Jane Austen Americanized: The democratic principle in recent adaptations of Emma

Ema Jelínková 1
  • 1 Department of English and American Studies Faculty of Arts Palacký University in Olomouc Třída Svobody 26, , Olomouc , Czech Republic


When they first reached an American readership, Jane Austen’s novels enjoyed mixed reactions among intellectuals. The main charge levelled against Jane Austen’s fiction was that it conflicted with the democratic principles American society was based on. The next century brought about an explosion in the attention paid to Jane Austen, whether via adaptations, spinoffs, biopics, musicals, detective fiction, scholarly texts, societies or even websites. Most of these creative extensions of Jane Austen’s ideas (and her personality) seem to embrace contemporary American values and sensibilities and therefore, logically, make attempts at revising some of the less palatable aspects of the English society of the Regency era. This paper focuses on two prime examples of such a revisionist approach to Jane Austen’s most classconscious novel, Emma, in Douglas McGrath’s eponymous 1996 film adaptation and in Clueless, Amy Heckerling’s 1995 satirical film based on the same novel.

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