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Mr Darcy as symbolic capital in Jane Austen`s Pride and Prejudice and Helen Fielding`s "Bridget Jones" novels

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Abstract

This graduation paper examines Pierre Bourdieu`s concept of symbolic capital as applied to Jane Austen and her novel Pride and Prejudice, focusing on its appropriation and recreation in the "Bridget Jones" novels by the contemporary British novelist Helen Fielding. Before considering the character of Mr Darcy, which in Fielding`s fiction serves as the most evident instance of Jane Austen`s symbolic capital, it also briefly takes interest in historical framework within which it has been created and perpetuated. Since there are no verifiedportraits of Miss Austen, «apart from two rather unpolished drawings by her sister Cassandra» (Jukić, 1999:24), her evasive and uncertain image has only been a part of disentangling the real "Austen". A composite Jane has been created by various biographers in order to feed the Janeite fantasy and devotion within the framework of historical fact. She has suffered from dual identities, since literary critics from Chapmen (1923), over Harding, Leavis and Lewis (1940s), to Booth (1960s) respectively approached her texts, agreeing that they are open to structured reading as they abound in the large number of different patterns of significance. During the First World War, she represented Englishness, the fact used and abused by numerous publishing houses. Her novels have been repackaged by theatre and film industry, with the 1995 BBC series of Pride and Prejudice triggering the real Austenmania. The cultural commodity of divine Jane has been sustained by the important feature or phenomenon of the current literary landscape which includes recreating, remaking, rewriting, appropriating, etc. The excellent example of utilizing the powerful place of authority within the institution of literature in order to produce expectations, bridge the gap between an old, elusive discourse and new consumers by eliciting recognition, is Helen Fielding. We receive it in her "Bridget Jones" novels – Bridget Jones`s Diary (1996), Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (1998), and Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy (2013), and her treatment of Jane Austen`s plot, its protagonist Mr Darcy, and subversive irony as its chief stylistic device. She included our reading experience, preconceptions, and the ability of interpreting Jane Austen`s juxtaposition of love language and money language; exaggerated manners of perfect Mr Darcy; and all the subversive potentials of Pride and Prejudice into her own literary work to elicit the appreciation of her narrative techniques in conveying new messages. She has chosen diary format to undercut the theme of plotting and to expose control as myth, subverting her predecessor`s controlling narrative technique. Her characters, Bridget and Mark, constantly defy the trajectory set by Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam, leaving our expectations partially satisfied by the promise of their marriage. In doing that, she undermines the very concept of chick lit subgenre of romance, and protects Miss Austen from nostalgic, recuperating, romantic, and other misreadings of her novels and herself as an author. As Helen Fielding belongs to post-modern British society, she also turns her irony towards their need for historical and canonical authors. Jane Austen and her novels have become the cultural commodity of Great Britain, generated by their symbolic capital in the form of numerous editions, biographies, criticism, adaptations, recreations, etc. As a ripple effect, they have also triggered some new symbolic capitals as in the case of Andrew Davies, Colin Firth and Helen Fielding who has paid homage to her literary parent by saying: «Don`t say what, say pardon, darling, and do as your "mother" tells you.» (Fielding, 1998:307), or as Austen put it, «Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure» (Austen, 1994.284).

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