Alda Björk Valdimarsdóttir: Jane’s body. Austen’s image and lovelife
“What was she like“ asks Grosvenor Myer at the beginning of her biography of Jane Austen and answers: “People who knew Jane Austen described her as pretty”. Great interest in Austen's appearance is revealed through the media and on the internet and we are led to believe that this pioneer of the romance genre must have been ugly because she never married. Other readers produce newly discovered images, claimed to be of Austen, as reflecting her identity more „truly“. In a similar way, older sketches of the author are taken and „improved“. The debate undeniably reflects the status of art in contemporary visual culture. Does the search for the „right“ image of Jane Austen reverberate a requirement to define her thoroughly as a spinster or is she being rediscovered as a professional novelist who chose not to marry? In the times of an Austen industry, the authorial image is constantly being reformed and her numerous readers cast her according to their own sensibilities, making her as diverse as they are many.
Key words: Jane Austen, biography, authorial image, portrait, spinsterhood