There have been several mainstream movie adaptations of her books, the most famous being 1995’s Clueless, an adaptation of Emma. Others people may not know are Jane Austen adaptations include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Material Girls. Along with that, there have been several direct adaptations of the novels, including the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film starring Kiera Knightley and most recently, 2020’s Emma starring Anya Taylor-Joy. The CW also has plans to make a series of modern adaptations of Austen’s books.

Pride and Prejudice is currently available on Netflix. HBOmax and Hulu both currently have two adaptations of Emma, as well as Becoming Jane, which is about the life of Jane Austen. Hulu also has Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Bridget Jones’s Diary. Jane Austen’s novels are most likely available at every library you visit, so get to reading!