A first time JASNA AGM attendee reminisces, part two

Sorry for the delay in posting part two, but I’ve been so busy redesigning the web site that I let this task slide. And I truly found myself enjoying the AGM on Friday so I’m eager to tell you of my experiences.

I did start the day with a difficult decision, however, because I stayed up a little longer than I should have the night before talking with my roommate. Her company was delightful especially after we discovered we both stood on the same side of the political spectrum. So I was a little bleary eyed for the 8:30 a.m. Silhouette Workshop, which because of my tardiness I appeared a little unkempt for, not having the time to properly attend to my toilette.

So I decided that I would forgo the workshop, especially after I learned that instead of creating silhouettes in the early 19th-century manner, we would have digital photographs of ourselves taken and employ essentially a stencil cutter to create our portraits. Actually, this is a brilliant idea and being a thoroughly modern Janeite, I was actually quite interested in the process. But as there were a number of people in the workshop I hoped I might run back to my room, shower and return; which I did, only to find the photography process ongoing. But as I did not wish to miss the next speaker, I decided not to slip quietly back in line.

Maureen KellyThe next speaker was Maureen Kelly from the Scottish branch of the Jane Austen Society and she presented Did Marianne Sing Scots Songs? I have no idea whether she ably answered the question; I was too captivated by her singing some of those Scots songs, although none by Robert Burns, having explained the timing was not quite right for Sense and Sensibility (please someone correct me if I recally that incorrectly). It was lovely and I really began to enjoy the AGM.

Next, the Chawton House Library in the person of Elisabeth Lenckos (co presenter Jacqui Granger was unable to attend) presented Are You an Elinor or a Marianne? She presented the pros and cons of the characters in such a way that I almost overlooked my dislike of Marianne. Almost.

For lunch I met with other first time AGM attendees and met freelance journalist Deborah Yaffe who’s writing a book about — well I don’t want to say Austen fans for I have been chided for that — Janeites. I hope to have more information about it shortly. She’s tentatively titled it Among the Janeites, sort of an anthropological view of a quaint and isolated tribe. She’s already sold the book and is hoping for a 2013 release. H’m, I wonder if anything is happening in 2013.

Of course all this was before the actual opening of the AGM and Dr. Joan Klingel Ray’s Sense and Sensibility as Austen’s Problem Novel. Dr. Ray, as I’m sure you’re aware, is a past president of JASNA and her talk was so interesting that I will present my reactions in a separate post.

The first breakout session after Dr. Ray’s talk I attended was Sheryl Craig’s Wealth has Much to do With It: The Economics of Sense and Sensibility. The talk made clear the generosity of Sir John Middleton to the Dashwoods in light of the famines of the 1790s. She also touched on the wise decision of the Dashwoods to locate in Devonshire, where taxes raised to support the poor were well above average. John Dashwood himself remarks on the generally pleasing appearance of the area.

Ms. Craig also made it apparent how cruel was the Enclosure Movement and reminded me of John Dashwood’s own efforts to enclose the commons near Norland Park. I have read of his scheme twice now but never grasped the significance. Of course, both good and ill can be said of the Enclosure Movement — it either encouraged the industrial revolution or reduced non-land owners to peons — but it is telling that John Dashwood was for it and George Knightley (Emma) was against it.

My next breakout session was Catching up with jane: All the facts on the life, loves and linerature, from the home of one who knows, presented by Louise West, who is the curator of the Jane Austen’s House Museum. She did an entertaining A to Z of Austen and also helped delineate the relationship between the museum and Chawton library.

My last session was William Phillips’ Meaner Than a Texas Polecat: Present Day Perspective on Austen’s Largest Cast of “Nasties.” It was a hoot, especially his playfully proposing Marianne as a nasty. Most revealing, however, was his decision to cast John Dashwood as the number one nasty in the book, pointing out it was ultimately his decision to not help Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters and that his decision to enclose the commons would ultimately hurt many people beyond the principle characters of the novel.

I left the breakout sessions with a fresh appreciation of how Austen’s novels remain relevant. There are only six complete novels and you can only read them so many times, but with informative sessions like these, you can come to appreciate them in so many novel (pun most definitely intended) ways.

PS I have elsewhere written of my foolishness in not buying Jane Austen Made Me Do It at the author book signing and my review of Scents and Sensibility. I’ll also try to add a review of From Prada to Nada.

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