Saturday, September 17, 2011

Reworking Classics: Powerful? Pure?

Liz Mc2 writes that
Several years ago I taught a first-year Major Themes in Literature course I called “Transformations.” All the readings had transformations of various kinds in them, and I paired “classic” texts with later “transformations” by other writers. [...] A modern re-imagining can shine new light on a classic and vice versa, and the pairings help students find a way in to reading analytically. [...]
Taking on a beloved classic is an enterprise fraught with peril, and though Kate Hewitt says in an interview with CataRomance that she “leapt at the chance” to rewrite Emma for a Harlequin Presents series paying homage to romantic classics, she is also frank about the difficulties. The Matchmaker Bride didn’t work for me as well as The Man Who Could Never Love for two reasons: a) Austen’s tart, ironic narrative style isn’t a good match for Hewitt’s sweet sincerity (that sounds belittling, but I like that about Hewitt); b) Emma–and Austen’s Augustan restraint generally–isn’t a good fit for Harlequin Presents, a line characterized by angsty, over the top emotion. Moreover, although it ends with a slew of marriages, Emma is far less shaped by the plot conventions of romance than Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion. It’s a comedy of manners about the heroine’s education. Matchmaker Bride felt caught between the conflicting demands of its source and its Harlequin category.
Tomorrow I'll be posting an interview with Kate Walker about her contribution to the mini-series Hewitt was contributing to. As Kate Walker has explained elsewhere, it's a
four book mini-series, The Powerful and the Pure. These books are by four different Modern authors, myself, Sharon Kendrick, Kate Hewitt, Cathy Williams, and the series description was on the ‘concept page’ in the books:
The Powerful and The Pure
When Beauty Tames the Brooding Beast
From Mr Darcy to Heathcliff, the best romantic heroes have always been tall, dark, and dangerously irresistible.


  1. Thanks for highlighting my post, and I look forward to reading the interview. I'm interested in what authors have to say about the challenges and rewards of this kind of project.

    Did you see that HarperCollins is embarking on a similar project, beginning with Joanna Trollope on Sense and Sensibility?

  2. I did see that article, but it must have done the visual/mental equivalent of music going in one ear and out the other, because I promptly forgot all about it. Thanks very much for the link!