Author Archives: nkozak2013

My Name is Lizzie Bennet…and I’ve Invaded the Internet

By: Noelle Kozak

“It is a truth universally acknowledged” that Pride and Prejudice, the brainchild of nineteenth century novelist Jane Austen, has more than stood the test of time. It tells the story of the Bennet family and their five daughters, as they navigate through a world defined by marriage and social status. The main plot of the novel revolves around the relationship between main protagonists Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy as they overcome their ‘pride’ and ‘prejudices’ to ultimately understand each other and find love and happiness. It is a work that has been adapted many times to fit a modern audience. In this paper I examine how Pride and Prejudice translates into its latest adaptation, web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

In this fresh re-telling, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bennet is characterized to fit a modern audience, in a story focused less on marriage and more on life goals. Here, she is a grad student who lives with her parents and two sisters as she makes a video about her life with her best friend Charlotte. Along with Lizzie, all the original characters from the novel are re-imagined for this adaptation which initially focuses solely on Lizzie’s point of view. However, in this version, Lizzie’s opinions are only part of the story as minor characters like her sister, Lydia Bennet, come center stage.

Austen’s original depiction of Lydia Bennet had been a character that most fans of the novel explicitly disliked for both her naiveté and choices that nearly ruined the lives of those around her. Within the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, this is not the case, as the series gives Lydia her own web series as well as an evolved characterization which not only fits a modern audience, but allows for another form of perspective.

This idea of a web series that develops through new media is a most interesting and original take on Pride and Prejudice. This study argues that The Lizzie Bennet Diaries does a excellent job of keeping the spirit of Jane Austen alive while expanding and building on her novel in creative and compelling ways.

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Being Human: Defense of the liberal arts in an unoptimistic ecconomy

By Noelle Kozak

Yesterday I picked up my graduation robes.

I also  filled out my senior survey—which was probably one of the more ridiculous documents I ever filled out in my life. Mostly because of what it was asking, like how important I felt it was to learn…Mostly the question just annoyed me because the survey seemed to be asking me to determine the worth of someone else’s discipline. Undoubtedly, I sounded hypocritical at times because on instinct I filled in the little bubble that said multiple math or science were courses were not as essential.  Secretly I would like to admit that they are important, but how could I help my answer? I love the liberal arts. And given the choice again, I would always choose the humanities, the liberal arts education and English as my major. I don’t even have to think about it because my education has taught me how to be a human being.

However, Patricia Cohen writes some distressing news,  “Previous economic downturns have often led to decreased enrollment in the disciplines loosely grouped under the term “humanities” — which generally include languages, literature, the arts, history, cultural studies, philosophy and religion”(Cohen). Her further discussions on the rise of unemployment for all of us, is more of a reality for me now then it ever was before. It is so difficult to find a job that specifically asks for English majors and it is even more difficult to explain to your relatives what exactly you are going to do for a career when you are highly valuable though seemingly unwanted. Cohen cites a lack of confidence in the disciple for proving why we matter beyond exploring “what it means to be human”(Cohen). The article goes on to say that many people so feel our value to the economy, while others say it is not just just about the economy but what we can contribute to the thinking of society on the whole. In other words critical thinking and learning to care about issues which affect our world does concern the humanities and it concerns all of us (Cohen).

Learning how to be a human being only touches the scope of why I really love the humanities. In so learning how do be a compassionate, involved member of society, English and the humanities has made me well rounded and engaged with the world around me in a variety of topics. So while Cohen laments our future and whether or not we can afford to be human I’m going to remain optimistic that one day our value will be appreciated. Everything that I am I owe partly to my decision to be in English and to be in liberal arts, so, even if that means eating ramen noodles for a little longer, I believe and always will believe that it was well worth it.

Works Cited

Cohen, Patricia. “In Tough Times, Humanities Must Justify Their Worth.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 Feb. 2009. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/books/25human.html?pagewanted=all&gt;.

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The Gathering of the Janeites

By: Noelle Kozak

Calling all Janeites, calling all Janeties! Pull out that regency wear, those worn and tattered novels and get your walking shoes in ready because this fall is sure to be exciting. From September 27-29, the members of the Jane Austen Society of North America will gather in Minneapolis, Minnesota for their annual convention and this year’s theme is ever so fitting— Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice …Timeless (JANSA).

It is most appropriate as the novel just celebrated 200 years in publication. JANSA of course is well aware of that and is taking every opportunity to craft a conference that is “that – like the novel – is engaging, thought-provoking, and diverting”(JANSA).  Though they are still working out the official details, this conference is exclusive to “JANSA members and their companions,” but promises to feature a great deal of interesting work, though the details have not been yet made public (JANSA).

According to the society’s website, the Janeites make a point to gather like this every year in either the United States or Canada. They call them their annual general meetings or AGM and each year the event hosts “dozens of lectures by Austen scholars and JASNA members, as well as special exhibits, entertainment, workshops, tours of the local area, and a banquet and Regency ball” (JANSA). For a super fan this sounds like a delightful opportunity for education and a chance to totally geek out about Jane Austen. Who would not want to attend a ball?

The copious amount of scholarly work that they feature within their journals Persuasions and Persuasions On-Line is work that has been presented at each yearly gathering( JANSA). The most recent AGM was held in New York, New York and was entitled, Sex, Money and Power in Jane Austen’s Fiction. This conference featured such paper titles as  Variations on a Theme: Openings, Closings, and Returns in Pride & Prejudice, A Sweet Creature’s Horrid Novels: Gothic Reading in Northanger Abbey, and Hierarchy and Seduction in Regency Fashion among many others (JANSA). As mentioned, these conferences are exclusive to members of JANSA, but before you think them snobs, JANSA points out that should outside peoples wish to become members it is really quite easy. All you need to do is go to their membership page and see which category best fits you (JANSA).  For lovers of Jane Austen who want to completely be absorbed in her world, engaging with this group seems like a most worthwhile experience.

Works Cited

“The Jane Austen Society of North America.” – AGMS. JANSA, 04 Jan. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://www.jasna.org/agms/index.html&gt;.

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Noelle Chats with Bernie Su, Creator of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

This past Thursday, I was given a major opportunity to participate in an educational hangout with Bernie Su, Co-Creator of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. He was so nice and it was amazing to sit down and get some real insight into my thesis work. I  don’t think I geeked out too badly right? 😉

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Works Written By: A Lady–still relavant 200 years and counting

By: Noelle Kozak

In the scholarly world of Jane Austen, one of the most prominent journals comes from JANSA—The Jane Austen Society of North America—whose mission is to promote the reading, study, understanding, and enjoyment of Jane Austen, her work, life and genius (JANSA). Their publication, Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal On-Line, is published every 16th of December and features a wide variety of scholarly work (JANSA). Currently they are accepting submissions for Persuasions with no specific topic being listed. However, there are guidelines which include a word limit of 2000 to 4000 words written under MLA with reference to specific editions of Jane Austen’s works (JANSA). In addition to this, the organization is also offering  conducting an essay contest which “ aligns with the JASNA Annual General Meeting theme, “Pride and Prejudice . . . Timeless” (JANSA). After looking at the four most recent volumes of work compiled by JANSA, (winter editions from 2009-2012) I have discovered many different trends. Some of those trends that are of scholarly notice are that of feminism and adaptations.

From 2009-2012, feminism played a prominent role in studies of Jane Austen’s work. Scholars are continually finding new ways to look at her characters and interpret their personalities, actions, relationships etc. Within Persuasions, feminism is present  trend in a variety of works including the following:  “The City of Sisterly Love: Jane Austen’s Community as Sorority;” “The Liberation of Elizabeth Bennet in Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice;” “Aisha, Rajshree Ojha’s Urban Emma: Not Entirely Clueless” and  “ ‘Jane Would Approve:’ ” Gender and Authenticity at Louisiana’s Jane Austen Literary Festival.”  This trend in feminism is of great interest to scholars today because of the way Austen wrote her characters ahead of her time.

During the same four years, adaptations have also been a really prominent trend within this journal. Since there are many adaptations of Jane Austen in many shapes and forms, the contributing authors had a lot to work with. Within the journal adaptation trends have included  a variety of pieces including the following: “Adapting Emma for the Twenty-first Century: An Emma No One Will Like;” “Our Austen: Fan Fiction in the Classroom;” “From Page to Screen: Emma Thompson’s Film Adaptation of Sense and Sensibility” and “Variations on a Theme: Openings, Closings, and Returns in Pride & Prejudice.” Just as feminism is constantly being discussed in Austen, adaptations are extremely relevant today. Austen’s work is constantly being re-imagined, revised and rewritten for a modern audience in very unique ways.

Austen lovers and scholars alike should take these themes into consideration because new ideas are constantly happening in the world of Jane Austen. And, they can only build on each other. Yet the very idea that scholars are still finding ways to critically examine and engage her work over two hundred years later, really says something about her standing as an author. Two hundred years later everyone is still asking Why Jane, and why now? That has to count for something.

Works Cited

“The Jane Austen Society of North America.” The Jane Austen Society of North America. http://www.jasna.org/index.html, 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

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Library Woes: Censorship and Banned Books

By: Noelle Kozak

This past summer, I had the wonderful experience of doing an internship at a library where I experienced firsthand—in a non-academic setting—people who were excited about reading. But for all its merits, it also had its downsides. Since it was summer, a lot of students came into the library with their parents looking for their ‘gasp’ SUMMER READING. Oh the horror! For a lot of these kids coming into the library was like a chore. Their parents were annoyed, they were annoyed and you could tell that they would rather be pool side than in this air conditioned building. Now, I’m not an idiot, I was in middle school once. So I know that every once and a while, you don’t like the books that are assigned to you. Yet, in the long run, I believed—and still do—that the work was for the greater good and that I gained more from reading books that I might not have chosen for myself. Occasionally there were students who came in with options—a whole list of books that their schools wanted them to choose from. Still as I sat behind the desk I saw incidents that kind of broke my heart as an English major. One young girl’s mother would not let her have a say in what she wanted to read, but insisted “oh no, you wouldn’t like that book” but for no specific reason.

In a rather indirect way, I am reminded of what Marjorie Garber mentioned in The Use and Abuse of Literature about banned books in the section “Redeeming Social Value.” A parent telling their kids what they can and can’t read—for whatever reason—is so problematic and Garber’s discussion really hit home. Throughout the essay, Garber comments on books like Ulysses, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Lolita not being considered “real” literature because of their contents (88-9). From a scholarly perspective, she pokes fun at the notion that these and other works were challenged because so many believed that authors were trying to create “filth” rather than sophisticated commentary (92). I was particularly struck by a comment Garber inserted from Senator Livingston Blease of South Carolina who cried for censorship of Lady Chatterley’s Lover saying, ‘“the virtue of one little sixteen year old girl is worth more to America than every book that ever came into it from any other country”’(96). Though I never read the book myself, I was insulted because in only a few words the senator insulted women and moreover confidence in our youth to think critically beyond the layers of the text.

Where banned books are concerned, this is such major problem, because it is like telling youth and our society what they can/can’t understand. But, it also denies them the right to know too. Thinking back, to my library experience, I see that that mother in a way “censored” her daughter, and I wonder if it was because she thought so little of her.

Garber, Marjorie B. “Redeeming Social Value.” The Use and Abuse of Literature. New York: Pantheon, 2011. 88-97. Print   .

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Picture Credit to momentarycloudiness.blogspot.com

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