6. Austen was a political wonk
That the author was shrewd observer of world politics and dispensed pithy and relevant critique is what Helena Kelly argues in Jane Austen: The Secret Radical. No thanks to the 1990s boom in costume drama adaptations of her novels that foregrounds the taffeta and romance. Austen's actual work—as opposed to the culturally received Jane Austen—is often misremembered as celebrating gentility and old-fashionedness. It doesn't. Take Amma Asante's recent movie Belle, where the titular heroine Dido lives and breathes Jane Austen. As critic Sophie Mayer points out, Dido and her cousin experience the economic anxiety and are chaperoned in public, subject to classed and gendered surveillance, but Belle gives back political life and breath to Austen's economically-anxious heroines, "who have been rendered safe entertainment by multiple chocolate-box adaptations."

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