'Among the Janeites': 6 stories from the realm of intense Jane Austen fandom

Why do Jane Austen's novels appeal so strongly to so many readers across lines of age, gender, and geography, despite the fact that they were written two centuries ago? Deborah Yaffe went everywhere from conferences to roller derby bouts to find out what makes Austen fans tick. Here are a few excerpts from her book, "Among the Janeites".

1. Austen as crossover artist


Yaffe points out that Jane Austen's novels have an unusual claim to fame. "Hip college professors may lecture on Star Trek and edit collections of essays on The Big Lebowski, but no one confuses those works with artifacts of high culture," she wrote. "By contrast, nearly two centuries after her death, Jane Austen has a secure home in two very different worlds: the solemn pantheon of classic English literature and the exuberantly commercial realm of pop culture. She is the ultimate crossover artist, equally welcome at Yale and on YouTube."

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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