Lost and Found in Austen: Self identity through Austen's narrative.
“It is a truth generally acknowledged that all of us are longing to escape.” So begins Lost in Austen a BBC miniseries that analyses how the reception of literature, primarily the reader's identification with fictional characters, contributes to a reader’s identity formation and self-perspective. As Paul Ricoeur states, literary narrative informs self narrative through mimesis, or imitation, which encourages the reader to re-enact, at least on a psychological level, the narrative pattern. The series Lost in Austen illuminates different aspects of Ricoeur’s reader response theory. By joining the heroine Amanda Price on her journey into Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and observing her interact with, and interpret, Austen's world (which is juxtaposed with the modern landscape of London), the viewer, like the heroine, is inspired to reconfigure her identity. Falling into Austen, like Alice down a rabbit hole, Amanda (the protagonist in the series) is forced to challenge, change and improve upon her own self narrative as a result of the encounters experienced, choices made, and revelations confronted in Austen’s universe. Therefore, my paper will demonstrate that this miniseries, a form of literary experimental theatre, supports Ricoeur's narrative theory that self understanding is the natural result of the reader's active encounter with literary narratives, which challenge the viewer to re-evaluate his or her identity.
Corrie Shoemaker is a first year University of Waterloo graduate student scholarship recipient in the doctoral program for Literature and Language. Corrie completed her English stream SSHRC supported MAIH at Trinity Western University. Her areas of study include early-modern studies related to Shakespeare, Renaissance Literature, Victorian literature and theatre application. Previous conference papers include “Oscar Wilde: Morality, Aesthetics and the Dandy” at the 2008 Verge Conference and “The Translation of Shakespearean Truth(s): Early Modern Ethics on the Post-Modern Stage” at the University of Alberta’s MEMI conference in December of 2007. As an undergraduate English Honours student Corrie had the privilege to study with two of the most renowned North American Shakespeare companies: Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach and Ontario’s Stratford Festival of Canada. Her honours thesis, From the Page to the Stage: Theory and Performance in Shakespearean Drama, was a thesis case study of Bard’s 2006 production of Measure for Measure. Her MA thesis entitled Rejecting a Religion of Extremes: Staging the Spiritual in The Merchant of Venice and Measure for Measure dealt with Shakespeare’s view of religious constrains and legalism within England’s volatile religious environment.