Jane Austen and the Digital Renaissance

In class, we learned that media convergence is “the combination of new media and old media within a single piece of media work”, and I think that the YouTube web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries perfectly exemplifies this combination.

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The series, based on the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice, is narrated by college student Lizzie (Elizabeth) Bennet who originally creates her own YouTube channel for a school project. However, Lizzie eventually starts using the channel to rant about her relationships with her friends, siblings, parents, and – of course – a mysterious newcomer named William Darcy.

The series began in 2012 and started to gain popularity extremely quickly – the first episode of the series currently has over two million views.  While the series was created by two experienced media professionals (producer-director Bernie Su and popular YouTuber Hank Green), The Lizzie Bennet Diaries inspired amateur media creators from around the world to put their own updated spin on other classic works of literature. I’ll be talking about a few of these series in a later post, but some of them include The Autobiography of Jane Eyre (a modern version of Jane Eyre), Green Gables Fables (a modern version of the Anne of Green Gables series) and The March Family Letters (a modern version of Little Women).

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In my opinion, these web series are excellent examples of cultural convergence. Classic works of literature like Pride and Prejudice are often thought of to be somewhat “untouchable”, and while there are some films and novels that attempt to update or modify these works (e.g. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), it is significant that one of the most popular updated versions of Pride and Prejudice can be found on YouTube – a website that prides itself on showcasing user-generated content.

The possibilities for exploring cultural media convergence on YouTube are endless. You want to create a version of Romeo and Juliet where Juliet ditches Romeo and travels the world to find herself? Go ahead. Wish that The Picture of Dorian Gray could be told from the perspective of Dorian himself? You can make it happen. As long as people have access to a camera and the Internet, who knows what could be next?

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3 Comments

  1. I love this example! I’ve never heard of it before but I’m a huge fan of classics, particularly pride and prejudice so every time there is a remake of them I’m usually pretty keen to see them (except I’m not so sure that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will be much of a hit). There are heaps of examples of the classics being redone, like She’s the Man drawing from The Twelfth Night, and so I think you’ve chosen a really great example of cultural convergence. And I agree that this is of particular note as it is presented solely through YouTube yet has such a huge following! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    Like

  2. I consider that this example of cultural convergence explains the term very well and it is also very appealing when your read. It actually makes you want to watch the series.
    I liked the point you made about classics somehow being inctouchable to be altered but because of cultural convergence we ca reproduce them fitting them in to our time and from one perspective we can understand the classics better.
    One another great example is the Sherlock Holmes series produced by BBC 1 which places the classic in the 21st century.

    Like

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