It’s just been announced that Jane Austen will feature on the new £10 bank note. This is part of an ongoing debate about why so few women feature on UK bank notes and whether or not this means that our culture has difficulty engaging with the fact that women (and not just female monarchs) have actually played a significant cultural and historical role over the centuries.
Austen herself famously commented on the issue in Persuasion: ‘Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands.’
The BBC news team should be congratulated for their herculean efforts to ignore all irony in Austen’s writings, resulting in the patronising faint praise that ‘Jane’ wrote love stories. Yes, she wrote stories – beautifully crafted, much loved and very entertaining ones – but there’s a bit more to it than that :-).
See my lecture on Persuasion for more on Austen – but not much focus on her as a writer of love stories. 🙂