By Shelley Cobb (auth.)

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Sample text

It has been widely recognized that, in addition to Austen’s biography, letters and juvenilia, Rozema’s Mansfield Park draws on various contemporary scholarly rereadings of Austen’s novels. These include, most obviously, Edward Said’s postcolonial analysis of empire as central to Austen’s novels, and slavery in particular to Mansfield Park, but also Margaret Kirkham’s feminist revision of Austen’s novels through the Enlightenment feminism of Mary Wollstonecraft, as well as Deidre Le Faye’s reading of Austen’s letters to Cassandra in terms of ‘Austen’s homophilic fascination with women and passionate homoerotic bond with her sister’ (Aragay, 2003: 182).

But in this Envisioning Judith Shakespeare 45 instance, Rozema has to resist a whole group of films that obviously share the conventions of the heritage film genre, but which ‘critics nonetheless chose to define … as an isolated phenomenon, best interpreted not within the larger context of recent historical dramatizations but in terms of the author, the female author, herself’ and linking that female author with a female audience who suffered a ‘mania’ for her (Scholz, 2013: 123). The reception, then, situated the films of the Austen boom as ‘irrational, subjective … personal and private in nature, unrelated to the public world of business, law, and politics’ (Scholz, 2013: 123).

However, she plays the game not just to combat the critiques of the film, but also to do something larger, namely establish herself within a Woolfian female authorial tradition and to assert her own authorial identity. In fact, she invokes Woolf as an example of her choice to disregard the standard of faithfulness: ‘as Virginia Woolf took a step away from her source material, which is really what Vita was, and transformed Vita’s life into a novel, the film takes several steps away from the book’ (Florence, 1993: 282–283).

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