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Perhaps it is unfair to ask a book that clearly aims to be cute and
goofy for a rigorous reexamination of Regency society under pressure
from zombie hordes, but 300 pages is a long way to stretch one joke.
- Craig B. Jacobson

"Has there ever been a work of literature that couldn't be improved by adding zombies?" Les Grossman's oft-cited Time review of Seth Grahame-Smith's bestselling Quirk Classic, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is a rhetorical question for the ages. Or, at least, a rhetorical question for our age. An age in which, as Helene A. Shugart and Catherine Egley Waggoner insist, "one cannot consume popular culture without consuming camp" (1). In their deliberate excessiveness and aggressive unnaturalness, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and its equally suspect successor, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, typify the campiness that has come to characterize the insatiable cottage industry of Jane Austen. Insofar as the augmentations of the monstrous mash-ups metaphorically make manifest the Camp sensibility that has long been latent in Austen's original works, there is, surely, an argument to be made for reading into the Quirk Classics some semblance of literary merit. But frankly, these gimmicky texts are far less compelling on their own than they are in the context of the metanarrative of Austenmania that has surged in recent decades. To the extent that the mash-ups can be considered valuable commentaries on the Austen canon, it is because, as Grossman's initial inquiry conveniently evokes, their unchecked attempt at enhancement taps into a preoccupation with improvement that is both thematized within Austen's novels and symptomatic of the broader project of renovating the literary landscape that is Jane Austen's oeuvre.

Austen's name has been synonymous with improvement since at least 1971, when Alistair Duckworth first published The Improvement of the Estate--a seminal study that explored the significance of property and home "improvements" (landscaping, ornamenting, denaturalizing) within the larger context of Austen's storylines. But, as indicated by the overwhelming commercial success of the Quirk series, it seems that this pathology of improvement has seeped through the walls of Pemberley and Barton Cottage, traveled across the English countryside, escaped the confines of Austen's novels completely, and firmly planted itself deep within the consciousness of American popular culture. In first acknowledging Austen's own ambivalence towards the conceit of improvement, and then tracking the mash-up trend within that framework, this essay takes up Grossman's question with enough semi-seriousness to ask: Is there a way in which the monster mash-ups, with their campy commitment to the cultivation of unequivocally bad taste, could rightfully be categorized as works of improvement, or are they, in the end, only imprudent alterations that degrade both Austen's novels and her readers? This essay argues that, as much as the Quirk Classics add to Austen's novels (and they add a lot to Austen's novels), they fail to contribute anything to the original texts--or at least anything that wasn't already there. Significantly, the campy extremity of the monstrous mash-ups works to illuminate Austen's own Camp sensibility; but in calling attention to the inherent campiness of Austen's prose, the derivative texts only further signal their own inferiority. Because, of course, Camp is, above all, about the veneration of aesthetics. And while the mash-ups may seem, initially, to embody this statute of style over substance, their stylish insubstantiality ultimately comes at too high a cost: the bastardization of Austen's substantive style.

To say nothing of improvement, it is apparent that the stuffy contents of the canon have been revitalized by the addition of zombies. Like it or not, there is no denying the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which--as outlined by Marie Mulvey-Roberts in her pioneering article on the novel and the imprint it engendered--"has sold over one million copies and been translated into more than twenty languages" (18), outperforming even its greatest expectations. Reflecting on it now, it is a wonder that the popularity of Grahame-Smith's undead Austen rewrite should have come as a surprise to anyone, considering just how exactly Pride and Prejudice and Zombies marks the intersection of three of twenty-first-century America's most pervasive pop cultural trends: the obsession with Jane Austen; the obsession with zombies; and the obsession with the reboot--itself a zombified form premised on the reanimation of literary and cinematic corpses that are, more often than not, better left in the grave. Divergent though the Austen and zombie genres seem to be in their appeal, theirs has been a shared renaissance. For every Austenland (2007) of the past fifteen years, there is a Zombieland (2009). For every Jane Austen's Guide to Dating (2005), there is a Zombie Survival Guide (2003). For every Me and Mr, Darcy (2007), an iZombie (2015). Every Cooking with Jane Austen (2005), a Warm Bodies (2013). Every Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure (2007), a World War Z (2006). And for every Jane Austen Book Club (2004) book club meeting, there airs another episode of The Walking Dead (2010). The list feels excessive. It is. And yet, this exhausting catalogue is not nearly exhaustive, constituting only a small sampling of the Austen paraphernalia and zombie entertainment on the market today. Never mind the endless Jane Austen totes and t-shirts, calendars and coffee mugs, Band-aids and action figures, or the one two three four five six Resident Evil films based on the zombie apocalypse videogame of the same name. Given their parallel trajectories of popularity, it was only a matter of time before the Austen and zombie manias would collide. And indeed, as recollected by Quirk Classics brainfather Jason Rekulak, the inspiration for the inaugural mash-up was about as arbitrary as the term "mash-up" implies. "I had two lists," explains Rekulak, "one of books and one of new elements [pirates, ninjas, space aliens, zombies], and as soon as I drew a line between Pride and Prejudice and zombies, I knew that was the one" (qtd. in Troost 4). (1) In intuiting the cravings of the current consumer culture, Rekulak was able to tap into two markets simultaneously, bridging not only a gender divide, but a genre one.

The irony of the Quirk Classics' success, which one trusts would not be lost on Jane, is two-fold: first, there is the pang of Austen--who spent the better part of her adulthood in financial duress and never dared publish a text under her real name--not reaping the royalties of her hugely lucrative novels, while strange men use her name for their own profit. To be sure, Rekulak and Grahame-Smith do not frame their project this way, imagining themselves, instead, as augmenters of Austen's work who have whipped up what Rekulak (as expressed in an email to Mulvey-Roberts) conceives of as "a sort of 'enhanced version' of the original text" (Mulvey-Roberts 20). Mulvey-Roberts duly notes that "the meaning of 'enhanced' can be either 'improved' or 'expanded'" (20), and it is in this ambiguity that one encounters the second irony. Because, of course, born as she was in the so-called Age of Improvement, Austen made a career of thematizing the work in progress. (2) As such, her novels function as lessons in improvement: the moral improvement of the heroine reemerges as a standard trope, the economic improvement of admirable figures in financially dreary situations is inevitable, the manners and manors of the entire cast of characters exist in a perpetual state of renovation. Even Austen's readers stand to be improved by the faux-didacticism inherent to her novels of manners. Indeed, according to B.C. Southam, "Jane Austen is the most important nineteenth-century historian of 'Improvement' and of the process of change that it signified" (6). But, when one thinks of the body of enhanced Austen work--of the attempts at improvement that have resulted in gaudy displays of embellishment and inauthenticity--one must also recall the author's harsh criticism of unnecessary innovations and impudent innovators within her novels. (3)

Incidentally, the dispute that I am staging in debating the merit of the Quirk Classics is one with which Austen herself was deeply concerned. Mine is precisely the same question that Southam identifies as the cultural debate of Austen's contemporary moment: "[Is] improvement the distinguishing character of a new and enlightened age, or a dangerous fad, a passing but destructive fashion, a threat to time-honoured values and traditions?" (11). In answering this question, Austen routinely warns against the dangers of improvement, most notably in the works that Quirk has decided to "improve"; complicating the semantic assumptions of the word, Austen challenges its implicit connotation of "betterment" by presenting overindulgent characters who abuse their power over unrefined estates. John Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility is just one such trifling improver. After usurping Norland in the wake of his father's death, Dashwood complains of his "vast and inevitable expenses" while happily busying himself with the enclosure of Norland, the appropriation of adjacent farms, and the construction of his wife Fanny's greenhouse, which will sit upon a knoll behind the house just as soon as all of the walnut trees standing in its way have been removed (160). Tasteless and tactless, John Dashwood epitomizes a certain censured strain of improver in Austen works--one that innovates for purely selfish and aesthetic reasons at the expense of neighbors and the environment. Austen contrasts this type of improver with one like Colonel Brandon, whose minor and practical improvements to Delaford serve utilitarian purposes and work toward the betterment of the community. An advocate for moderation, Austen warns the reader against the extremity of either entirely neglecting or completely commandeering the natural landscape. But the treatment of the estate in Jane Austen's worlds takes on still greater significance, as Duckworth argues, in functioning as an indicator of the true caliber of one's character. For Austen, the improvement of the estate is transposable with the improvement of the individual. Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy emerges as the paragon of this trope, and it is significant to note that the positive change in Elizabeth Bennet's perception of Darcy's manner coincides with her first encounter of his manor, Pemberley, described as such:
It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising
ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a
stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without
any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely
adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which
nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little
counteracted by an awkward taste. (235)

The reader recognizes a metaphorical description of Darcy himself in reading of the mild-mannered improvements made to his estate. Like Pemberley, Darcy defies any appearance of artificiality even in presenting himself as a refined and well-dressed gentleman. Austen's decision to exalt her heroes for their prudent improvements solidifies her otherwise ambivalent attitude toward the enterprise: the key is to make enhancements while preserving and honoring the integrity of the object's intrinsic nature.

In her introduction to Sense and Sensibility, Ros Ballaster reaches this same verdict, concluding,
Improvement, then, should be true to its own denotation; it should
improve upon, not dispense with or ignore, its original.... What is
secondary, Sense and Sensibility forcefully argues, should not be
substituted for what is primary. Dependence on a historical
predecessor... must be acknowledged if collective order is to be
maintained. (xxviii)

Ballaster shares her opinion with Duckworth, who likewise writes, "Cultural atrophy, resulting from neglect, is to be avoided. Even more serious, however, is a too active and thoughtless response on the part of the heir. Thinking to introduce improvement, he may well destroy the 'whole original fabric' of his inheritance. What has been 'acquired progressively' should not be radically changed" (48). But even this response derives from an earlier source, Edmund Burke, whom Duckworth credits in proclaiming, "A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors" (47). I cite these similar sentiments--which productively build upon one another--not to be redundant, but rather, to illustrate the frequency with which improvements are made and elaborations celebrated in various discursive spheres, including that of literary criticism. More than that, I want to note the agreement among critics of improvement that, while acknowledgement of one's predecessors and fidelity to the spirit of an original are crucial pieces of any improvement project, it is the virtue of modesty in one's developments that ought to be upheld, above all.

Austenmania, as signified by its suffix, is not known for its moderation. On the contrary, the craze seems to be a direct response to the perceived scarcity of Austen's bibliography--the limited contents of which the voracious reader might reasonably consume in a matter of mere months. Jane Austen occupies a unique space within literary culture. Among the few authors who straddle the line of canonical and popular literature, Austen is an easily acquired taste, appealing to both the refined palates of academics and those of the gluttonous mass public. Uniquely versatile and seemingly universally beloved, the deficiency of her canon is, apparently, not one of quality, but of quantity. Having died at the age of forty-one in the midst of writing her seventh novel, Sanditon, Jane Austen left for us a body of work that was not only too small, but also one that was explicitly unfinished. It's no wonder that this sense of incompleteness would leave her readership wanting. Wanting more, and more, and more. The impulse of several Janeites to take up the mantle of seeing the prematurely abandoned Sanditon through to its completion is but a metonym for the entire exercise in overcompensation that is the Austen phenomenon. (4) Although working, presumably, from a place of reverence, the creators of the expansive Jane Austen affiliated publications have inadvertently supplanted this subtle sense of "not enough" that surrounded the author's work with an inordinate feeling of "too much." Cutting down the proverbial walnut trees to make room for the greenhouse, each of these imitators and improvers seems to be saying, "I can be more Jane Austen than you. I can be more Jane Austen than Jane Austen."

This sense of too muchness reached its apogee in 2009 with Quirk's release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, the first of a new breed of hybridized texts that would merge canonical fictions with philistine story elements. Of course, Austen herself had nothing to do with these publications, save the unavoidable implication that resulted from Quirk's hijacking of her novels, earning her a listing as coauthor. The joke of the byline highlights the dilemma that these texts present: it is blasphemous to put Austen's name on so unlicensed a work, but it would be equally irreverent to withhold it, thereby giving the full credit of Austen's illustrious prose to zombie and sea monster incorporators, Seth Grahame-Smith and Ben H. Winters. (5) In adding to Jane Austen's estate, in dressing it up, in modernizing the language and displacing the characters, in incorporating sex and violence, in superfluously exercising their own power over the unprotected landscape of literary classics that have been bequeathed to them, Grahame-Smith and Winters run the risk of exposing themselves as Austen's quintessential bad improvers--who, to repeat Duckworth's misgiving, "may well destroy the 'whole original fabric' of [their] inheritance."

Of course, Austen's novels have taught us that some pruning can be beneficial. In fact, Austen herself was the original improver of Pride and Prejudice; as is well documented in Janet Todd's Cambridge Companion to Pride and Prejudice, Austen conceived of her own editing process as an extreme revamping, and famously wrote in a letter to Cassandra that early drafts of '"First Impressions' had been much 'lopt & cropt' by the time it was published as Pride and Prejudice in 1813" (137). Here it is helpful to note the distinction that Duckworth makes between "improvements" and "alterations." In his reading he clarifies, "To 'improve' was to treat the deficient or corrupt parts of an established order with the character of the whole in mind; to 'innovate' or 'alter,' on the other hand, was to destroy all that had been built up by the 'collected reason of the ages'" (47). (6) What of the Quirk Classics, then--how do they fare? The answer is about as nuanced as the squid tentacles protruding from Colonel Brandon's face on one of the covers. As it happens, the major event that generates the changes to Austen's novel in Winters's Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters turns out to be an incident serendipitously referred to as--what else?--"the Alteration." Prefacing the subsequent innovations, the novel's opening line reads, "The family of Dashwood had been settled in Sussex since before the Alteration, when the waters of the world grew cold and hateful to the sons of man, and darkness moved on the face of the deep" (7). Like the changes that Ballaster and Duckworth examine within Austen's novels, the primary alterations made in the Quirk Classic texts are ones to the landscape. Although the characters deviate in gimmicky ways to suit their new environments, it is Austen's topography that undergoes the most radical renovation; yes, the Bennet sisters have adapted into zombie-killing warriors and Lady Catherine's mansion now has "a grand dojo, and new quarters for her private guard of ninjas" (61), but only as a matter of necessity following the infiltration of Longbourn and the neighboring properties by a horde of "unmentionables" (one must be proper, even in the face of a zombie apocalypse). Initially, the only thing more striking than the seeming senselessness of these textual transformations (to use a term applied to those stricken in Zombies) is their sheer lack of subtlety. Excessively immodest and downright unnatural in both theory and execution, it is almost as if the premise of the entire Quirk enterprise is to alter first-rate fictions with the very aim of making them worse--of making them so bad, in fact, that they may actually be good. In line with this sentiment, it may only be through reading the travesty of the mash-ups as experiments in Camp that we are able to generate meaningful discourse around them.

In her 1964 manifesto, "Notes on 'Camp,'" Susan Sontag declares, "The ultimate Camp statement: it's good because it's awful" (292). Characterized by an appreciation for the artificial, a fidelity to frivolity, and an adherence to the exaggerated, Camp originates from the French "se camper," which, Mark Booth explains, means "to present oneself in an expansive but flimsy manner (like a tent), with overtones here of theatricality, vanity, dressiness, and provocation" (75). The campiness of Quirk's altered-Austens makes no attempt to disguise itself, apparent immediately on the covers of the publications. Below the extravagant illustrations--the first boasts an Austen lookalike with a bloodied dress, red eyes, and a mutilated mouth revealing her jawbone while the second depicts two lovers in an embrace, one a conventional nineteenth-century heroine and the other the aforementioned officer whose face is decorated in tentacles--one notices the prolix titles, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (underlines mine). In preserving the original titles rather than compressing them with the use of a comma (i.e., Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies), the excessiveness of the additive conjunction becomes impossible to ignore. Rather than being integrated into the source texts, the monstrous alterations are tacked onto the ends of the titles, flaunting their own extraneousness. The zombies themselves operate in a similar manner within the novel, awkwardly wobbling out of the woods and interrupting the natural flow of the story. "Camp," Sontag writes, "is a vision of the world in terms of style--but a particular kind of style. It is the love of the exaggerated, the 'off,' of things-being-what-they-are-not" (279). The Quirk Classics promote not only the platform of things-being-what-they-are-not but also that of things-being-where-they-are-not-supposed-to-be. Of course the brood of zombies seems constantly out of place in Hertfordshire: they are. Simply put, the Quirk novels--complete with over-the-top illustrations, clunky titles, and displaced monsters--do not work. The Camp critic acknowledges the aesthetic failure of the works and extols them not in spite of this, but because of it.

The run-on titles desecrating the covers of the works become run-on sentences within them. Take, for example, this passage in Pride and Prejudice: "An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do" ( 110). In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Mr. Bennet's speech undergoes this alteration: "An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do; for I shall not have my best warrior resigned to the service of a man who is fatter than Buddha and duller than the edge of a learning sword" (88). The so-called mash-up is really not a mash-up at all, as Smith makes a habit of quarantining the zombie additions, haphazardly attaching them to the ends of sentences with semi-colons rather than interweaving them throughout the prose. Despite being conspicuously far-fetched and syntactically disjointed, the ostentatious unmentionables fervently invade Austen's novel, which proceeds laboriously as if dragging with it the (un)dead weight of a zombie clinging to Elizabeth Bennet's muddy stockings.

There is, perhaps, a more generous way to read this technique. Published well before 1923, Austen's novels are now public domain, making them legally vulnerable to all manner of monstrous alteration; and indeed, it was the very dispossession of Austen's estate in regard to copyright that first made Quirk consider the possibility of its zombie invasion. As Rekulak tells it in his interview with Ask Men's Steven Shaw, the strategy of the mash-up selections consisted, fundamentally, of "trying to do something creative, and a desire not to get sued" (Rekulak 2009). As intended, Quirk faces no infringement laws in lopping and cropping Austen ad absurdum. And yet, there is an argument to be made here that in Grahame-Smith's quarantining of his own dreadful prose, he has, in fact, left much of the integrity of Austen's masterpiece intact. In preserving Austen's actual words (indeed, most of them--Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is composed of 80 percent Austen and 20 percent zombie mayhem), Grahame-Smith's nominal mash-up might even be admired for making a seemingly concerted effort to foreground the autonomy of the original work.

If only that had remained the party line. Instead, the variations in Quirk's first and second publications suggest a rapid progression from an objective of innocuous improvement to that of absolute alteration. The Quirk monster mash-ups exemplify unnaturalness to the utmost extreme, delving even into the supernatural. From Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, the ratio of Austen prose to monster madness jumps from 4:1 to 3:2. It makes sense that Sea Monsters is twice as absurd, for it is twice a sequel--first to the original Sense and Sensibility and then to the original Quirk classic. The vexation one feels in reading Zombies, the bothersome sense that the zombie mayhem is tacked on extraneously and remains conspicuously segregated throughout, is radically reversed in Sea Monsters. While Smith's zombies weigh down Austen's novel with their sheer out of place-ness, Winters's oceanic beasts have completely taken over; Austen's story is struggling to catch its breath as Sense and Sensibility drowns in the tidal wave of Sea Monsters. Though Zombies transforms Austen's landscape, the Quirk sequel takes more liberties with Austen's characters; thus, in addition to living on top of what turns out to be the head of a monstrous sea monster, Colonel Brandon is converted into a squid-faced man and Lucy Steele becomes a sea witch. Seeing Grahame-Smith's excessiveness and raising him exaggerated artificiality, Winters doubles down on Sontag's insistence that "the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural" (275).

Most interesting for our purposes, however, is that the cause of this unnatural Alteration in the narrative is decisively declared "unknown and unknowable" (Sea Monsters 8). Before Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters even begins, it is already done. The alteration has occurred. The creatures of the deep have rebelled. Such an event can serve as a parable for what is happening to Austen's fiction in popular culture. We might attempt to determine the cause of this sudden and intense impulse to alter her novels. We might even write lengthy critical analyses trying to generate meaning out of the adamantly anti-intellectual trend. But such speculation, Sea Monsters warns us, is futile. Throughout the novel, we witness several surrogate characters waste their energy making conjectures about the source of the Alteration: Henry Dashwood eccentrically suspects "a noxious stream that fed virulent flow into every sea, every lake and estuary, poisoning the very well of the world" (it is while in search of this that he is attacked and killed by a hammerhead shark) (8); Sir John Middleton holds to the conviction that the "Alteration resulted from a curse laid by one of the tribal races who had come under England's colonial dominion over the centuries" (32); and idle but pious Edward Ferrars theorizes, "the calamity's origins could be located in the time of the Tudors, when Henry VIII turned his back on the Holy Church" (18). Repeatedly, the novel frames such conjecturing as a frivolous pursuit, faulting Edward for becoming "obsessed with tedious scholarly trivialities and myths of the Alteration" (219). To try to take these works seriously, the novel suggests, is to miss the point entirely; for, "the whole point of Camp is to dethrone the serious. Camp is playful, anti-serious" (Sontag 288). This, of course, is where I fall into its trap. But, then again, so too do the acutely self-aware mash-ups, which knowingly poke fun at this very idea.

In "Notes on 'Camp,'" Sontag introduces a distinction between pure, naive Camp and self-conscious, intentional Camp. Sontag celebrates pure Camp, which results from an earnest seriousness that fails. She is more skeptical of the latter form, making the assertion that "intending to be campy is always harmful...they want so badly to be campy that they're continually losing the beat" (282). (7) Keenly aware of the travesty they represent, the mash-ups' playful paratext betrays their deliberate campiness. This comes in the form of a winkingly self-serious "Reader's Discussion Guide" at the close of each novel, which proposes (mostly) preposterous questions that a group might use to prompt conversation in, say, a classroom or a book club meeting. Teetering as they do between parody and self-parody, this is where the mash-ups most conspicuously reveal themselves as works of the inferior intentional Camp; that said, it is also in this mock scholarly display that they become their most critically compelling and, at times, outright insightful.

Before even delving into the interpretive opportunities that are opened by the specific questions, their very existence speaks to both the aforementioned critique of academic engagement and, more pointedly still, to Austen's fixed status as a stereotypical staple in women's book clubs--itself a symptom of the prejudicial habit of reductively reading Austen's layered texts as mere chick lit, the firsts in a long and lucrative line of romantic comedies. (8) The Jane Austen-meets-monsters series plays on the widely regarded assumption that Austen appeals to a primarily female audience; the additions of Smith and Winters (by no coincidence, both men) work to overwhelm the quintessentially feminine components of Austen's fiction with their hyper-masculine (if equally reductive) counterparts: violence, danger, and gore. Drawing on Melville and Jules Verne, Ben Winters atypically juxtaposes Austen with the typical nautical adventure tale, presumably expecting to find favor with a broader readership. For his part, Grahame-Smith employs a motif of projectile vomiting throughout Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and, as a bonus, throws in scenes of a recently-stricken Charlotte Lucas ingesting the pus that is seeping out of her pores. These graphic additions are more than a mere triumph of crassness over decorum, though; they are, according to their architect, an educational service. Recalls Rekulak in his interview with Ask Men: "We've had teachers, librarians and other people coming up to us and saying that this has been the only way to get 16-year-old boys to read Pride and Prejudice" (Rekulak 2009). (9) Surly as I sound in recounting what could well be perceived as a condescending masculinization of lady Jane's lovely plots and prose, there is nevertheless something to be said for the possibilities of overtly feminist readings that the novels afford.

Considering that the entire Quirk campaign is, more or less, an elaborate gag, the books' feminist mystique is surprisingly striking--if not entirely consistent. On the whole, Grahame-Smith fares better than Winters, whose female characters are portrayed predominantly as victims, preoccupied during most of the narrative with the task of staying alive while the men (except for idle Edward and delicate Robert, of course) fight the sea monsters. Summarizing his fragile heroine's concerns within the text, Winters writes of Elinor, "On she swam, banishing all thoughts, thinking only of breathing, of swimming--of survival" (328). While Winters reinforces the demeaning notion of women as the weaker sex, Grahame-Smith more effectively satirizes the trope; as Marie Mulvey-Roberts rightly notes, the "women in the novel not only break the bounds of traditional femininity, but actually reverse gender roles by protecting men from attack" (28). As such, the Bennet sisters are written as highly trained warriors who hunt zombies as an occupation and could easily kill any unskilled man (in fact, Elizabeth does consider killing Darcy after he insults her at the first ball). While warrior training is initially considered an improper pursuit for a lady, it is soon proclaimed a prerequisite for the accomplished woman, who, according to Darcy, "must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages; she must be well trained in the fighting styles of the Kyoto masters and the modern tactics and weaponry of Europe" (Zombies 34). Following this proclamation, Smith uses the levels of adeptness that the story's females possess in the warrior arts to more or less supplant the levels of adeptness that characters conventionally display through piano playing in Austen's novel. It is a seemingly motivated change that, in the spirit of the original, explicitly celebrates Elizabeth's characteristically uncivil independence.

The strength of the mash-ups, then, is that in their campy extremity they are able to make manifest that which remains latent in Austen's own critically incisive work. It is, evidently, a strength of which they are also aware. In moving beyond the basic conceit of the discussion questions and beginning to consider their content, we can see the Quirk masterminds both resisting and indulging this potential. Several questions simply troll readers with common responses to the original novel; see, for example, number seven: "Does Mrs. Bennett have a single redeeming quality?" (Zombies 318). But others, like question ten, are up to something more subversive:
Some scholars believe that the zombies were a last-minute addition to
the novel, requested by the publisher in a shameless attempt to boost
sales. Others argue that the hordes of living dead are integral to Jane
Austen's plot and social commentary. What do you think? Can you imagine
what the novel might be like without zombie mayhem? (319)

Befittingly, Grahame-Smith's leading question anticipated the very argument that it falsely claimed already existed; several scholars (myself now among them) have put forth some iteration of Mulvey-Roberts's claim that "the zombified mash-ups actualise the horrors lurking in the margins of Austen's novels" (17). In her reading, Mulvey-Roberts focuses primarily on how the mash-ups bring to the fore Austen's darker political themes, suggesting that "the zombie apocalypse not only explodes the tinder-box of class conflict, but also points to the war being waged on Continental Europe" (29). Alternatively, in her 2010 ASECS Presidential Address--titled "The Undead Eighteenth Century"--Linda Troost reads the zombies as an incarnation of the Regency period's "social and cultural anxiety," arguing that "the interpolations expose the civilized veneer covering a competitive, Hobbesian world" (5). My own initial inclination, in following through with my previous reading of the novels' gender politics, aligns most directly with the theory that Grahame-Smith's discussion guide proposes in question number six: "Some critics have suggested that the zombies represent the authors' views toward marriage--an endless curse that sucks the life out of you and just won't die. Do you agree, or do you have another opinion about the symbolism of the unmentionables?" {Zombies 318). The admittedly apparent argument relies on the character of the aging Charlotte Lucas, whose depressing decision to marry the undesirable Mr. Collins is explained away by the reveal that she is, in fact, in the early stages of zombiehood. (10) Thus we, with Elizabeth, must watch in silent horror as Charlotte gradually transforms (gradually only because Lady Catherine slips her a slowing serum) into a lifeless wife--losing motor skills, command of speech, and naturally, any refinement of taste.

That these myriad readings of the narrative's unmentionable menace can coexist speaks not only to the depth of Austen's writing, but also to the flexibility of the zombie figure as a metaphor. It is worth noting that Winters's mash-up advances its own version of what The Observer's Stephanie Merritt identified as "mak[ing] the metaphorical literal" (qtd. in Mulvey-Roberts 26); in Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, the sea monster pandemic correlates to perils of strong emotions, with the tumultuousness of falling in love being conceptualized as "being drawn in like a tidal pool" (25). Beating the reader to the interpretive punch, this book's supplemental discussion guide smugly asks:
2. In Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, painful personal setbacks
often occur at the same moment as sea-monster attacks, suggesting a
metaphorical linkage of 'monsters' with the pains of romantic
disappointment; for example, Marianne is rebuffed by Willoughby at
Hydra-Z precisely as the giant mutant lobsters are staging their
mutiny. Have you ever been 'attacked by giant lobsters,' either
figuratively or literally? (342)

While the meaning of the sea monsters is more fixed within the Quirk sequel, their contribution to the text is less appreciable. Consistent across the many studies of the zombie sensation is the observation that the popularity of the creature is directly tied to its symbolic malleability; as professor John Ulrich explains in Dennis Miller's "Why Zombies Rule," "More than any other kind of monster, the zombie is a virtual blank slate, a screen upon which we can project a variety of meanings." (11) In other words, the zombie is the meta-metaphor. A metaphor for race; for class; for gender. A metaphor not just for marriage, but for any and all "de-individualization on a mass or epidemic scale" (Pevere). A metaphor, maybe, even for Camp itself. A campiness that--as with so many other things that the zombies have come to represent--has been hiding in plain sight in Austen's work all along.

Implicit in all of the arguments I've rehearsed about the metaphorical meaning of the Quirk enhancements is the nagging suspicion that, as Stephanie Merritt articulates in her Observer review, "on some level the monsters are not entirely inappropriate" to Jane Austen's ur-texts (qtd. in Mulvey-Roberts 26). While Merritt credits this to the "highly predatory" gender politics of the societies that Austen depicts--citing the young women who are both "ready to be picked off and devoured by unscrupulous men [and also] bent on capturing their often unwitting prey" (26)--I want to pivot slightly to suggest that, to the extent that the absurdity of the monster mayhem feels compatible with the original mayhem, it is ultimately because it calls attention to Austen's own prototypical Camp sensibility. As Grahame-Smith pointed out in an interview with Entertainment Weekly's Clark Collis, the "camp" has always been present in Austen's novels; we just never paid attention to it because of its apparent extraneousness:
We arrived at Pride and Prejudice and Zombies because, when you take a
look at the original book, it's almost as if, subconsciously, Jane
Austen is laying out the perfect groundwork for an ultraviolent
bone-crushing zombie massacre to take place. For instance, there's a
regiment of soldiers camped out near the Bennet household. In the book,
they're just there for characters to flirt with. But it's not that big
a leap to say, Okay, they're there because the countryside has been
overrun with what they call the "unmentionable menace." (n.p., italics

There is a fundamental superfluousness of the camped-out soldiers in Austen's Meryton that signals an embrace of narrative expendability; but there is more to Austen's campiness than a convenient pun. We sense it, too, in Austen's habit of reducing characters to characteristics. Sontag writes, "What Camp taste responds to is 'instant character' (this is, of course, very 18th century).... Character is understood as a state of continual incandescence--a person being one, very intense thing" (286). Although Austen rebels against this flatness of character as her novels progress, gradually curbing the initial extremity and insisting on the necessity of dynamic personas, she betrays the campy impulse toward 'instant character' in her titles, which allow, for instance, the traits of Pride and Prejudice to stand in for Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and those of Sense and Sensibility to map onto Elinor and Marianne. Significantly, the encouraged marriage of the two titular traits emphasized throughout Sense and Sensibility correspond metaphorically to the union not of one of the novel's eventual male/female couples, but rather, to that of sisters Elinor and Marianne.

Paired with the author's several markedly passive and seemingly impotent male characters, Austen's exaltation of sorority in both her novels and her own life has lent itself to queer readings that further signal its campiness. Most famous among these, no doubt, is D. A. Miller's reading in Jane Austen; or, The Secret of Style of the sensitive and effeminate Robert Ferrars, whom he labels "unheterosexual" (16). To be clear, Sontag and subsequent critics have been careful to specify that Camp is not a sensibility recognized and appreciated by an exclusively homosexual audience, but they also point to its popularity among queer factions, particularly gay men. Sontag elaborates, "While it's not true that Camp taste is homosexual taste, there is no doubt a peculiar affinity and overlap" (290). (12) Within Sense and Sensibility, we see the convergence of this Camp taste and homosexual taste most clearly when we walk in on (the unnamed) Robert Ferrars designing his toothpick case to his precise specifications: "Till its size, shape, and ornaments were determined, all of which, after examining and debating for a quarter of an hour over every toothpick-case in the show, were finally arranged by his own inventive fancy, he had no leisure to bestow any other attention on the two ladies" (156). (13) In addition to highlighting Robert's general disinterest in women, this display of meticulously crafting what is in every way frivolous speaks to Camp's forfeiting of content in favor of aesthetics. In his reading of the passage, Miller stresses the hollowness of the particular accessory, observing, "Empty, the case would seem just as splendid; and full, perhaps as futile--empty in effect" (13). Appropriately, the Camp sensibility of the similarly empty Robert is expressed not by the content of his character, but by his "delicacy of taste" {Sense 156); and, indeed, it is in their analogous fetishization of taste that Jane Austen, the Quirk Classics, and Camp most noticeably overlap.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Emma and the Vampires. Such has been the evolution of the Austen monster mash-up genre. Surely it is no accident that the substantial alterations made to the Jane Austen novels have all involved an invasion of a ravenous species that feasts indiscriminately. While the series has long since extended its initial reach (Android Karenina? Jane Slayer? The Meowmorphosis?), there is something to be said for the decision to begin (and return to) this project--essentially a celebration of bad taste--with Jane Austen, whose very name has become "a signifier for another way of life: one that was genteel, restrained, subtle, and tasteful" (Troost 4). The preeminent novelist of manners, Austen built her brand on the schematizing of taste as an objective system. In Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, the author employs these assessments of taste as the measure by which to judge her characters; refined taste reflects good breeding, elegance in discernment, and an appreciation of aesthetics. Austen's characters are continually situating themselves within hierarchies of taste. (14) Thus, Darcy is held in high esteem for his cultured taste, while Caroline Bingley looks down upon Elizabeth for what she perceives to be a taste less polished than her own. Lady Catherine prides herself on her impeccable taste, but acts tastelessly in boasting of it to strangers. And Mary Bennet is dismissed entirely for having "neither genius nor taste" (Pride 25).

While, in Pride and Prejudice, good taste seems to take the form of a possession that divides the characters into the "haves" and the "have nots," Sense and Sensibility approaches taste as a spectrum of legitimacy, so that various characters exhibit different degrees of taste. Marianne initially finds fault with Edward Ferrars because she is afraid "he has no real taste," though later in the novel this classification is redefined as "simple taste" or a "taste delicate and pure" (17). The nature of Marianne's prejudice is not against those who lack taste entirely, but rather, against those of whose taste--understated as it is--she is unconvinced. To return to her earlier complaint about Edward, it is not the fact that Edward has "no taste" that bothers Marianne, but that he has "no real taste" (italics mine), a distinction that implies a rubric of authenticity or artificiality in matters of taste and positions Marianne as the novel's arbiter. Of course, Austen, the consummate satirist, critiques this discriminatory hierarchizing of taste as often as she contributes to it, and Marianne--with her blindingly excessive sensibility--emerges as the perfect target for this parody. We see this most clearly in Edward and Marianne's exchange about the picturesque:
"Remember I have no knowledge in the picturesque, and I shall offend
you by my ignorance and want of taste if we come to particulars.... It
exactly answers my idea of a fine country because it unites beauty with
utility--and I daresay it is a picturesque one too, because you admire
"It is very true that admiration of landscape scenery has become mere
jargon. Everybody pretends to feel and tries to describe with the taste
and elegance of him who first defined what picturesque beauty was. I
detest jargon of every kind and sometimes I have kept feelings to
myself, because I could find no language to describe them but what was
worn and hackneyed out of all sense and meaning."
"I am convinced that you really feel all the delight in a fine prospect
which you profess to feel. But, in return, your sister must allow me to
feel no more than I profess. I like a fine prospect, but not on
picturesque principles. I do not like crooked, twisted, blasted trees.
I admire them much more if they are tall, straight and flourishing. I
do not like ruined, tattered cottages. I am not fond of nettles, or
thistles, or heath blossoms. I have more pleasure in a snug farm-house
than a watch-tower." (71-72) (15)

Taste and improvement are always intertwined in Austen's novels, as they are in the Quirk Classics. Here, Edward is refrained as a modest improver of the same variety as Mr. Darcy or Colonel Brandon (it is no coincidence that the three male protagonists and future husbands of the heroines share this trait, which will presumably be applied to their marriages). In respecting nature, valuing utility, and making no show of professing what he feels, Edward proves himself to be a man of taste that is not only good, but also genuine; in contrast is Marianne, who, despite pretending to rebel against hackneyed jargon, nonetheless makes a spectacle of her taste, insisting on the intensity and immeasurability of her feelings. When Marianne lyrically elegizes the dead leaves (turned dried seaweed in Sea Monsters), Austen is not portraying her as a connoisseur of taste to be taken seriously, but rather, as the embodiment of a certain affected refinement that is more pretense than passion.

In satirizing what is often already satirical in Austen's work, the monstrous mash-ups exaggerate Regency England's dedication to the pretense of propriety (and aversion to unpleasantness) by tastefully referring to the zombie hoard as "unmentionables." While the Quirk travesties reaffirm Austen's insistence on a distinction between good taste and bad taste, they knowingly situate themselves firmly in the latter camp (so to speak). Inherent to the Camp sensibility is not only an embrace of bad taste, but also, a sophisticated awareness of an embrace of bad taste: "The experiences of Camp are based on the great discovery that the sensibility of high culture has no monopoly upon refinement. Camp asserts that good taste is not simply good taste; that there exists, indeed, a good taste of bad taste" (Sontag 291). (16) Subverting the traditional standards of taste in favor of Camp's "so bad it's good" policy, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters mash up not just manners and monsters, but also canonical and trash aesthetics.

This effort to straddle the line between highbrow and lowbrow art is reflective of what Mark Booth identifies as Camp's commitment to "a sort of 'cultural slumming'" (70). (17) In Popular Culture and High Culture: An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste, Herbert Gans interrogates this phrase, but ultimately endorses Richard Peterson's use of the term "omnivores" to "indicate that people often make cultural choices from many menus" (xxiii). This is, of course, not necessarily a bad thing; on the contrary, Sontag advocates the pleasure of Camp as "good for the digestion" (291). Note here how, as if literalizing the concept, the language of eating has infused this discourse of taste. Consumers of the Quirk texts are thus exposing themselves to malnourishment, eating the fast food version of Jane Austen for convenience instead of taking the time to appreciate the well-balanced meal that Austen slaved for years in the proverbial kitchen preparing for us. As is so often the case with poor eating habits, Sontag attributes this cultural gluttony largely to boredom, claiming that "the relation between boredom and Camp taste cannot be overestimated" (289). Quirk picks up on this craving, hyperbolically selling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies on exactly this point in its blurb: "Complete with romance, heartbreak, sword-fights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you'd actually want to read" (back cover). While sampling from several cultural menus is not in and of itself problematic, the Quirk experiment takes it one step further, exploring what happens when the palate becomes desensitized to these discrepant cultural flavors.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains" (Zombies 7). True as this opening line of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies may be, its import comes not from the insatiability of the zombie, but from the implication that these perpetually famished creatures care little about the caliber of brains, and would just as soon feast upon those of sour Caroline Bingley as they would devour sweet Jane. (18) In what is perhaps the most profound moment of this purposefully preposterous novel, Elizabeth and Darcy happen upon a herd of unmentionables "crawling on their hands and knees, biting into ripe heads of cauliflower, which they had mistaken for stray brains" (303). In the zombies' quintessentially bad taste, we find the perfect Camp mascot. There is, surely, a lesson to be learned here: While the initial problem seems to be that the zombies will ingest anything, good or bad, the graver dilemma arises when it becomes apparent that they choose this not out of their ironic Camp sensibility--that is, not because they prefer the second-rate taste--but because they can't tell the difference. Allegorically, this is the equivalent of what Gans refers to as "dumbing down." "The phrase," he writes, "is used broadly and can suggest that the culture being supplied is less sophisticated or complicated, or tasteful, or thoughtful, or statusful than a past one, but it is also used to refer to the public of audience being served, who are thought to have declined in taste, intelligence or status" (80). The anxiety contained within the concept of "dumbing down"--indeed, the very anxiety that I have been expressing throughout this essay--is that consumers of literature will overindulge their bad taste to such an extent as to accidentally transform themselves into zombie readers who can no longer distinguish between novels of legitimate brains and those made of cauliflower. The process of dumbing down Jane Austen has been--like that of Charlotte Lucas's zombification--a gradual but steady one. Even in its excessiveness, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters offers readers far less than did its quirky predecessor. Less originality. Less metaphorical sophistication. Less Austen. As previously noted, the 80 percent of protected Austen prose in Grahame-Smith's story drops down to about 60 in Winters's tale. Worse still, however, is the latest Austen takeover, yet another in a long line of invasions by a set of creatures whose defining trait is that of monstrous consumption: Wayne Josephson's Emma and the Vampires (2010). (19) While the Quirk Classics seemed to have made at least some effort to preserve the integrity of their predecessors, Josephson explicitly conceived of his doubly derivative project--published not by Quirk, but by the independent Sourcebooks Landmark--as a dumbing down of Austen. Setting aside even the failure of the novel's title, which lacks all the alliterative finesse of the Quirks, and the fact of the vampire conceit being pitched by Josephson's Twilight-loving teenage daughter, there remains the troubling issue of Josephson's absolute overhaul of Austen's original text. Coded as a matter of accessibility, this deliberate dumbing down is proposed as a direct response to the perceived "difficulty" of Austen's language (Josephson). Recounting his lopping and cropping process in a guest blog post, "How I Wrote Emma and the Vampires," Josephson explains: "I gently edited the original text of Emma, word by word, sentence by sentence, and page by page. Laboriously, I replaced arcane words with more updated ones--for example, approbation became approval. I streamlined the prose and rearranged passages to flow more smoothly, removing the stumbling blocks that caused readers to become frustrated."

In his attempt to gain approbation from Austen's less appreciative readers, Josephson's labored narrative--far less fluid and more frustrating than the original--explicitly counteracts Austen's own improvement project, further degrading the author's estate and, in so doing, making worse readers of us all. "Above all," writes Martin Manser of Austen and the eighteenth-century cult of improvement, "people could be improved, that is to say their morals, manners, and tastes could be refined." The irony of Josephson's selection is that Emma is Austen's ur-text of misguided improvement; specifically, Emma's lesson is about the folly and danger of trying to improve, not the landscape, but other human beings. In her imposed improvement of Harriet, Emma--an author surrogate if ever there was one--endeavors to carry out in a single individual "one of the main functions of the eighteenth-century writer in the world at large" (Manser). It is, as readers of the unaltered novel will recall, a scheme that largely backfires, and one that Josephson--now the unwitting object of his own object's satire--would have done well not to repeat. Because, of course, there is no improving Jane Austen. Not her manners. Not her taste. And certainly not her style.

"Style is everything" (Sontag 288). At last we arrive at the bedrock belief of Camp ideology: its "consistently aesthetic experience of the world" (288). And it is according to this criteria of privileged aesthetics that Austen will always outperform her manic would-be improvers; in their effort to substantively enhance Austen's plots with more and more and more content, the mash-ups sacrifice the very secret of Austen's signature style. Indeed, as outlined in D. A. Miller's aforementioned and aptly named Jane Austen; or, the Secret of Style, the particular character of the author's aesthetic achievement is one of structural coalescence. In direct conflict with the ontological expendability of the decidedly unmashed and unmashable additions, Austen's writing, says Miller, is distinguished for its marked self-containment: "No extraneous static encumbered the dictation of a grammar that completed, and an art that finished, every crystalline sentence" (2). No extraneous static like, for example, the increasingly cumbersome zombies, sea monsters, and vampires that burden the altered Austens. To be sure, these atrocities are representative of the Camp sensibility, defined as it is by the effacement of nature (Sontag 280). But there is no need for the contrived inclusion of these aberrant monsters in Austen's plots; for, by Miller's estimation, the unnatural is already inherent to what he conceives of as the thrilling inhumanity of her narrative voice--a campy mode of utterance that is not just stylish: "It is Style itself (2). Just so, it is Style itself that Seth Grahame-Smith contaminates when adding inapposite clauses to the already complete sentences of Pride and Prejudice. It is Style itself that Ben H. Winters alters when substituting an ostentatious but functional float-suit for Robert Ferrars's ornate and empty toothpick case. And it is Style itself that Wayne Josephson defanged when he "decided to make Emma more readable" by rewriting it word for word in language that a child could understand. Crystallizing the single gravest critical failure of the mashed up monstrosities, this latest introduction of a coterie of undead, undying, and unquenchably thirsty beasts to Emma functions, finally, as an ominous literalization of Grahame-Smith's, Winters's, and Josephson's own vampiric projects; while the indiscriminately voracious vampires of Highbury threaten to suck the lifeblood out of Austen's characters, the "gently edited" mash-ups have succeeded in a far more serious act of counter-improvement: sucking the lifeblood out of Austen's prose.



(1) It is interesting to note that for both Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Rekulak began with the titles and then commissioned authors (specifically, screenwriters) to produce the accompanying novels. There is, in this, a sense that the content of the books mattered less than the sensationalized sound of their names.(

(2) Asa Briggs published the definitive text on the trend that characterized the period: The Age of Improvement, 1783-1867(1959).

(3) Perhaps the most blatant and scathing criticism of improvements appears in Mansfield Park, in which Austen seems decidedly hostile toward the frivolity of Mr. Rushworth and the improvements to his estate. However, because this essay focuses primarily on "improvements" made to Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, and because those texts demonstrate considerably more ambivalent attitudes on the subject, we will focus there.

(4) Several faux-completed versions have been published that provide endings for the prematurely discontinued text. See, for example, Sanditon: Jane Austen 's Last Novel Completed by Another Lady (1998) and Sanditon: Jane Austen's Unfinished Masterpiece Completed by Juliette Shapiro (2009).

(5) Quirk makes a joke of this in her author blurb on the back of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters: "Jane Austen is coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which has been translated into 17 languages and optioned to become a major motion picture. She died in 1817."

(6) Austen was apparently aware of (and somewhat ambivalent about) this dichotomy, as is evident in her observation in Persuasion that "[t]he Musgroves, like their houses, were in a state of alteration, perhaps of improvement. The father and mother were in the old English style, and the young people in the new" (53).

(7) The question of intentionality is a highly contested issue in post-Sontag Camp criticism; as of yet, no conclusive agreement has been reached regarding the differences in validity between naive and deliberate Camp.

(8) While it is true that Austen's novels possess elements commonly found in contemporary romances and chick lit (not a surprise given the scope of her influence), to confine a reading of her works to this narrow genre, disregarding all political, historical, and biographical commentaries contained within them, is to commit an injustice equal in severity to those that Quirk has done in jest. See also: Shanna Swendson's "The Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece."

(9) Incidentally, geared as the mash-ups were to a male readership, Mulvey-Roberts notes that, ultimately, the rewrites found the most favor with the dedicated Janeites:
When he first signed up Grahame-Smith's book, Rekulak assumed it would
appeal mainly to readers of horror and zombie fiction. This expectation
is reflected in the marketing for the 2009 revised edition, which
boasts "30% more zombies." But now he says, to his surprise, that the
book has been "much more popular with Austen fans than with horror
fans," including those "excited to re-experience the classic novel in a
different way" (34).

(10) It is in this storyline that Smith takes some of the most consequential liberties with the plot. When her condition is finally discovered, Charlotte is beheaded and Collins hangs himself.

(11) Among the pieces that note the malleability of the zombie metaphor are Dennis Miller's "Why Zombies Rule" (2012); Geoff Pevere's "Zombies: Why This Pop-Culture Phenomenon Will Not Die" (2013); and Roger Luckhurst's Zombies: A Cultural History (2015).

(12) Apparently familiar with both this overlap and the speculation surrounding Austen's own sexuality, Quirk spotlights a potential queer reading of Pride and Prejudice in its discussion guide: "5. Due to her fierce independence, devotion to exercise, and penchant for boots, some critics have called Elizabeth Bennet 'the first literary lesbian.' Do you think the authors intended her to be gay?" (319) Surely one needn't look far for a premise on which to build this argument; after all, the central problem presented within Pride and Prejudice, which Mrs. Bennet knows all too well, is that all five of the Bennet daughters are "out at once" (162). Of course, this idiomatic language, used here to refer to young women "coming out" into society (the phrase originated with debutantes), has since evolved into its contemporary use--coming out of the closet--to name one's public disclosure of his/her homosexuality.

(13) In Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, this customized tooth-pick case becomes a customized float-suit. In one sense, by making the container contain something substantive (indeed, a person), this alteration misses the point of the original, which was invested in the very meaninglessness of the case and the emptiness of its contents. This works to undermine the campiness of the original scene. However, the stylized float-suit now becomes a costume of sorts, and Robert's wearing of it would become a type of performance. This speaks back to the appropriation of Camp by the queer movement, which has put an emphasis on the aspects of Camp demonstrated through drag.

(14) Of course, they also are situated within hierarchies of wealth and class, but these categories are interrelated. Traditionally, those who had the financial freedom to explore and refine their tastes determined the standards of high culture. Gans acknowledges the restrictiveness of this logic for individuals in lower economic strata whose taste is judged according to a set of standards that they cannot access. Thus, he clarifies, "'Higher' and 'lower' are not used as judgmental terms but as rough indicators of positions in a socioeconomic hierarchy that has cultural implications" (7).

(15) It is interesting to note that this passage is cut off in Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters promptly after Marianne speaks, leaving out Edward's response. This disregard for matters and debates of taste and improvements in the Quirk version signifies its greater lack of interest in presenting a tasteful or pragmatically improved text.

(16) The glitch is that, even in turning the standards of judgment upside down, Sontag's version of Camp still simultaneously reinforces the preexisting ones. In "Notes Against Camp," Andrew Britton points out, "While ostensibly making a demand for new criteria of judgment, camp is all the while quietly acquiescing in the old ones. It merely takes over existing standards of 'bad taste' and insists on liking them" (142).

(17 ) This oft-adopted phrase first appeared in Richard Hoggart's The Uses of Literacy (1957). (18) The aquatic creatures in Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters are equally voracious eaters, but here the matter of taste is further complicated when we learn that the characters cook and eat the omnivorous monsters in turn. Winters surprisingly credits Marianne as having more refined taste when he depicts her resistance: "But you look grave Marianne; do you feel some burden of sympathy for the beasts we painstakingly prepare and are soon to consume? Never forget that each bite represents a victory that must be savored, exactly as they would savor a victory over us" (20). (19) The taste politics of Emma and the Vampires are even more muddled than those of its predecessors. Seemingly born of Mr. Woodhouse's characteristic aversion to food in the original Emma, the vampire mythology involves essentially two classes of bloodsuckers: a wild, villainous bunch that harasses and feeds on vulnerable young women, and the aristocratic, vegan gentlemen (like George Knightley), who try to drink exclusively from animals.


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Author:Miller, Sydney
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Date:Dec 22, 2017
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