Jane Austen WAS JANE AUSTEN (1775-1817) BLACK?

Egmondcodfried posted on Jun 02, 2010 at 04:55PM


[Cassandra Austen (1773-1845), or Jane Austen (1775-1817)]


By Egmond Codfried

The chief glory of nations is derived from their writers wrote Dr. Samuel Johnson (1708-1784). And many around the world deeply enjoy Jane Austen’s books and letters, of which the interpretation is constantly fine-tuned and made into movies and TV series. They study human behaviour and are satirical of human failings. Her style was based on Dr. Samuel Johnson’s: ‘cool, well-ordered, witty and incisive observations of life.’ But because Austen’s live straddled the decisive period around the French Revolution (1789-1795), her life, her books and surviving letters can also be mined for her ideas about the radical changing times. Although she wrote novels in the Romantic fashion: ‘The passion of Romantism did not inspire her.’ So I, because of my research interests, look for Austen’s ideas about the changing views on the emergence and the controversial role of Race. In this light, the fact that there is no credible portrait of Britain’s finest nineteen-century female writer should be considered as highly problematic. Jane Austen, properly read, might grow into our greatest activist in proclaiming the glory of Blacks….read on…

 http://www.jasa.net.au/images/cassportrait.jpg [Cassandra Austen (1773-1845), o Jane Austen (17

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più di un anno fa Egmondcodfried said…

Blacks need to research history to liberate themselves. They have to find out what was stolen from them and claim it back, in order to strengthen their identity. Who are we, where do we come from, what is our history, where did it go wrong, when and why? That eurocentrist will hijack Black History, as the British sites about historical blacks indicate, will just not do. Since I have started my research there been historical blacks ‘discovered.’ A grand total of five. At this rate it will last forever. What do we care about one ‘black’ woman in a British Roman cemetery? And black by who’s definition? We know there were Blacks in the Greek and Roman world and they shared equal status with whites.

Blackness is more a question of identity then head shape or DNA There are those with a Irish or Jewish identity, which has nothing to do with the length or shape of their nose, but their ideas, ideals, problems, geographical movements, politics, solidarities etc.

Snowden in Blacks in Antiquity has proven that there was no racism as we know it today in antiquity, but rather 20th century American researchers imposing their racist views on the ‘colour-blind’ Greeks and the Romans. The Greeks were aware that Egypt was the source of their civilisation. And they did not have rules against race-mixing. They understood black skin only as an adaptation to environment. And they looked up to Africans, as blameless. Africans were favourites of the Olympian gods, who would spend 11 days each year to feast with the Africans. The war god Mars was represented as a black man.

Then the political issues surrounding Cleopatra have no bearing at all to us living today. Declaring Cleopatra black, according to the definitions of eurocentrism, is of no use to blacks living today, dealing with the racism today. Race Theory and Racism is a liberation ideology starting in 1760, to free Europe from a reversed apartheid system, when the nobility and royally was black identified. They intermarried because blue blood was black blood. Anyone who was not white was considered superior to whites. They were a fixed mulatto race from very fair to very black, some looking more African, Asian or white. But they shared a black identity: blue blood. The whites then were not the whites we know today. They were born in a system ruled by blacks and coloureds; they knew nothing else. If anyone questioned this system he was despotically silenced. This also explains the ferocity of the French Revolution which ended the Ancien Regime, which was black rule.

Now I understand that blacks are frightened away from Jane Austen (1775-1817) because of all the blond actresses playing personages, who in fact are clearly described as very brown and black. Austen writes about things that still influence us today, the causes and the aftermath of the end of black rule in Europe. In Emma (1816) she points to the dangers of race-mixing and blacks trying to civilize whites and raising them to equal status. These are the causes of the downfall of blacks, their own folly. She was writing about historical realities, not wishful thinking. Emma is not a straight romantic story; it’s an allegory, its Black History and confirms my blue blood is black blood (1500-1789) research.

On builds on the research of the ones who came before. There is no need for young blacks to go and rediscover the wheel time and time again. And we do not need whites to explain to us who is black and who is white. We are not that stupid! The sources are just the novels by Jane Austen who wrote for and about the 3 and 4 black families in an English country village, who were a gentle or noble elite. Towards self-improvement and to warn blacks about the dangers ahead. Austen teaches us the use of correct language, good manners, prudence, relations, culture, reading of good books and women rights. She shows how blacks have many colours or looks, invites us to look at blacks in all their diversity. She urges blacks not to be afraid to change or they might be loosing even more.

Egmond Codfried
The Hague

più di un anno fa Egmondcodfried said…

[Sonam Kapoor and Abhay Deol as Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley]


The timing could not have been better for me as I’m presently surrounded by scholarly books about author Jane Austen (1775-1817). I’m writing a research ‘Was Jane Austen Black?’ based on her personages who all are Blacks, and her own personal description as a dark brown woman, with African facial traits. All of these works are seriously flawed and ideological racist, as they never touch on the insistent skin colour schematics Austen offers. But they have an analysis of Emma (1816), which is credited as her most accomplished and cynical; but the hardest to analyse. Aisha (2010) is an Indian, movie adaptation of Emma and there is no colour subtext. To me Emma seems to resist analysis because it should not be read as a straight romantic story, but as an allegory about Black History, the causes of The French Revolution and the new political realities the classes must accept. Emma also points out the folly and dangers of race mixing leading to the downfall of black ruler. It’s a novel about self-knowledge, self-improvement and a warning to Blacks to pay attention and not to be afraid of change.

The movie treats the book as a straight romantic story, without any attempt at historification. (is this not an English word?) There are a few faint references to her other novels and scholarly approaches. It’s in a sense a picaresque story, with things just happening to the protagonist; Aisha/Emma. A rich, and wilful girl who takes up the business of matchmaking with disastrous results. Hurting the ones she sets out to help. It takes a long time before she discovers how wrong she is. Finally at the brink of self-annihilation her instincts kick in. Throughout she is questioned and scolded by her livelong friend Arjun, the Mr. Knightley of the novel. The film writers carefully preserved the basic storyline, asking themselves; what makes Emma, Emma? A true cinematographic tour de force! Any adaptation is a new reading, an experiment and a comment on the original. Emma is much about class and rank, which does not translate well to the meritocracy and cosmopolitan world in which we live today. So the makers omitted these two major forces, which in the novel work on Emma. Aisha now only belongs to metropolis of Delhi, hardly a country village, and the moneyed higher classes. There is no threat to her social position, which is really the greatest driving force and the danger in Emma. Aisha is not, like Emma, the dominating presence, nor is she a queen about to be dethroned. Just someone who manages to be the centre of attention. And this she does most beautifully in a stunning Dior wardrobe.

The white Miss Harriet Smith, Shevaly in the movie, is a middle class girl from the village who, even worse in light of the original, does not accept being perceived as socially inferior. Miss Smith from the novel is acutely aware of her inferiority to Emma, which makes Emma’s attention to her so remarkable. Gear is of great importance, also cars and houses which today only scream ‘money’ and not ‘class and breeding.’ The trips to Donwell and Box-Hill are represented by a trip to a white water rafting resort, where the company also indulges in some weed smoking. It’s a nice touch to be alerted to the fact that Emma and her set would today be knocking about in Dior, Chanel, Ferragamo and Louis Vuitton, but I ‘am not prepared to have them smoking pot! Perhaps this shows too much realism, even to the point of showing them sitting on toilets; as a device of verisimilitude. The unity of place is however less enforced as it is in Emma because we actually get to see the places outside Highbury/Delhi, where Emma as a novel is situated.

It’s hard. How would the movie have satisfied me if I did not know the story beforehand? What about the folks who don’t know Jane Austen? The look is very modern and contemporary. The main characters are dressed in European style. Stylish, elegant but very skimpy. Only Shefaly wears some traditional sjalwaar chamise, off and on. In the hospital where Aisha visits her sister who gave birth, we notice how short a dress Aisha wears, as the camera catches her panties. The women are young but at times appear disturbingly like pre-teenagers, children really, even sitting in a dollhouse. Perhaps this is a pointed reference to Austen’s fierce feminist criticism of how society looks at women? We also see Aisha standing outside the hospital in her short dress with two fully dressed Indian ladies in the background. As if Aisha escaped the movie set, to symbolise how detached she has become from reality.

The personal struggle Aisha has to face when she realises how lost she is, is symbolised by her binging on desserts and Häagen-Dazs ice cream. She then applies for a job which means quitting Delhi, like Aarti/ Jane Fairfax, but is saved from this somehow wretched fate by Arjun who finally states his love for her. They had loved each other for a long time but did not think themselves worthy. She was distracted by her projects and was not really thinking. He because he watched her mainly to find fault and keep her from harm.

The question is: does the movie convince on its own merits? Perhaps the story needed to be watered down, because we live in more complicated but less trying times. There is less a climate of change and uncertainty, then when Emma was written. We are however never more in need of a global revolution, to eradicate the last vestiges of colonialism. India has fully outgrown its status as a former British colony and matches or even exceeds anything perceived as western and forward. An Indian producer can even do a better Emma adaptation then a western filmmaker and sets a hard act to follow. The choice was made to take the major incidents from Emma out of context and give them another, less dire meaning. The ill-judged, untimely and unforeseen marriage proposal by Mr. Elton is an error of manners and high comedy, but becomes in Aisha an ironical joke about sexual harassment. Without understanding of the underlying story about revolution and change, a full strength presentation would have been too long, complicated and bewildering with the many twists, to a movie audience. Austen’s contemporary readers would readily understand her references to the outside world, while we would first need a long history lesson.

It’s a very satisfying movie because of the visual spectacle it offers, as we may expect from any Indian movie. There is some alluring, but functional dancing and singing, that don’t put the plot on hold. All in keeping with the novel, too. The characters have the unusual appearance of purpose, although we have no clue where all this leads. So this movie version is a string of unrelated incidents, which yet give some measure of gravity to the characters; but only the final denouement is what really ties them together. This can also be said of the book version, which keeps us guessing with its many false leads. Aisha has given clues of little jealousies toward Arjun and Aarti, Knightley and Jane Fairfax, but nothing major. And towards the end she agonises because she thinks that Arjun and Shewaly are united, while they are not. All the while Arjun is like a big brother, all about solicitude and criticism. Yet from these disparate feelings, intensified by the incidents; love grows. It’s because of this strange story, told with great and unfaltering authority, we are forced to ask; what is the story Miss Austen really wants to tell us?

How would I go about making a movie adaptation of Emma? It would have to be a two-tiered affair; two stories, simultaneously told. An overpoweringly, romantic one with magnified bucolic charms and a fairy tale like air, commenting on itself. And a totally newly created, relentless and harsh story of civil war and terror, set around the French revolution, with the same players, doubling. The themes would be the corruption, inherent to class and rank without true personal merit. Upsetting the natural order by elevating a conquered people. And imposing equality on two disparate nations, which goes against historical truth. Both storylines singing the praise of decency and benevolence, a true love of humanity under pressure. These war-like themes would find their counterpart in her indolence and the race-mixing practises Emma indulges in. It has to be historical because of the central role of rank and class, which are alien to us today. The players would have to be as Austen decreed. Mr. Elton, spruce, black and smiling. Jane Fairfax would be a light skinned Black and Harriet Smith; a blue eyed blond. While Emma and Frank, who used to tease Jane for her paleness would indeed be extremely dark skinned, like all the characters from Paradise by Toni Morrison. As would Mr. Weston and his wife. Mr. Knightley; and Mrs. Augusta Elton are Blacks, for she soon dethrones Emma to become a vigorous surrogate but vulgar replacement. Gentleman farmer Martin, the proper partner for Miss Smith who really loves her, is off course white.
 [Sonam Kapoor and Abhay Deol as Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley] AISHA The timing could no
più di un anno fa Egmondcodfried said…
Dear Madam,

Your forum came up when I punched Jane Austen + forum in google, but only you show true friendliness, independence of mind and a most prudent distrust of historians. Never loose these qualities. But speaking of qualities; it’s incumbent on me to thank you for showing excellent judgement by not accusing me about three times of having an agenda. So I’m looking out for you when I urge you to discard all prejudices you might have been taught about Blacks, just like all men should discard their prejudices they were taught about women. I’m like Mrs. Norris, only when she is speaking with Jane Austen’s voice: ‘My object, Lady Bertram, is to be of use to those that come after me […] and [enable me] to live so as not to disgrace the memory of the dear departed.’

I have pointed out to you some passages that scholars have consciously ignored since 1860 and have asked you to use your own powers of understanding. When you write: ‘Your quote from the Watsons would seem very apropos but for the fact that the Watsons are by far the poorest family Austen ever depicted,’ you are taking a step forward and many backwards because you mix two observations that are not related. You assume that a Black identified writer will only show all Blacks in a favourable light, and whites as devils. That’s not what I have learned about good writing, and nobody surpasses Jane Austen in that department.

Personally I do not find Mr. Henry Crawford such a despicable person; neither did Sir Bertram, nor did the Miss Bertrams, nor did Edmund. His excellent sisters dote on him! He is a flirt and he hits on those who like to flirt, even though they are engaged to be married and should know better, and were warned too. I assume him a virgin until Maria Bertram, a married woman, seduced him. My only quibble with Mr. Crawford is that he would accuse Maria, like Adam accused Eve, for leading him astray. However; Maria Bertram did not rape him. Like a truly high-born lady she was able to contain herself for a maximum of six months. Any ordinary women would have him as soon as she could get her hands on him, in the Mansfield Park shrubbery, for instance. If I were a woman I would have married Mr. Crawford in a heartbeat, even claiming pregnancy if I must, and if he took lovers, so would I. As a wife of his I would have many resources to gratify all my needs. I’m joking a bit, but I do not find him such a sinner, nor would I throw the first stone.

But seriously, I take my cue from her nephew who writes about readers with ‘true abilities’ and they, like me, will understand ‘pure and eloquent blood.’ The rest who came after are victims of revisionism. All of Austen’s books take the same stand, are one concept of the world. ‘Black’ as in Emma, should be ‘black’ as in M.P. and Mr. Crawford, following your fancy, should be a vicar too; which most definitely he is not. Black or brown girls have black or brown sisters, who might have regular or irregular features, as not all Black girls are beauties nor are all Black girls ugly. I almost believe you not to be a native English speaker, like me, by your struggling with the word ‘fair.’ This word has many meanings, like ‘the fairer sex’ includes all women, even if they are coal black or hideously ugly with a moustache; they remain members of the fairer sex. Then you have your Ex-Miss America Vanessa Williams who is Black, but quite fair. The runner-up who replaced her, when those gynaecological photo’s came out in Playboy, was much browner. The Bertrams are ‘fair,’ lighter then Mary Crawford, yet all the Bertrams are so exceedingly greedy for the Crawfords. And because they shunned poor Mrs. Price for so many years, we know how they feel about mix-race marriages. There is no pure Black blood, I never made that claim, but Mr. Crawford is pitch-black, for sure. Yet even Rushworth finds only fault with his length and Fanny does not think him handsome at all. There is never a slur on his black skin. Instead, he is a natural Shakespeare reader, gentlemanly, educated, perfect manners, countenance, charming, caring and an accomplished landlord; a quintessential British gentleman and a true Renaissance man.

My other latest brainwave regards Eliza Bennet whose brown complexion strikes fear in the hearts off both Caroline Bingley and Lady de Bourgh. Not a beauty, nor rich she has something they do not have: colour. This by Austen’s equates with health. Darcy is not an aristocrat, but came from trade. It’s his accomplishments as a good landlord and a good master which make him worthy to have Eliza Bennet. He is Black but some colour is wanting. Like with Jane Fairfax.

Complexion is complex, texture and health play a role. You might know that black skin is thinner then white skin, and if the blackest person scrapes his knee you will see the white, non-pigmented skin layers. Some exceptional black or brown beauties have a very transparent upper skin which shows the white underlying skin and give a certain ‘translucence’ or brilliancy to their skin. It would be like brown, opaque, silk velvet versus brown silk chiffon. This I learned after reading Austen and going out in the street to actually look at women and men and the qualities of their complexions. I advise everyone to do the same.

To finish, please hold on to your scepticism rather then your skepticism, and favour me with your questions, rather then favor, and do not be fueled by acquiescence but be fuelled by a distrust of revisionist historians. I have been addressing you, not the Austenites, nor the Austen family. This Austen research is just a sub part from my Blue blood is Black blood (1500-1789) research and confirms everything I have been saying since 2005. My improvements are my method of identifying a person as Black, by accepting that Blacks, like the Irish or Jews, have an identity. Like you would not go and measure someone’s ears or nose to determine his Jewish identity, so the nuance of black skin on Blacks, is of less importance. There are more or less Classical African features among people of colour, which do not automatically exclude them from beauty. As a writer, Austen gives clues about her identity by writing about matters which concern Blacks: Blacks among a majority of whites, Blacks losing power, Black beauty versus white beauty, mix-marriage, skin bleaching with Gowland’s and rouging with white face-paint. And we are provided with at least eight descriptions which state that Jane Austen herself was dark brown. As to the plausibility of gentle families who are black and coloured, the extended Austen family is proof. Comtesse Eliza de Feuillide describes herself as ‘the native brown of my Complexion,’ and is proud to show off her Tan.

Thank you and god bless

Your Friend and well wisher,

Egmond Codfried
The Hague
The Netherlands & Surinam