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The Ethics of Geography: Women as Readers and Dancers in Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice (2004)

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Abstract

The tones, plots and concerns of Jane Austen’s novels suggest that the varying ways in which adaptations of her work negotiate the lines between devotion and correction, faith and critique would have amused the author herself.1 Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice (2004) worries these lines in particular and intriguing ways. While Chadha uses the phrases ‘Indianise’ and ‘ British-Indian-kind-of-combining-culturally-kind-of-weird-combo’ to describe her Bollywood musical adaptation of Austen’s novel, it is not quite or only an Indian or British Indian version of Pride and Prejudice (1813).2 It more fully brings the action and motivations of the original into a contemporary milieu of global mobility. While the emotional and strategic premises and pressures of the film follow Austen’s novel, the geographies into which the characters are born and which they traverse stretch beyond both Britain and India. The first part of this essay considers the film’s geographies via the debate prompted by Edward Said’s influential reading of the geographies of Austen’s work. This approach suggests that while the film may have a certain postcolonial potency, it also reads more precisely as a less-than-maverick response to Austen. However, the second part of this essay begins by acknowledging the ineluctability of apprehending Bride and Prejudice through Said and his critical wake. By reading the text alongside Rajiv Menon’s film Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000) and Azar Nafisi’s book Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003), this essay discerns a looser ethic moving — bodily — through and beyond Chadha’s film.

Keywords

  • Family Firm
  • Moral Economy
  • Global Mobility
  • Subsequent Reference
  • Conservative Ideology

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Notes

  1. Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Vintage, 1994), p. 104. All subsequent references will be to this edition and will appear in parenthesis in the text.

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  2. Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 117.

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  3. Susan Fraiman, ‘Jane Austen and Edward Said: Gender, culture, and imperialism’, Critical Inquiry, 21.4 (1995), 805–21 (p. 807).

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  4. Susan Fraiman, ‘Jane Austen and Edward Said: Gender, culture, and imperialism’, Critical Inquiry, 21.4 (1995), 805–21 (p. 810).

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  5. Jon Mee, ‘Austen’s treacherous ivory: Female patriotism, domestic ideology, and Empire’, in The Postcolonial Jane Austen, ed. by You-Me Park and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 74–92 (p. 87). All subsequent references will be to this edition and will appear in parenthesis in the text.

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  6. Jon Mee, ‘Austen’s treacherous ivory: Female patriotism, domestic ideology, and Empire’, in The Postcolonial Jane Austen, ed. by You-Me Park and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 74–92 (p. 87).

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  7. I am gesturing here to Sandra MacPherson’s Kantian exploration of the importance of Mr Collins’s sense of magnanimity as a foil to Mr Darcy’s actions arising from duty. Sandra MacPherson, ‘Rent to own; or, what’s entailed in Pride and Prejudice’, Representations, 82 (2003), 1–23.

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  8. Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary (London: Picador, 1996).

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  9. Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran (London: Fourth Estate, 2004), p. 289. All subsequent references will be to this edition and will appear in parenthesis in the text.

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  10. Christine Geraghty identifies references to Oliver!, Grease and West Side Story. Christine Geraghty, ‘Jane Austen meets Gurinder Chadha’, South Asian Popular Culture 4.2 (2006), 163–8 (pp. 164–5).

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  11. Lionel Trilling, ‘Why we read Jane Austen’, The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent: Selected Essays, ed. by Leon Wieseltier (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2000), pp. 516–38.

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  12. Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, ‘Austen in the world: Postcolonial mappings’, in The Postcolonial Jane Austen, ed. by You-Me Park and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 3–25 (pp. 20–21).

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  13. Kathryn Sutherland, Jane Austen’s Textual Lives: From Aeschylus to Bollywood (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 358.

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© 2012 Stephanie Jones

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Jones, S. (2012). The Ethics of Geography: Women as Readers and Dancers in Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice (2004). In: Dow, G., Hanson, C. (eds) Uses of Austen. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137271747_10

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