Jane Austen has alt-right fans who have clearly never read her work properly, scholar suggests

Roisin O'Connor

Jane Austen has an unlikely fanbase in the form of America's so-called 'alt-right' movement, it has emerged.

Scholars have found that 'alt-right' websites and blogs often reference the Pride and Prejudice author, believing that her work supports marital traditionalism, along with their views on racial purity and subservient wives.

An assistant professor of English at the University of Colorado, Nicole Wright, found that there were "several variations of alt-right Jane Austen: 1) Symbol of sexual purity; 2) Standard-bearer of a vanished white traditional culture; and 3) Exception that proves the rule of female inferiority".

Writing in a Chronicle of Higher Education article she noted that there was an Austen cameo in a speech by the disgraced former Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos made in January, where he said: "As a Victorian novelist might have put it, it is a truth universally acknowledged that an ugly woman is more likely to be a feminist than a hot one."

(Wright also pointed out the amusing inaccuracy by Yiannopoulos, as the Regency-era author died around 20 years before the Victorian period began.)

Similarly Andrew Anglin, a white supremacist who blogs for the Daily Stormer website, used Austen when portraying pop star Taylor Swift as a "Nazi idol".

"She [Swift] is the anti-Miley [Cyrus]," he told Vice. "While Miley is out having gang-bangs with coloured gentlemen, she is at home with her cat reading Jane Austen."

In her article, Wright suggests that white supremacists believe that Austen makes for a better figurehead for their movement because of her associations with a "cozy England", in comparison to "the nightmare Germany of Hitler and Goebbels".

But as any Austen fan would know, and as retired professor Elaine Bander told the New York Times, "no one who reads Jane Austen's words with any attention and reflection can possible be alt-right".

"All the Janeites I know are rational, compassionate, liberal-minded people," she said.