Advertisement

Screening Will and Jane: Sexuality and the Gendered Author in Shakespeare and Austen Biopics

  • Lisa S. Starks
Chapter

Abstract

The status of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen as literary celebrities and cultural icons is strikingly apparent in biopics, which are deeply inflected with intersecting notions of gender, sexuality and literary genius. Shakespeare biopics (Will Shakespeare, Shakespeare in Love and A Waste of Shame) react to issues of masculinity and sexual anxiety, which are bound up with myths of authorship, by either disavowing or displacing queer sexuality from the icon himself in what I term ‘Queer Lite’ Shakespeare biopics. On the other hand, Austen biographical films and adaptations (Mansfield Park, Becoming Jane, Miss Austen Regrets) resist, reject or conform to the inherited, misconceived reputation of Jane as a sexually frustrated, kindly, maiden aunt who penned romance novels. In so doing, they reinscribe or resist conventions of the female biopic, thereby engaging with feminist issues through representations of the woman writer in relation to cultural norms of gender and sexuality. Given their iconic subject matter, both Will and Jane biopics deal in complex ways with the assumptions underlying the film genre and the cultural myths of literary genius they reaffirm.

Bibliography

  1. Bingham, Dennis. Whose Lives are they Anyway? The Biopic as Contemporary Film Genre. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010.Google Scholar
  2. Burgoyne, Robert. The Hollywood Historical Film. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008.Google Scholar
  3. Cano, Marina and Rosa García-Periago, ‘Becoming Shakespeare and Jane Austen in Love: An Intertextual Dialogue between Two Biopics’, Persuasions On-line 29.1 (2008), np: http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol29no1/cano-garcia.html.
  4. Cartmell, Deborah. ‘Becoming Jane in Screen Adaptations of Austen’s Fiction’. In The Writer on Film: Screening Literary Authorship. Edited by Judith Buchanan. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 151–63.Google Scholar
  5. ———. Screen Adaptations: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: A Close Study of the Relationship between Text and Film. London: Methuen Drama, 2010.Google Scholar
  6. Franssen, Paul J. C. M. ‘Shakespeare’s Life on Film and Television: Shakespeare in Love and a Waste of Shame’. In Adaptation, Intermediality and the British Celebrity Biopic. Edited by Márta Minier and Maddalena Pennacchia. London: Routledge, 2014, 101–13.Google Scholar
  7. Johnson, Claudia L. Women, Politics, and the Novel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.Google Scholar
  8. Julian Jarrold, dir. Becoming Jane. Miramax; Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2007. DVD.Google Scholar
  9. Klett, Elizabeth. ‘Shakespeare in Love and the End(s) of History’. In Retrovision: Reinventing the Past in Film and Fiction. Edited by Deborah Cartmell, I. Q. Hunter, and Imelda Whelehan. London; Sterling, VA: Pluto Press, 2001, 25–40.Google Scholar
  10. Lovering, Jeremy, dir. Miss Austen Regrets. BBC Television; BBC 2 entertain Video, 2007. DVD.Google Scholar
  11. Madden, John, dir. Shakespeare in Love. Miramax; Lionsgate, 1998. DVD.Google Scholar
  12. McAdam, Ian. ‘Fiction and Projection: The Construction of Early Modern Sexuality in “Elizabeth” and “Shakespeare in Love”’. Pacific Coast Philology 35.1 (2000): 49–60.Google Scholar
  13. Minier, Márta, and Maddalena Pennacchia. ‘Introduction’. In Adaptation, Intermediality and the British Celebrity Biopic. Edited by Márta Minier and Maddalena Pennacchia. London: Routledge, 2014, 1–31.Google Scholar
  14. North, Julian. ‘Jane Austen’s Life on Page and Screen’. In Uses of Austen: Jane’s Afterlives. Edited by Gillian Dow and C. Hanson. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2012, 92–114.Google Scholar
  15. Pereira, Margarida Esteves. ‘Austenmania, or the Female Biopic as Literary Heritage’. In Adaptation, Intermediality and the British Celebrity Biopic. Edited by Márta Minier and Maddalena Pennacchia. London: Routledge, 2014, 115–27.Google Scholar
  16. Polaschek, Bronwyn. Postfeminist Biopic: Narrating the Lives of Plath, Kahlo, Woolf And Austen. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Rozema, Patrizia, dir. Mansfield Park. Miramax; Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 1999. DVD.Google Scholar
  18. Vidal, Belén. ‘Introduction’. In The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture. Edited by Tom Brown and Belén Vidal. New York: Routledge, 2014, 1–32.Google Scholar
  19. White, Rebecca. ‘“Shall I be stared at Like a Wild Beast in a Zoo?”: Images of Austen in Becoming Jane and Miss Austen Regrets’. In Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen. Edited by Gabrielle Malcolm. Bristol and Chicago: Intellect Books, 2015, 84-93.Google Scholar
  20. McKay, John, dir. A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of William Shakespeare’s Sonnets. BBC Television; BFS Entertainment, 2005. DVD.Google Scholar
  21. Wood, Peter, Mark Cullingham and Robert Knights, dir. Will Shakespeare. BBC Television; A&E Television Networks, 1978. DVD.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa S. Starks
    • 1
  1. 1.University of South Florida St. PetersburgSt. PetersburgUSA

Personalised recommendations