The Jane Austen Episode

Why do Austen’s novels inspire an almost religious fervour?

“There’s no one to touch Jane when you’re in a tight spot,” declares a character in the Kipling short story “The Janeites”, in which a group of soldiers in the trenches of World War I bond over their shared love of Austen.

Today, Austen fandom approaches levels of devotion unrivalled by almost any other author. At the same time, her six novels are often dismissed as “chick lit”.

In this episode, Simon agrees (with some reluctance) to finally read Pride and Prejudice – and is surprised by what he finds. Natasha speaks with Katrina Clifford, Dean of Academics at Robert Menzies College and a scholar of eighteenth-century literature, about why so many people over the last two centuries have been so obsessed with Austen.

From Mormon or Amish adaptations to the handful of surviving prayers we have from Jane’s pen; from Austen’s male historical mega-fans (Churchill, Tolkien) to the BBC’s famous lake scene; this conversation has something for everyone – whether you’re a diehard Janeite, or need a bit of convincing to give Austen a go