The word Janeite has been used by people who love the works of Jane Austen. However, it can also be used to show disapproval. Claudia Johnson says that Janeitism is "the self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasm (love) for 'Jane' and every detail relative to her (about her)".
Janeitism did not begin until after J. E. Austen-Leigh published A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1870. When this was published, Jane Austen became much more popular. This worried the literary elite. They felt they had to separate their liking of Austen from the "masses". The word Janeite was first begun by the literary scholar George Saintsbury in his 1894 introduction to a new edition of Pride and Prejudice. Austen scholar Deidre Lynch explains, "he meant to equip himself with a badge of honor he could jubilantly (triumphantly, happily) pin". In the early twentieth century, Janeitism was "principally (mostly) a male enthusiasm shared among publishers, professors, and literati". Rudyard Kipling even printed a short story called "Janeites" about a group of World War I soldiers who were fans of Austen's novels.
In the 1930s and 1940s,Austen's works were accepted at school, and the word began to change its meaning. It began to mean the people who liked Austen in the "wrong" way. The word, according to Lynch, is now "used ... about and against other people".
- Johnson, 211.
- Lynch, "Introduction", 24, n.24.
- Lynch, "Introduction", 13-14.
- Johnson, 213.
- Johnson, 214.
- Lynch, "Introduction", 13.
- Johnson, Claudia L. "Austen cults and cultures". The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen. Eds. Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-521-49867-8.
- Lynch, Deidre. "Cult of Jane Austen". Jane Austen In Context. Ed. Janet Todd. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-521-82644-6.
- Lynch, Deidre. "Introduction: Sharing with Our Neighbors". Janeites: Austen's Disciples and Devotees. Ed. Deidre Lynch. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-691-05005-8.
- Lynch, Deidre. "Sequels". Jane Austen In Context. Ed. Janet Todd. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-521-82644-6.
- MacDonald, Gina and Andrew MacDonald, eds. Jane Austen on Screen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.