Academic journal article Irish Gothic Journal

Mashing Up Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the Limits of Adaptation

Academic journal article Irish Gothic Journal

Mashing Up Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the Limits of Adaptation

Article excerpt

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

-Seth Grahame-Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies'

'Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can. '

-Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice1 2 3

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813) has proved sufficiently capacious to accommodate radical diversification. Adaptations are now commonplace and widely accepted. Reinventions of the novel have crossed genres, from Bollywood to P. D. James's murder mystery, Death Comes to Pemberley (2011). There are sequels, prequels, comic versions, graphic novels, romance fiction spin-offs, and even eroticised rewrites, including Fifty Shades of Mr Darcy. A Parody (2012) by William Codpiece Thwackery.4 The two-hundredth anniversary of the novel's publication has spurred on this endless proliferation. But perhaps the most shocking and audacious adaptation of Austen's most cherished novel has been the highly successful mash-up by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009), which combines the original novel with a zombified parallel version. Questions this raises are: how to account for such a successful publishing phenomenon; and should there be limits to adaptation? As we will see, there are issues around categorisation in regard to parody, adaptation, and appropriation. The zombified mash-ups actualise the horrors lurking in the margins of Austen's novels, particularly slavery and war, at the same time as making ironic concessions to the decorum of Regency society, as in euphemisms for the zombies as 'unmentionables' or 'dreadfuls'.5 In view of this, there is also the intriguing question of whether the readership is predominantly male or female. The book points to the versatility of Austen for a modem audience, with its gothic re-imagining and capacity for multiple interpretations, especially those relating to politics, gender, class, and war, which lurk beneath the surface of the original.

The idea for a marriage between the Regency novel of manners with zombie splatter fiction came from Jason Rekulak, the publisher at Quirk Books, an independent Philadelphia-based publishing house, which led to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies becoming the first of a new imprint - Quirk Classics. The internet has been their primary marketing tool, with the result that sales figures have soared into the New York Times best-seller list.6 The book has sold over one million copies and been translated into more than twenty languages. A revised deluxe edition was produced for the Christmas market, and Hollywood studios started a bidding war for the rights in the hope of turning the book into a blockbuster movie.7 The following years saw a prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls (2010), about the Bennet sisters; and the sequel, Dreadfully Ever After (2011), on the marriage of Mr and Mrs Darcy, both by Steve Hockensmith.8 Another species of the undead joined these horror hybrids with Amanda Grange's sequel Mr Darcy, Vampire, which appeared in August 2009, followed by Vampire Darcy's Desire: A Pride and Prejudice Adaptation (2009) by Regina Jeffers.9 The vampire motif spread to a different Austen novel, resulting in Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson's Emma and the Vampires (2010) and even Austen herself turning into a vampire in Jane Bites Back (2010) by Michael Thomas Ford.10 The hideous progeny of Pride and Prejudice led to more supernatural creatures being introduced into the menagerie, as in Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters's Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (2009), and Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian's Mansfield Park and Mummies (2009).* 11 A legion of imitators applied the Austen and Grahame-Smith template to other canonical authors, with Charlotte Brontë and Sherri Browning Erwin's Jane Slayre (2010), described on the cover as The Literary Classic ... with a Blood-Sucking Twist (2010); Lewis Carroll and Nickolas Cook's Alice in Zombieland (2011); and many more. …

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