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The wicked wit of Jane Austen - Iseult Gillespie

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Whether she’s describing bickering families, quiet declarations of love, or juicy gossip, Jane Austen’s writing often feels as though it was written just for you. Her dry wit and cheeky playfulness informs her heroines, whose conversational tone welcomes readers with a conspiratorial wink. Iseult Gillespie explores the sly societal satire and unique tongue-in-cheek humor of Jane Austen.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director Vessela Dantcheva, Rositsa Raleva
  • Narrator Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Producer Vessela Dantcheva
  • Designer Rositsa Raleva
  • Illustrator Rositsa Raleva
  • Animator Momchil Grozdanov
  • Compositor Alexander Evtimov, Alexander Daniel, Michail Yossifov
  • Sound Designer Alexander Evtimov, Alexander Daniel, Michail Yossifov
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-checker Francisco Diez
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” The famous opening line to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice might suggest a stiff upper lip on first reading - but throughout her work Austen shows us that the truth is anything but stable, especially in matters of the heart. She expressed this outlook extensively and eloquently in her razor-sharp letters as well as her novels.

Over the course of her life, Austen published six novels - leaving one unfinished along with shorter works like Love and Friendship
and Lady Susan.
Learn more about her lesser known writings here.

While her fiction centers on relationships, Austen rejected the sentimental style of the gothic romances that were popular at the time. Instead her understated tone, wry wit and close attention to language and behavior are key features of realism. Realists mined everyday life for deeper meaning, and Austen explored the minutiae of the society that surrounded her.

Born in 1755
, she was familiar with the social circles reflected in her novels, and spent most of her life at her father’s parish of Steventon. Visit an interactive historical timeline of her life here.

Today, the house Austen lived in for the last eight years of her life is a museum - visit the website here. You can also learn more about Austen’s home life, and the objects Austen surrounded herself, in the unusual biography “Jane Austen at Home” and this feature on what we can learn from it. Find out more about her worldview and beliefs in this radio documentary, then listen to the mysterious story around her last completed novel Persuasion here.

Although she never married, the facts of Austen’s love life are still being debated. She rejected the proposal of the aristocrat Harris Bigg-Wither, and some biographers have ruminated on letters that suggest the death of a romantic interest.

Austen’s men are also intriguing figures who serve as foils to the development of female characters - such as when the philanderer John Willoughby leads Mariane Dashwood astray, only for her to realize her desire for substance as well as style. But Austen was also aware of the slights women suffered at the hands of men, such as when the obsequious Henry dismisses Catherine in Northanger Abbey: “no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half.”

Today, Austen remains beloved for her lovable heroines, stinging takedowns and romantic revelations. She has fans in all corners of the world, for many different reasons. Read more of her work to find out what resonates with you.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director Vessela Dantcheva, Rositsa Raleva
  • Narrator Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Producer Vessela Dantcheva
  • Designer Rositsa Raleva
  • Illustrator Rositsa Raleva
  • Animator Momchil Grozdanov
  • Compositor Alexander Evtimov, Alexander Daniel, Michail Yossifov
  • Sound Designer Alexander Evtimov, Alexander Daniel, Michail Yossifov
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-checker Francisco Diez
  • See more