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From Classic to Contemporary: Pride and Prejudice to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries… and eventually to Austenland

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion… but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Pryde and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful… or maybe not.

prideandprejudice2The Classic: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

In one of the most quoted and famous novels of all time, Miss Elizabeth Bennet makes astute observations about the societal structures in place around her while simultaneously trying to avoid her mother’s attempts to marry her off to an appropriate man.  While encouraging her elder sister’s romantic attachment to a very eligible bachelor, Lizzie meets his friend, Mr. Darcy, and the two immediately come to detest one another.  Through a series of unfortunate interactions and the verbal machinations of others, Lizzie’s hatred for Darcy continues to deepen and when he unexpectedly proposes, she refuses.  When her youngest sister, Lydia, elopes with a dashing, but devious soldier, Mr. Darcy covers the scandal and sees them properly wed.  Upon these actions, Lizzie knows that Mr. Darcy truly must care for her and she must admit to her own growing feelings for him.

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From Classic to Contemporary: Persuasion to For Darkness Shows the Stars

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Pryde and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

The Classic: Persuasion by Jane Austen

You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever.

persuasionAnne Elliot had once been happily betrothed to a poor but kind naval officer, Frederick Wentworth. When both her family and a trusted friend objected to the match, however, Anne broke the arrangement and spent the next nine years deeply regretting her action. When Wentworth reemerged a newly rich and successful Captain after the Napoleonic Wars, Anne’s family was on the brink of financial ruin. To help defray costs, they’d rented their home and lands to Wentworth’s sister. Forced to be in each other’s company once again, Anne and Frederick must each decide whether they can be persuaded to put aside their own hurt and mistrust to reconcile with the one person they each treasured the most.

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From Classic to Contemporary: Romeo and Juliet to Warm Bodies

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Miller and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

The Classic:  William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

romeo and juliet folger shakespeare library coverBy the time you’re in high school, you’ve probably been overexposed to this story and all the literary analysis that goes with it. You’ve seen both the Franco Zeffirelli film from 1968 and the Baz Luhrmann one starring a much younger Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, and Paul Rudd. And there’s another version slated to be released later this year in the UK, adapted by Downton Abbey favorite Julian Fellowes. If for some reason, you’ve never read it — not even the Wishbone version — here’s the breakdown.*

There are two families in Verona, a town in Italy (where Shakespeare set most of his plays. There’s a lot of talk about how he stole a bunch of these stories from Italian stories, but we’ll save that for another day). These families, the Montagues and the Capulets, and all of their servants, friends, and allies, have been at each other’s throats for as long as anyone can remember. When we enter the story, the violence between the youths of the families has escalated to the point where the Prince of the city has had to intervene.

Meanwhile, some of the Montague cousins (and family friend Mercutio) have discovered that the Capulets are having a party and decide to crash. They implore Romeo, the son of the Montague patriarch, to join them. He’s lovesick over some girl named Rosaline — whom we never see — and reluctantly decides to go. There, he sees and immediately falls for Juliet, who, it turns out, is the daughter of the Capulet patriarch. Much drama ensues, confusion prevails, and what everyone in 1597 thought was going to end up like a comedy (well, what they thought if they weren’t listening to the prologue) ends in tragedy and death.

The Contemporary: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

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Classic to Contemporary: The Secret Garden to The Humming Room

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Pryde and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

The Classic: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

secret-garden3 “If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

When young orphan Mary Lennox arrives at her uncle’s English manor, the spoiled girl, used to a pampered life in India, immediately decides that she will simply not enjoy her new life. Readers soon find their sympathies aroused as the somewhat neglected girl forlornly explores the estate alone day after day. It is not until she locates the secret door to a long-forgotten garden and embarks upon a covert journey to its restoration that Mary finds purpose in her new existence.  Assisted by a young friend, Dickon, a friendly robin, and a gardner who excels at keeping secrets, Mary breathes new life into the garden. When she discovers Colin, a sickly, hidden cousin, it is Mary and the revitalised garden that help him recouperate. It is Mary who finally not only strengthens the secret garden, but also her family’s deepest relationships, finding a new forever home.  

The Contemporary: The Humming Room by Ellen Potter

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From Classic to Contemporary: Wuthering Heights to Catherine

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Miller and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

The Classic: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!

wuthering heights emily bronte coverWhether in the voice of Laurence Olivier, Tom Hardy, or someone in-between, you’ve likely heard this soundbyte before. It is an exclamation made part way into Wuthering Heights by the passionate Heathcliff. Taken into the Earnshaw family at a very young age, Heathcliff, misunderstood and angry at the world, can’t help loving his adopted sister Catherine. But if there’s one thing Wuthering Heights tells us, it’s that love doesn’t make everything okay. There’s no fun in this huge, dysfunctional family affair. Much like one of those reality TV shows, Wuthering Heights is impossible to turn away from, just so you can find out what any of these hateful, miserable people across two generations might do to make their lives and the lives of those around them even worse. But it doesn’t all end in tragedy, which is perhaps what doesn’t leave you completely despairing of the potential for humankind.

I’m not sure if that’s what Emily Bronte wanted me to get out of it, what with Catherine and Heathcliff’s passionate, immortal love; but I couldn’t find any redemption in this novel without reading it with Heathcliff as less anti-hero and more villain.

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From Classic to Contemporary: Christmas Edition

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Miller and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

Image of Penguin Classic edition of A Christmas CarolThe Classic: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

We’ve all encountered this story some kind of way, even if we’ve never read the novel. Maybe you grew up watching one of the old films or discovered it through the new animated one with Jim Carrey as the voice of Scrooge. I grew up watching Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol at least once a year. And who doesn’t love the Doctor Who episode (sadly not a Christmas Special) featuring Charles Dickens?

I recently decided to bite the bullet and sit myself down to read the original source material. And I’m glad I did. Here’s what I can tell you.

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From Classic to Contemporary: The Tempest into Tempestuous

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Pryde and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

The Classic: Shakespeare’s The Tempest

The Tempest is thought by many scholars to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. Written with a slightly different, more carefully worded Neoclassical style, this play relied heavily on the actors’ stage performances to bring the tale fully to life. Now considered one of Shakespeare’s greatest works, it has been adapted frequently, largely in musical forms, including over forty different versions set as operas.

The Tempest tells the tale of Prospero, a man who was once a great Duke. Through his brother’s machinations, he was deposed and banished with his young daughter. In order to bring his now grown daughter, Miranda, back to the life where she properly belongs, Prospero uses a great storm to bring the King of Naples and many courtiers, including his brother, Antonio, to their remote island. With the assistance of his air spirit, Ariel, Prospero manipulates those who have wronged him, finally bringing them before him for judgement, and ultimately forgiveness. He also introduces his daughter to the King’s son, Ferdinand, causing them to fall instantly in love, and secures their future marriage. The play concludes with Prospero leaving the island and his magic behind.

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From Classic to Contemporary: Classics to Modern Movie Retellings

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Pryde and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

This summer, we decided it would be great fun to tackle the movie versions of many of the classics that show up on summer reading lists. In researching classics that had been retold in movie format, we actually found enough to break it down into two posts! Last month, we tackled the Bard’s greatest works, and this month we decided to venture into some other great authors and the modernized versions of their epic  works.

The Classic: Emma by Jane Austen

Wealthy, young Miss Emma Woodhouse is bored with her station. In an attempt to make life more exciting, Emma befriends a new, less-well-off girl in the village and seeks to find a great match for her. Emma’s attempts, though, simply lead her from one matchmaking mishap another. When things threaten to spiral completely out of control, it is always the steady voice of her neighbor, Mr. Knightly, that is there to calm Emma’s panic.

The Contemporary: Clueless

Set in Beverly Hills in the 1990s, Clueless is the story of high school princess, Cher. Privileged, pampered and bored, Cher decides to take a new girl under her wing. When her protégé becomes more popular than Cher ever dreamed and Cher’s life begins to spiral out of control, “Whatever!” her wiser, older ex-stepbrother is there to help her through the mess.

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From Classic to Contemporary: Shakespeare to Modern Movie Retellings

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Miller and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

This summer, we decided it would be great fun to tackle the movie versions of many of the classics that show up on summer reading lists. In researching classics that had been retold in movie format, we actually found enough to break it down into two posts! So this month, we decided to focus on one of history’s greatest authors: the Bard, William Shakespeare. With love stories that have inspired millions and revenge tales that resonate in every culture, it is no wonder that Hollywood has chosen to rework his epic tales again and again.

Some great examples that will make for fun viewing this summer:

The Classic: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

A young prince of Denmark must deal with intrigue in the Court after he is visited by the ghost of his father requesting that he avenge his murder. Along with the ever-present threat of invasion; ridiculousness from his two lackeys, Rosencrantz and Gildenstern; and serious relationship issues with his new fiancee Ophelia, Hamlet has a lot to deal with. Here’s where you get the famous “To be, or not to be” soliloquy, guys.

The Contemporary: Disney’s “The Lion King”

Did you ever realize that The Lion King is a reimagining of Hamlet set in the Animal Kingdom? An “Uncle” who has bumped off the current king and stepped into his position of power … a young prince determined to regain his proper place and to save his mother and people from a power-hungry ruler … complete with award-winning songs and heart-warming lion cub cuteness!

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From Classic to Contemporary: Pride and Prejudice into Epic Fail

Classics–whether they are novels, plays, or epics–offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Miller and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

Cover of Pride and PrejudiceThe Classic: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice has been rewritten, updated, adapted, reformed, reworked, and redone countless times in the twentieth and twenty-first century. You might recall my post about fanfiction, or maybe you remember reading about the original here at The Hub, where it’s been mentioned as a YA novel disguised as a classic, or when its most recent graphic novelization was discussed. In the case that you still haven’t read it (and believe me, even if you’ve watched the 6 hour miniseries, “seeing the movie” is still not quite the same), here’s a bit of an intro.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. […] However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

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