Screening Will and Jane: Sexuality and the Gendered Author in Shakespeare and Austen Biopics

  • Lisa S. Starks


The status of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen as literary celebrities and cultural icons is strikingly apparent in biopics, which are deeply inflected with intersecting notions of gender, sexuality and literary genius. Shakespeare biopics (Will Shakespeare, Shakespeare in Love and A Waste of Shame) react to issues of masculinity and sexual anxiety, which are bound up with myths of authorship, by either disavowing or displacing queer sexuality from the icon himself in what I term ‘Queer Lite’ Shakespeare biopics. On the other hand, Austen biographical films and adaptations (Mansfield Park, Becoming Jane, Miss Austen Regrets) resist, reject or conform to the inherited, misconceived reputation of Jane as a sexually frustrated, kindly, maiden aunt who penned romance novels. In so doing, they reinscribe or resist conventions of the female biopic, thereby engaging with feminist issues through representations of the woman writer in relation to cultural norms of gender and sexuality. Given their iconic subject matter, both Will and Jane biopics deal in complex ways with the assumptions underlying the film genre and the cultural myths of literary genius they reaffirm.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa S. Starks
    • 1
  1. 1.University of South Florida St. PetersburgSt. PetersburgUSA

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