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It's a truth universally acknowledged that the best Emma AU is and will always be Clueless, but for quite a bit I've been thinking that the closest modern equivalent to "three or four families in a country village" (one of Austen's tongue-in-cheek descriptions of her own preferred subject) might in fact be the members of a university English department. This is particularly relevant to Emma, because let me tell you, professors and grad students in English departments are such huge gossips. Not always in a bad way, but information does tend to circulate... At any rate, I've been pondering this for a bit, and while I'm not sure when I would even have the time to write it (or what kind of audience it would have, outside an English department!) I'm going to spend a little bit of time thinking through the various characters and how to transpose them to this new modern setting.

THE SETTING: Highbury University, a posh private college in Manhattan known for its overprivileged undergraduates, its highly selective graduate programs, and its impressive English faculty.


Emma Woodhouse: a fifth-year graduate student in English literature, studying nineteenth-century novels at Highbury (still trying to think what her dissertation would be about...)

Mr. Woodhouse: Emma's rich but ailing father, who lives in a spacious apartment suite on the Upper West Side where Emma grew up. Emma still spends a lot of time "at home" taking care of him, and in fact may have still lived with him during her first year of grad school before convincing him it would be alright for her to move out.

Isabella Knightley: Emma's older sister (by about ten years), married with kids, lives out on Long Island

John Knightley: Isabella's husband, a well-off lawyer

George Knightley: John's brother, grew up on the same street as the Woodhouses but went to college across the country, where he also developed some kind of lucrative start-up business possibly having to do with sustainable energy or agriculture. Has recently returned to New York to attend business school at Highbury. (I'm really not sure what kind of job I could see George getting into, actually; I tend to think businessman because he's good at managing his estate, but I'm not sure what kind of business...)

Harriet Smith: a first-year Victorianist in the department, originally from the midwest; Emma immediately takes Harriet under her wing and proposes to guide her through the complexities of the social groups at Highbury and in Manhattan at large

Robert Martin: ???

Frank Churchill: June Weston's son from a previous marriage. His father got way more money than his mother did in the divorce, and sees to Frank's allowance. Frank is also a graduate student at Highbury, secretly romantically involved with Jane Fairfax 

Jane Fairfax: a quiet and somewhat taciturn (at least to Emma) grad student in her second or third year, struggling to get by on her meager stipend and nonexistent savings; already worried about her prospects on the job market and keeps wondering if she can afford to stick it out through the entire PhD or should just drop out and go for something more financially viable

Miss Bates: ???

Professors John and June Weston: an older pair of professors in the department (both in their early fifties). John never married, June went through some kind of rough divorce before starting out as a professor at Highbury and has a son (Frank Churchill) from that previous marriage. June Weston came to Highbury shortly before Emma's first year, and has just recently married John during Emma's fifth year. June is one of Emma's dissertation supervisors, and Emma is convinced that she foresaw and perhaps even facilitated these professors' marriage.


More directly on the scholarly front, today I wrote up notes about one of the texts I'm going to work with in my upcoming seminar paper, Margaret Cavendish's Sociable Letters. You can check them out over at my academic journal [link].

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