The Darcy Myth: Jane Austen, Literary Heartthrobs, and the Monsters They Taught Us To Love

Quirk. Nov. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9781683693574. pap. $16.99. LIT
Literature “trains women to spend their time changing assholes into sensitive men,” according to Feder (English and literary arts, Univ. of Denver; Harvester of Hearts: Motherhood Under the Sign of Frankenstein). In this entertaining look at Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and its antihero, Mr. Darcy, Feder writes that an English professor can use literary theories to ruin a favorite book—she does not do that here. Instead, she skillfully ties Austen’s classic novel to contemporary popular culture and politics through more recent theatrical and TV productions, films, and music (like Dirty Dancing and Twilight). Via Taylor Swift songs, Feder illustrates how contemporary writing mirrors Austen’s theme of a character who at first seems arrogant and insulting, then becomes a soulmate. Feder also provides background information on the structure of gothic novels and Regency romances and discusses how Austen’s works touch subtly on issues involving access to abortion in the 19th century, melding it into her own comments on the 21st-century political fight for reproductive justice.
VERDICT Feder’s study is a readable, entertaining contemporary analysis that is suitable for students new to Austen’s work and for discussion groups looking for a fresh approach to many readers’ favorite novel.
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