A Multigenre Research Project about Aunt Jane


Dear Reader,

Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. I chose to create my multigenre research project on Jane Austen because I find it fascinating that an author who was popular in her own time has managed to remain popular for over 200 years, despite all the changes in society and culture. On a more personal note, Jane Austen is my literary comfort food. When I read her novels, I know that I will meet interesting characters, I will laugh and perhaps even cry, and I will close the book after reading a happy ending.

Before I began researching this topic, I knew a great deal about Jane Austen because I have been a fan of her novels for about thirteen years and I read several Jane Austen publications, mostly personal blogs created by other fans. I also had read all six of Austen's novels as well as some Austen-inspired books. What I did not realize was how much influence the 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice had on Austen's current infiltration of popular culture.

I was curious to learn why Jane Austen is so popular in our current culture. What is it about her novels that inspires such a devoted following? Why do novels written 200 years ago still speak to us today? What would Jane Austen make of her popularity, especially given that she published all of her books anonymously and made very little money for her writing in her own lifetime?

In order to learn the answers to these questions, I used both print and nonprint resources, including online newspapers and literary criticism, in order to research Jane Austen's influence both in her own time and in ours. I also researched multimedia, including images and videos that conveyed our current fascination with Austen's work. These resources can be found on my Works Cited page.

Through my research, I have learned that Austen's popularity has not always been what it is today. For example, her work was not taken seriously by literary critics until over 100 years after her death, and in her own day, her novels were viewed as little more than entertaining fluff by the literary establishment. I was most interested to discover that even as late as 1993, literary critics were dismissive of Austen's influence on contemporary writers. I also learned how Austen's novels influenced the development of the novel as a serious form of literature.

This research has changed how I view Jane Austen. I am used to thinking of her work as classic literature, always a part of some agreed-upon literary canon. To learn that Austen's work has only lately been well regarded or deemed worthy of serious literary investigation was a revelation. In addition, it speaks to the difficulty women have historically had in competing in male-dominated industries, such as writing. I have developed a deeper appreciation for Austen than I already had, and it is my hope that in reading my research, you will also learn more about Austen and perhaps even be inspired to read her works.

The genres I have chosen for my research project include reviews of Jane Austen's six novels and some Austen-themed books and movies I have read or watched. I have also included a multimedia research article about Jane Austen's influence in popular culture today. I think Austen would be surprised by her success, and because she wrote so often to her sister, Cassandra, I researched some letters written to her sister and composed a letter in which Jane describes how she felt upon seeing into the future and discovering her popularity in the 21st century. My third artifact is a collage of images displaying Austen's influence in contemporary culture, including images from film and fan-created objects. Finally, my fourth artifact is a collection of Austen heroine trading cards, constructed using images from popular Jane Austen films and photo-editing software called Gimp. I hope you will enjoy learning about Aunt Jane as much as I did.

Sincerely,

Dana Huff

What's a Multigenre Research Project?

Research papers are usually essays that incorporate documented research. Multigenre research projects aren't much different except that they take advantage of the fact that a variety of ways to express that research are available. Multigenre research projects also allow for hyperlinking and embedding information, creating a complex web of information and intertextual resources. Plus, they are a lot of fun!

This site as a model for student multigenre research projects. If you explore the links in the sidebar to the left, you can learn more about Jane Austen, whom I like to call Aunt Jane, and I hope the project will also inspire you as you create your own projects.