Yesterday I was on several panels at the Melbourne Writers Festival, and for one of them, the topic we were given to discuss was Unpicking Classic Romances — with particular references to historical classics, rather than those 20th century novels regarded in genre romance as "classics".
I don't intend to write a full report on it, but I thought wenchly readers might be interested in the topic, and could offer their own thoughts on some of the questions and discussion points. Here are the three writers who were on the panel — from left Clare Connelly, Toni Jordan and me. Calla Wahlquist, a journalist from the Guardian (Australia) and also a budding academic, chaired the panel and asked some thought-provoking questions. Sadly by the time we remembered to take a photo of us all, she'd left.
Jane Austen's novels came up for quite a bit of discussion, as did those of Elizabeth Gaskell and the Brontes. Thomas Hardy got a mention, and we even did a brief drive-by of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. And someone in the audience raised Gone with the Wind. But for this blog, I'll just stick to Austen.
So, on to Austen.
Clare and I felt strongly that Austen's novels were romances, but Toni argued that while the books were definitely courtship novels, they were not romances. She argued that Austen spent much more time in her books, describing and dwelling on the parts in the story where things fell apart than when love was declared and celebrated. And she supported her case with quotes, one of which was the very last paragraph of Emma, which sums up the wedding of Mr. Knightley and Emma Woodhouse thus: