Saturday, May 5, 2018

Feelings, Emotions and Neurons

By our speaker Wendy Jones
"I will leave you," said Elinor, [to Marianne] "if you will go to bed." But this, from the momentary perverseness of impatient suffering, she at first refused to do. Her sister's earnest, though gentle persuasion, however, soon softened her to compliance, and Elinor saw her lay her aching head on the pillow...

In the drawing-room, whither she then repaired, she was soon joined by Mrs. Jennings, with a wine-glass, full of something, in her hand."My dear," said she, entering, "I have just recollected that I have some of the finest old Constantia wine in the house that ever was tasted, so I have brought a glass of it for your sister. "Dear Ma'am," replied Elinor, ... "how good you are! But I have just left Marianne in bed, and, I hope, almost asleep; and as I think nothing will be of so much service to her as rest, if you will give me leave, I will drink the wine myself." 
Sense and Sensibility chapter 30

Event:     JASNA CWNY May Meeting
Speaker: Wendy Jones, author of Jane on the Brain: Exploring the Science of Intelligence with Jane Austen
When:    Saturday May 19, 2018 at 1 pm
Where:   Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Community Room

One of the reasons Jane Austen’s novels have retained their popularity is that her characters are so real. They come alive not because of what they do, but because of what they think and feel. Each of them exists in a small society of “three or four families in a country village”, and each of them interacts intensely with the people in that little society. Some, like Edmund Bertram, haven’t a clue about what is going on. Others, like Elinor Dashwood, are intensely aware of the feelings and emotions of other characters, although Elinor is certainly able to enjoy a glass of the finest old Constantia wine while dealing with Marianne's suffering. Jane Austen's characters all exhibit varying degrees of social intelligence, and Jane Austen perfectly captures the state of their minds as they navigate their social surroundings.

Two hundred years after Jane Austen wrote her novels, psychologists and neurobiologists have a much better, although still very incomplete, understanding of how humans respond to their social and physical environments. In her book Jane on the Brain: Exploring the Science of Social Intelligence with Jane Austen, Wendy Jones examines the psychology of Jane Austen’s characters, drawing on the basics of anatomy and physiology. She brings a solid basis of biological science to understanding the feelings and emotions exhibited by Jane Austen’s characters. She writes:

“As far as I know, all the books that discuss Austen’s fiction or her appeal invoke the psychology of her characters in one way or another. My book is no exception. But I go one step further, discussing her characters in depth but with a difference, peering beneath the surface of the mind into the anatomy and neurochemistry of the brain… I look at social intelligence through the psychological analysis of Austen’s characters, but then turn the page to find what lies beneath in the physiology.”

Wendy Jones will be the speaker at our May meeting. She is currently a psychotherapist practicing in Ithaca, NY. She has a PhD in English Literature from Cornell University, and she has worked as a Senior Lecturer and a Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell. She spoke at the most recent AGM in Huntington Beach CA, and I was fortunate to hear her very insightful talk “Empathic Austen: Every Reader’s Forever Friend”.

Please join us to learn more about Jane Austen and the science of social intelligence.

Monday, April 2, 2018

What Jane Austen Didn't Tell Us!: The Backstories of the Characters in Pride and Prejudice
"Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my delight. I must have my share in the conversation, if you are speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.” Lady Catherine de Bourgh speaking in Pride and Prejudice chapter 31

Event:    JASNA  CWNY April Meeting
Topic:    Marie Sprayberry will read from and discuss What Jane Austen Didn't Tell Us!: The Backstories of the Characters in Pride and Prejudice
When:    Saturday April 21, 2018 at 1 pm
Where:   Pittsford Barnes and Noble Community Room

There is no doubt that Jane Austen’s characters truly come alive for many of her fans. They interest and engage us throughout the novels. We often want to know so much more about them, where they came from before the novel started, and where they went after the novel ended.

About all we know of Lady Catherine de Bough is that she would have been a great proficient had she ever learnt. But what of the rest of the characters? What Jane Austen Didn't Tell Us!: The Backstories of the Characters in Pride and Prejudice  fills us in on the backstories of 17 of Jane Austen’s characters in this novel. Written by a collection of authors, including our own Marie Sprayberry, this book will help satisfy your curiosity about the background of many of Jane Austen’s characters. Marie will be at our April meeting to discuss the book.

As Marie describes the event:

“A. Marie Sprayberry ("Syracuse Marie") will read aloud from her chapter about Lady Catherine de Bourgh in the newly released ebook, What Jane Austen Didn't Tell Us!: The Backstories of the Characters in Pride and Prejudice. In addition to the reading, Marie will give some insights into her family inspiration for Lady Catherine's backstory, provide some perspective on her experience of contributing to a communal project, and read at least one favorite bit that landed on the cutting room floor!

Marie has worked for over 30 years from her Syracuse home for Guilford Publications, Inc., of New York City. She was formerly Regional Coordinator for the JASNA Syracuse Region before the Syracuse and Rochester Regions were merged into JASNA CWNY, and she continues to serve on the JASNA CWNY executive committee. 

And although the book is currently only available on Amazon as an ebook, two hard-to-obtain hard copies, autographed by Marie to the winners, will be raffled off to benefit JASNA CWNY at the meeting. So come and "have [your] share of the conversation" (a classic Lady Catherine line!), as well as your chance to win one of the books!”

The book can be found as an ebook here. Marie has also written a blog post entitled Lady Catherine, My Grandmother and Me, which can be found here. So please join us. Perhaps we will learn more about Mary Bennett, who had learnt, but was not necessarily a great proficient.
"Her ladyship, with great condescension, arose to meet them"

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Sequels, Knock-offs, and Adaptations: What Comes After Jane Austen

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn
Starting our discussion 

“Who can be in doubt of what followed?” 
Persuasion Chapter 24

What followed after Jane Austen’s writing was an entire universe of sequels, knock-offs and movie adaptations.   What really happened after Elizabeth and Darcy married? Was it true that “to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!”? What if Jane Austen had lived longer and produced many more novels?

Event:     JASNA CWNY March Meeting
Topic:     Group discussion - bring your favorite sequel or retelling of a Jane Austen novel to discuss. The Jane Austen Project will start things off
When:    Saturday March 17, 2018 at 1 pm
Where:   Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Community Room

Join us at our March meeting to discuss the world of Jane Austen spin-offs. We start the discussion by looking at a recent novel by Kathleen Flynn called The Jane Austen Project.

In this novel two time travelers from a technologically advanced Great Britain go back in time to meet Jane Austen, and recover the long lost full text of The Watsons along with more of Jane Austen’s letters. It’s not easy going back to 1815 and trying to befriend Jane Austen, Henry Austen and their circle of friends and relations. Along the way they have to be concerned not to cause too many changes in the future.

Jane Austen emerges in this novel as fully developed character. It’s fiction, of course, and no one knows what Jane Austen was really like, but Kathleen Flynn provides fascinating characters in a fully developed Regency world. No spoilers here, but the ending gets time all twisted up in a way that would amaze even Albert Einstein.

But we will not be limited to just one book. Please bring forward any of your favorite books, movies, or web presentations. Another book I especially liked is Deception at Lyme (Or the Peril of Persuasion) by Carrie Bebris.

The Deception at Lyme by Carrie Bebris
A possible discussion topic
 This is part of series of novels including:

Pride and Prescience
Suspense and Sensibility
North by Northanger
The Matters at Mansfield
The Intrigue at Highbury
The Deception at Lyme
The Suspicion at Sanditon

In these books Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy act as Regency detectives, unraveling mysterious events in places familiar to all Jane Austen fans. The characters are lively and engaging and the plots are intriguing. Also, I had the very great honor of dancing with the author at the Washington D.C. AGM.

So pack up your favorite book, movie or whatever, and join us for an interesting trip through the world of Jane Austen sequels, knock-offs, movies and anything else that shows up.