The first Classic Literature novel I read was back in grade 9, and it is also my favorite Classic - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Since then I have been absolutely engrossed in all media surrounding the popularly known "Regency Era" which roughly dates the latter half of the 18th and the former half of the 19th Century.
Maybe it's the flowy gowns over layers of petticoats, the crisp tailored coats, or the visual representation of a subtle petrichor associated weather, the imaginary world of the Classics along with the TV show and film adaptations capture my attention like no other. Wanting to be teleported to live in a tiny little cottage with a stream nearby seems to be the wishful thinking I sometimes allow myself. However, it is important to be mindful in such viewership of the past.
Perhaps my love for such an era would be endless if not for realizing and reading up on the struggles of the powerful women who brought these books to life. To write under a pseudonym in a time when no one wanted to read anything written by a female author, to hide themselves from the world so that they could offer a whole new world, and to fight against the patriarchal holds that held them back was no small feat. Reading media from the past and about the past needs to be taken seriously and with some insight because that is the only way to be respectful to those who struggled before us. With this, the idea of "Academia" as either an aesthetic or as an actual interest coming with reading is also very elitist and almost has some barriers to entry which again stem from patriarchal expectations of being fully qualified to enjoy a certain hobby.
An idealistic perception of history is very dangerous because it is extremely dismissive of the horrible institutions that held such patriarchal structures in place. It assumes that everything was light and free with tea parties in the parlors, walks in the gardens, and peeks outside carriages. Of course, this is also to include just how white such stories are and so it is even more important to take them with a grain of salt because at the same time that these works were being written and published, people of color all around the world were fighting against colonial powers in their own ways.
To conclude, my love for such works remains the same with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, with Mr. Knightley and Emma, and with the fierce Jo March and lovely Laurie amongst many others, but I have learnt over the years that this love is not unconditional. Respectful inclusions of people of color alongside these characters are indeed fodder for the imagination to be turned into reality, one that runs wild with love for all.