L’ Austen Your Eyes- Happy Valentine’s Day!

“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more”– Jane Austen, Emma

Valentine’s Day, a day filled with love, appreciation and the celebration of romance. Typically it is associated with gifts of red roses, chocolates and hearts in all colours and shapes. While these traditions are fun and romantic, I love to cycle back to literature on this special day. 

Growing up I was never really fond of having any trace of romance in my books and I would immediately put them down if they did. This only changed when I discovered the works of Jane Austen which would deeply influence my future perception of literature. If I remember correctly I was just interested in reading again when entering year 10 because of my English teacher who helped me improve my English skills at the time and she recommended Pride and Prejudice. At the time it was an extremely scary project to pick up a Jane Austen Classic and understand anything but I am glad that I fought and pushed myself through it and incredibly grateful to my teacher for believing in me. Finishing the novel changed the way I approached literature altogether, it was no longer a task that had to be done but I started to read because I wanted to, because I wanted to dive into those fictional worlds, simply because the love Jane Austen described in that one book deeply enchanted me. 

Pride and Prejudice

The story revolves around the Bennet family consisting of Mr and Mrs Bennet and their daughters Jane and Elizabeth, our protagonist who is also called Lizzie, Mary, Lidia and their youngest Kitty. With the arrival of a new neighbour, the rich young gentleman Mr Bingley, a party is thrown in his honour where the reader first meets him and his best friend Mr Darcy. Darcy’s pride is noticeable from the very first moment which unfortunately causes him to insult Lizzie and strangle their relationship as it and several other events only fuel her prejudice and hate. After a rejected declaration of love from Mr Darcy he writes Lizzie a letter explaining himself which changes her view completely and she eventually accepts his proposal after his second confession. 

Lizzie Bennet is the second oldest of five daughters and her father’s favourite child. She portrays a typical Austen female lead, a witty and smart young woman who is independent and not afraid to speak her mind, who desires to marry for love rather than social status and convenience, which was not the standard of the time. Throughout the whole book, it becomes clear that she portrays the “prejudice” part of the title as she judges people from the beginning based on her perspective, whereas Fitzwilliam Darcy on the other hand portrays pride, which he calls his greatest weakness. This pide changes the way he is perceived throughout the whole novel, not only by the characters, especially Lizzie, but also by the readers.  

The novel’s themes make its love story rather bewitching¹ by showing that marrying for love is possible even in a time where marriage was all about social status, it showed that love could defy everything and that if people were meant to be, they would find their way to each other. 

Talking about the great love story of Pride and Prejudice…

Having difficulties reading Jane Austen’s works, or other works from authors of the time, seems to be what TikTok would call a canon event. However, to still bring it closer to younger generations who might be intimidated or overwhelmed by the book’s length or language, especially as an L2 learner, YouTube offers the perfect solution. In 2012 the first episode of “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”, a web series in the form of vlogs, aired. The series shows a modern, digital take on the classic from 1813, translating it into modern language and also modern problems. It is an easy way to understand the storyline and the characters before or after reading the novel itself. I watched it during the lockdown in 2020, purely for amusement but I soon realised that even though I had read Pride and Prejudice several times at that point, the YouTube format always opened up new perspectives and discussions about the literary work. 

[link: www.youtube.com/@LizzieBennet]

But do the romance books of our time have the same effect Austen’s work had? This is a question that everyone has to answer for themselves. Personally, I prefer reading her love stories over popular romance books from our time. Many books are rather similar in their plot and love story, whereas Austen created something revolutionary at the time, something new defying the social norm. In my eyes, Romantasy novels come closer to such classics than romance novels because of the complexity that accompanies them. But this is just my take as I read more fantasy novels than romance. 

What do you prefer- Austen’s Classics or contemporary Romance Novels?

What is your favourite love story? What book do you think about or would you recommend when asked for love stories for Valentine’s Day?

Further Recommendations for the romantic feeling:

  • Emma (1815)
  • Emma (dir. Autumn de Wilde, 2020)
  • Persuasion (1817)
  • Persuasion (dir. Cracknell, 2022)
  • Pride and Prejudice (dir. Wright, 2005)
  • Sense and Sensibility  (1811)
  • Sense and Sensibility (dir. Lee, 1996)
  • Mansfield Park (dir. Rozema, 2000)
  • Becoming Jane (dir. Jarrold, 2007)
  • Divine Rivals (2023)
  • Red, White & Royal Blue (2019)
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (2015)
  • Fake Dates and Mooncakes (2023)

¹ “You have bewitched me body and soul. And I love… I love… I love you.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lisa A.


On January 3, 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Growing up in poverty and already having to grieve his parents at the young age of 12, his childhood did not seem to be an easy one. Regardless of this series of unfortunate events Tolkien successfully graduated from Oxford University and secured his employment as a Second Lieutenant in the British Army. 

However, it is not just his biography that makes his persona so important but his literary works that are still immensely popular today. 

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

  • Lord of the Rings is a book series most people have probably heard about, if not even read it themselves, or watched the movies. Its trailblazer The Hobbit was originally a children’s book published in 1937, however, the story world grew enormously and a high fantasy world emerged. 

Leaf by Niggle

  • This is one of Tolkien’s short stories that is not as well known as the Lord of the Rings franchise. The character Niggle is an artist, however, the part of society he resides in does not appreciate art in any way. Because of this, he only paints for his own pleasure, and he took on the big project of painting a great tree. The work starts with a single leaf and grows around it. Because of his good character, he takes time off his work to help his neighbour, unfortunately, while doing so, he falls ill. Due to this, he is sent on a journey as a gardener to a forest. He discovers that this forest is the one he had painted all along and the tree he sees in real life is the perfected version of his flawed painting. 

Further Recommendations

  • The Silmarillion (1977)
  • Unfinished Tales (1980)
  • Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics (1936)
  • The Rings of Power (dir. J.A. Bayona, 2022)

Lisa A.


The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?” is the first part of a quote from the famous TV Short “Dinner For One” from 1963, originally written by a British author, Laurie Wylie. Today I would like to introduce this work as it is an important part of my New Year’s traditions. Every December 31st of the year I work in the small private theatre next to my family’s home where Dinner for One is performed. 

In the comedy sketch, Miss Sophie celebrates her 90th birthday, inviting her friends Sir Toby, Admiral von Schneider, Mr Pomeroy, and Mr Winterbottom for a special dinner. Unfortunately, Miss Sophie is the last one of their little group which leads her to ask her butler James to impersonate her friends so she can still have their annual birthday dinner. Each course is accompanied by a round of drinks for a toast, which James has to take for every missing guest after every meal. Because of this, he is intoxicated rather quickly and it becomes more and more difficult to properly serve Miss Sophie and her imaginary guests.

The sketch has several running gags such as:

  • The Tiger Rug→ James constantly trips over its head 
  • Sir Toby always has a little bit more in his glass than the others
  • Skål– James has to tap his heels every time and say Skål which is Scandinavian and translates to cheers

Dinner for One has become a tradition for many Germans on December 31. Every year, people decide to watch a black-and-white short movie of only 18 minutes which is screened with an English dialogue. Most of the German regional channels start playing the classic in the early evening hours and one can find at least one channel playing it until midnight. The TV Short holds the Guinness World Record for the most replayed TV program ever and many parodies have been published. 

However, while this is a New Year’s Eve tradition for many Germans, people on the British Isles have their traditions and customs

  • Hogmanay, Scotland
    • The Scottish 3-day festival to celebrate New Year’s Eve is one of the most important holidays. The Scots have many customs for these days, one of them being first-footing which begins when the clock strikes midnight. This refers to the first person crossing the threshold of a Scottish home who brings gifts, traditionally coal. Furthermore, the traditional song Auld Lang Syne is sung together. The title can be translated into ‘since long ago’ or ‘for old times sake’ and its lyrics tell a story of old friends sharing some drinks, reminiscing their old adventures.  
  • Calennig
    • The Welsh word means New Year’s Celebration and comes close to trick or treating on Halloween. The children go from door to door and sing songs in return for money or sweets. 
  • Mari Lwyd
    • This is also a Welsh New Year’s tradition from the folk culture of South Wales. Here, a decorated horse head can be found on a pole and locals carry it around town. It is seen as a sign of good luck and after its departure, it is said to leave good fortune to the house it approached or entered. 

Did you already know these New Year’s traditions? Have you ever practised them yourself? Will you watch Dinner for One this year?

And with Miss Sophie’s words “Same procedure as every year“, I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and to a new year full of hopes, dreams and loads of new literature.

Lisa A.

Greetings from our Dinner for One Team in the Theater an der Angel in Magdeburg. (Private Picture)


Christmas is right around the corner and to get into the right spirit I annually circle back to many Christmas-themed books, poems, movies/ series and songs before the holidays. Today, I would like to share my personal favourites with you. 

Music:

Many Christmas songs are played throughout December, among them radio classics such as Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin’ Stevens (1984), All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey (1994), and Last Christmas by WHAM! (1984). 

While I do enjoy these songs a lot, I tend to go back to more classical songs from my childhood in a choir with songs such as the German classics Maria Durch Ein Dornwald Ging or O Tannenbaum, du trägst ein grünes Kleid or the song O Holy Night which was based on a French poem. Two songs I always listen to on repeat are Eta Notsch Swjataja (arr. Füting, 2015) and Shchedryk.

Shchedryk might sound unfamiliar, but I am sure that everyone has at least heard of it once. The Ukrainian New Year’s song arranged by Mykola Leontovych in 1916 was originally used in a pre-Christmas spring in Ukraine when the swallows returned after the long winter. By singing these songs, people blessed each other with a good year of harvest. So why do I label it as a Christmas song? In 1922, the Ukrainian song was altered. Peter J. Wilhousky arranged a new English version that is well-known as Carol of the Bells, a popular Christmas song that attracted even more attention with its use in the movie Home Alone (Chris Columbus, 1991). Many people do not know or question the origin of the famous English version, which I believe to be a shame as the story behind the original ritual song and its lyrics are rather interesting. 

Books, Short Stories and Poems:

My last recommendation is not considered one of the classics for Christmas. However, I thought it to be rather interesting. “Journey of the Magi is a poem by the modernist writer T.S. Eliot. It retells the story of the birth of Christ by focusing on one of the magi’s perspectives. As I just mentioned, it is important to note that its author was an influential writer of modernist literature, so typical themes such as alienation and anxiety in an ever-changing world can be found. I think this poem shows another side of Christmas stories that might not be as popular as it can sometimes be hard to understand the meaning behind the words and verses, however, I still think it would be interesting to approach this poem as a literary challenge. 

Movies/ Series:

  • The Family Stone (dir. Thomas Bezucha, 2005)
  • Love Actually (dir. Richard Curtis, 2003)
  • The Grinch (dir. Ron Howard, 2000)
  • Santa Clause (dir. John Pasquin, 1995)
  • Dash & Lily (Joe Tracz, 2020)
  • Three Wishes for Cinderella (dir. Václav Vorlíček, 1973)

Here are some Christmas traditions and activities that I have enjoyed over the years.

  • Feuerzangenbowle (dir. Helmut Weiss, 1944): Every year, a couple of days before Christmas, my whole family gets together to watch the German movie while having the actual drink. While this is an activity catering to the family’s adults, the children can enjoy their hot apple juice from authentic cups as well. Even though their drinks cannot be prepared the same way, they are always fascinated by the Feuerzangenbowle, prepared with a sugar cone on fire on top of the mug. This became a rather important tradition in my hometown as many families, neighbourhood clubs and even our university started to organize Feuerzangenbowle nights in the days before Christmas.
  • Silly Christmas Pictures: Ugly Christmas Sweaters, DIY Christmas-themed headbands, recreating Christmas movie scenes as pictures
  • Mince Pie Movie Marathons: During my time in England, I was introduced to many traditions from the UK. One that stuck with me was our Mince Pie Fridays. It is not an official tradition but a thing my family enjoyed a lot, it was a great way to introduce Christmas into a stressful week. Every Friday, after work and school, we would meet at home, prepare British Mince Pies and watch Christmas movies together. It was a great way to combine bonding time, relaxation and Christmas. 
  • Christmas Crackers: They are an English must-have for Christmas, children can enjoy the little gifts inside.

Merry Christmas!

Lisa A.


Nothing is impossible to a determined woman,” said Louisa May Alcott, a famous American author and feminist. This quote shows how Alcott challenged the gender roles of her time and was determined to change the narrative of women through literature. 

Today, exactly 191 years ago, the female writer was born and in honour of her special day, I would like to talk about women in the 1860s with a special outlook on one of her most famous novels, Little Women

Alcott was an early American feminist and did not try to hide her opposition to the image and expectations of women at the time. Before taking a closer look at her novel, I would like to lead with some historical context. The society of America’s middle class was generally organised in two spheres- the public sphere for men and the private sphere for women. For women, this life in a private sphere meant that they primarily stayed at home, did chores and looked after the children, they were expected to lead an authority-guided domestic life away from the active public sphere. This division of gender roles also stressed the importance of women getting married and having children to look after, this was considered to be their main focus. Furthermore, there are other constrictions just like the lack of voting rights or not being able to own land. If women desired to work, they were only allowed to do so in the domestic sector such as jobs such as housekeeping, cooking, sewing or as midwives. 

Louisa May Alcott’s children’s and coming-of-age novel introduces the March sisters who grew up in poverty while still maintaining the image of a well-off and upper-class mannered family, as they have lost their fortune. The four sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are raised in a quiet town by their mother, while their father is away serving in the Civil War. The book follows them on their journey from being children to becoming women of society, where they are confronted with societal norms that are put onto women at that time, each sister experiencing this differently. 

Alcott herself was not interested in a sole marriage plot and rather had her characters find themselves and show a development of independence, whether it is the independence of choice just like Mag who decides that she wants to get married, or Jo who has the ambition to write and publish her written works. Did you know that these aspects and the general story of Little Women were loosely inspired by Alcott’s own life by integrating her own and her family’s childhood memories? The most obvious connection is the character Jo. Just like Jo, Louisa May grew up as a tomboy with a passion for writing and a dream of publishing. These ambitions and wishes did not correlate with the expectations of women of her upbringing at that time, however, she did not let it discourage her and attempted to defy society’s rules to reach her goals. This shows her strong-willed character full of determination for a future where women could live as freely as they like and not be reduced to marriage and childbearing. 

Lastly, I would like to give you a list of my favourite works when it comes to feminist literature.

  • Circe by Madeline Miller
  • The Women Men Don’t See by James Tiptree Jr.
  • The Maiden by Kate Foster
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes
  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Lisa A.


“The World always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before” is a popular quote from the British writer Neil Gaiman and I believe that every time Gaiman contributes to the literary world, exactly that happens. While his name might not immediately sound familiar, most people have read, watched or heard of at least one of his works. 

Today, in honour of his birthday, I would like to talk about one of his older works recently attracting a large audience. Neil Gaiman is well-known for his graphic novels as he introduced a completely new way of looking at comics, he worked with a new subgenre- the dark fantasy/ horror comics. However, he does not only publish comics but also very well-written fantasy novels such as Good Omens. The novel has already been published in 1990, his early years of being credited as an author, and is a collaboration with Terry Pratchett. In 2019 and 2023 Amazon released two seasons of a series under the same name. The story follows the Demon Crowley and the Angel Aziraphale who attempt to prevent the end of the world- the Armageddon. The chain of events leading to the end of the world is introduced in a satanic order of nuns where the son of Satan is supposed to be switched at birth to a mortal human family. Due to some unfortunate events, the switch does not happen as planned and the set plan for Armageddon 11 years later is challenged. 

Generally, Good Omens is a satirical fantasy and comedy novel about religious themes such as the biblical Apocalypse, portraying the Antichrist as one of the main characters and introducing the Four Horsemen from the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. In its religious takes, the novel also looks at the theme of Good and Evil. The most obvious images here are Crowley, as the symbol of evil, and Aziraphale, as the symbol of good. But throughout the story many lines between good and evil get rather blurry- Crowley also has good characteristics and does good deeds, while Aziraphale is not as pure as an Angel is expected to be, both show that no one can be either good or evil, there are always choices that determine a direction but elements of the respective side will always be present. 

Unfortunately, only season 1 of the show follows the original novel’s storyline and plot, so if you have been a big fan of season 2 you will not be able to read about its events in the book. Nevertheless, I would recommend reading Gaiman and Pratchett’s book as it is a humorous and enthralling read and, if you are familiar with the show, it is also rather interesting to see how the book came to life in the Amazon adaptation.

Further Book Recommendations:

  • American Gods (Novel)
  • The Sandman (Comic Book Series)
  • Coraline (Novella)
  • The Graveyard Book (Graphic Novel)

Movie/Series Recommendations:

  • Good Omens (BBC and Amazon Studios, 2019)
  • Coraline (dir. Henry Selick, 2009)
  • Sandman (Netflix Series, 2022)
  • Stardust (dir. Matthew Vaughn, 2007)
  • American Gods (dir. Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, Amazon 2017-21)

Fun Facts:

  • Did you know that the TV series Lucifer has loosely adopted the character of the Devil portrayed in Gaiman’s comic book series The Sandman?
  • In 2006 an album with a collection of songs by various artists was released. Each song was inspired by Neil Gaiman and his literary works. The album is called “Where’s Neil When You Need Him?”

Event Recommendation:

On November 20, 2023, Neil Gaiman will appear in the British Library for the event “Why We Need Fantasy: Neil Gaiman in Conversation”. The event will also be live streamed and the recordings are available online for a week. The event and the online stream are not free and require tickets, pricing from £3.25-16. If you are interested in this event you will find further information through the link below. 

https://www.neilgaiman.com/where/details.php?id=351

Lisa A.


The days are getting shorter, the sky darker and the weather colder- the long and sunny summer is over and the season of autumn begins. When I think about autumn, I think about pumpkins, cosy sweaters, scarecrows, long walks through landscapes full of paths of orange and yellow leaves and most importantly, curling up with a cup of tea and my favourite books,  TV shows or movies. The spooky season, which begins on October 1st, leads up to a day full of spooky fun, scary movies and maybe even trick-or-treating, but personally, a major event, that has been very dear to me since childhood, is choosing different books and poems to read during this time, literature that represents the atmosphere of Halloween, texts that are scary or just have themes that are a bit darker than my usual reads.

One of the works I annually circle back to is Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven”. Poe is a classic example of Gothic Literature, a genre that portrays a rather haunted and dark aesthetic- a perfect read for this season.  The Raven portrays two main presences, the unnamed narrator who is alone, distracting himself from the grief of losing his lover, and the supernatural element of a talking raven that suddenly taps on the window in the middle of the night. From the beginning, the narrator shows hope that Lenore, his lost love, has finally returned to him or that the afterlife will eventually grant them to see each other again. However, the raven’s presence immediately takes these hopes away by simply saying “Nevermore”, which is also the only word it uses throughout the poem. As a result of this loss of love, the hopelessness that comes with this grief haunts him and he drives himself into madness. While it might not seem like a poem fit for the sentiment of Halloween, Poe creates a haunting and even frightening atmosphere by writing about the grief of losing loved ones and never really overcoming this, never being able to let go and living a life full of uncertainty and pain that, in the worst case, can lead to madness. 

But Poe’s poem is already over 100 years old so it might not be an immediate choice of poetry for many people. But what if it can be connected to a more contemporary work, one that attracts a younger audience in the form of film? Last November the Netflix Series Wednesday debuted and it was obvious that it quickly became a fan-favourite. The basic summary is that Wednesday Adams is sent to a boarding school called ‘Nevermore Academy’, learns to use her slowly developing psychic abilities and discovers shocking secrets along the way. One thing that sounds familiar here, next to the well-known Addams family, is “Nevermore Academy”, a name that correlates to the raven’s message in Edgar Allan Poe’s poem. Yet, it is not only the school’s name that draws a connection to Poe and his literary work, as the whole series references him quite a lot- it has become a returning theme, a theme connected to admiration.

Did you know that the Netflix series Wednesday has such close ties with Edgar Allan Poe? Did you draw the connection between The Raven and the Nevermore Academy? Can you find any other references throughout the season? (Clue: There are 8 major ones!)

Further Recommendation:

Wednesday is not the only show that makes use of the famous gothic writer, as “The Fall of the House of Usher”, a popular drama miniseries from 2023, is based on one of Poe’s short stories of the same name. 

Next to that, the movie The Pale Blue Eye makes use of his actual person and follows Detective Landor on his investigation of a series of murders with the help of a cadet at West Point who turns out to be Edgar Allan Poe.

Lisa A.