On representation

Over the past few weeks there have been some important conversations about representation in the Western canon of literature. To be honest, there is always a reason to question what we consider a ‘classic,’ especially as each work ages into (or out of) our society. And let’s face it, the canon is traditionally very white and very male (whereas the world as a whole is very not), so revisiting earlier choices to see what has been omitted or what should be set free makes sense. (I’m glaring at you, oh ghost of Harold Bloom.)

So, here are two conversations that are definitely worth a look (or listen):

First up: Candy Palmater had never read Gone With the Wind until now.

“I was expecting it to be dated. What I was not expecting was, seven pages in, that the whole notion of slavery was right up in my face. I was in some kind of a dream world. I didn’t realize the depiction of slavery would be so blatant and casual in the book.

Next: this article in The Daily Beast about fans using a pineapple emoji on Twitter to show how much they stan Sanditon is hugely insightful, especially as it relates to colonialism and historical representation. (Full disclosure: I tried watching Sanditon, but it veers too far away from the bright, sharp wit of Austen in favour of dramatic soapy sexy times. I cannot finish it. So no, I’m not peeved about the ending: I’m peeved that I can point to the exact moment in episode 1 where Jane Austen stops and show creator Andrew Davies begins to muck with things. But I digress.)

There are so many great points and perspectives in this article, but this was something I (a white settler with a very northern European background) had not really thought about. Until now, that is.

Austen’s spare physical descriptions of her characters leaves room for interpretation, too. Yasutake’s favorite character is Sense and Sensibility’s Marianne Dashwood, whose skin is described as “very brown” and is often depicted with curly hair. “So in my imagination, I imagine a Marianne who looks more like my sister or my daughter,” Yasutake said.