Celebrating 200 years of Pride and Prejudice
It has been 200 years since the publication of Jane Austen’s classic work, Pride and Prejudice. This has been celebrated by students at the Perse in a variety of ways, from trips to the theatre, workshops and a trip to a conference at the University of Cambridge, earlier this week. Upper Sixth student, Anjuli Chatterjee, shares her experiences of the day.
“Studying Pride and Prejudice as an A2 text, during the excitement of the 200th anniversary of its publication, paves the way for numerous stimulating and insightful activities that enable us to consider the text in a variety of different ways.
A group of Upper Sixth students, therefore, attended a day of lectures run by AIM Conferences at the Cambridge Union Debating Chamber on different themes in Pride and Prejudice and aspects of society during the time in which Austen was writing. The lectures were thought-provoking, as not only did they introduce contextual elements and opinions, such as the Napoleonic Wars, but they helped us to see how other people perceive the novel and their opinions of the characters and situations.
One of the Cambridge University lecturers, Dr Fred Parker, highlighted the importance of ‘social codes’ throughout the novel and ‘the conventional Jane Austen society’, referring to the obvious differences and the more subtle similarities between Mr Collins’ proposal and the unsuccessful proposal of Mr Darcy. It was particularly interesting how he went on in a later lecture to discuss the combination of realism and comedy in Pride and Prejudice and Austen’s ability to manipulate both to make the audience find both the humorous and satirical sides of the novel and characters, such as Mrs Bennet’s ridiculous nature, whilst acknowledging the realistic and sombre undertones of the reality at the time. Dr Parker’s comparison between Charlotte Lucas, the voice of realism, and Elizabeth’s ridicule of Charlotte’s realism, therefore presenting laughter as ‘a way of resisting the restraints of society’ was particularly intriguing, as it combined the comedy from and of the characters in relation to the realistic aspects of the novel.
Dr Corinna Russell, the other Cambridge lecturer, intrigued us all with the context in which Austen was writing, referring to the recent changes to the £10 note and comparing Austen’s literature and ideas with the architecture and artwork at the time. Russell also acknowledged Austen’s own role as an ironic voice and clear presence in the novel, alongside the characters. She presented Austen as a puppeteer-like figure who allowed the events in the novel to take place in the way they do by organising and controlling the many voices of the characters and society, such as political opinions and artistic developments and movements, such as Romanticism.
The lectures were inspirational for us all as they encouraged us to dive further into the novel and the life of Austen and experience it in a way that enhances our ability to sympathise, analyse and acknowledge its different viewpoints and interpretations.
As part of our ongoing enrichment in the study of the novel for our A2 coursework, we have also visited the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds to watch a Two Bit Classics, two-actor performance of the novel and have had a workshop with the actors, as well as a variety of other Pride and Prejudice-related activities.”