What makes authors great is the fact that they continue to be relevant across different periods of time. This is because their work has literary merit and deals with basic and perenial concerns of life. Jane Austen is part of the literary canon and included in literature courses across various universities even today, precisely for this reason.
On the other hand, people like Mark Twain's disdain of her work are widely quoted. There has been this tendency to belittle her work as being nothing more than soft romances but serious study shows a perceptive mind that was adept at mirroring human nature, 'warts and all". Her books are as relevant social critiques of society today as they were of her time. Her basic themes of how money makes the world go round and how financial security overrides pasion can be applied to modern day society with equal justification.
Her contemporary reputation is only growing, evidenced by the way more and more TV serials and film makers are using her novels as a base for their work. For example, the very successful "Bride and Prejudice" made by Gurinder Chadha is a rivetting rendition of Pride and Prejudice. Similarly Paramount Pictures "Clueless" and Bollywood's "Aisha" are adaptations of Emma. There are references galore to some of her charaters like Elizabeth Bennet, Mrs Bennet, Darcy and Emma being the most popular. As in the Hollywood movie, "You Have Got Mail", Darcy comes up for discussion between the lead pair.
Jane Austen's contemporariness was in the news recently again! It appears that Kate Middleton, the new wife of Prince William and now the new Duchess of Cambridge is a descendant of the writer. To qoute Anastasia Harman, lead family historian for Ancestory.com, "Catherine is the modern Jane Austen herione: a middle class girl marrying the future King of England."
That is one more reason to negate the view that Jane Austen is dated. As Elizabeth Langland, dean of ASU's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences says, "If you strip away the costumes and time period, you will see your own world in Austen."
Austen’s first great admirers were other writers, including her most distinguished contemporary, Sir Walter Scott. These writers admired Austen’s masterly use of dialogue and her handling of dramatic scenes, and they were right to do so. The scenes in earlier novels were often longer and more shapeless than the ones in Austen. Austen’s skill as a dramatist is one reason why her novels have so often been adapted for the screen, because much of the dialogue for the movies can be taken directly from the books. Furthermore, Austen’s admirers viewed her as a master of narrative construction, gifted with an impeccable sense of how to shape and structure a story.