Alda Björk Valdimarsdóttir: Jane Austen’s wisdom and the reader’s journey. Book clubs and self help culture
In the past decade Jane Austen’s role as guru and mentor has grown stronger. This article addresses how works from different genres, such as road narratives, self-help books, inspirational literature and works focusing on life in faith, come together and tell a story about the search for a meaning, where the focal point is life in Jane. In a similar fashion book clubs bring women together to share news and feelings about themselves, their lives and relationships, in order to enrich their lives. These two paths cross in Karen Joy Fowler’s novel, The Jane Austen Book Club, which illustrates perfectly the need to mirror oneself in the novelist or her characters, thus highlighting the tendency of her fans (and deriders) to imbue her life and work with whatever they see fit. Austen’s meaning is thus unstable, continually shifting and changing, as she is constantly being refashioned according to whatever the reader sees as her core or centre.
Keywords: Jane Austen, self help culture, book clubs, Karen Joy Fowler, reader’s response theory