Jane Austen is a master of genre, and her allusions and direct references in her Juvenilia and Northanger Abbey show that she is not just a satirist, she clearly understood and even appreciated the works she was often making fun of. So why then are people so reluctant to discuss Austen and Regency Romance, a genre directly tied to Austen’s works? Deeper still, why is there avoidance to critically read Georgette Heyer’s work?
The evolution of Regency-centered fiction cannot be discussed without looking at Heyer, an antisemitic and racist author whose abridged works have worked to overhaul her problematic writing, and someone who has been a gateway into the Regency fiction world for many. When talking about modern Regency-set romances, readers cannot ignore the influence of Austen or Heyer, and doing so would be akin to reading Northanger Abbey without looking up any information on the horrid novels. Certainly readers can enjoy the discussion, but they are missing the scaffolding of the work.
Tracing the beginnings of Regency romance as a genre, and plotting it through to today in the Bridgerton novels and the Netflix show, it becomes clear that understanding this modern genre and its history is as important to talking about Austen in pop culture as it would be to research the “horrid novels” in order to more deeply understand Northanger Abbey.
Along with that context, we must also look at the gatekeeping in discussions around romance and Austen in online spaces. Why are discussions so divided and who gets to dictate who we are allowed to talk about in conjunction to Austen? Why is there reluctance to critically read about the issues of the Regency era, but also the ones laid out in the fantasy world Heyer created?
jane austen, georgette heyer, regency romance
"Race and Racism in Austen Spaces: Jane Austen and Regency Romance's Racist Legacy,"
ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830: Vol.11: Iss.2, Article 12.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usf.edu/abo/vol11/iss2/12