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.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Half Agony, Half Hope: a Discussion of Jane Austen's Persuasion

Trafalgar Battle - 21st of October 180 - Situation at 13h
By Nicholas Pocock, Public Domain
"And who is Admiral Croft?" was Sir Walter's cold suspicious inquiry. Mr. Shepherd answered for his being of a gentleman's family, and mentioned a place; and Anne, after the little pause which followed, added-- "He is a rear admiral of the white. He was in the Trafalgar action, and has been in the East Indies since; he was stationed there, I believe, several years." Persuasion chapter 3

Event:   JASNA CWNY February Meeting
Topic:   A discussion of Persuasion led by Celia Easton
When:   Saturday, February 17, 2018 at 1 pm
Where: Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Community Room

Persuasion is Jane Austen’s last complete novel. She finished it in August of 1816 and it was published in 1818. So this year we celebrate the 200th anniversary of that publication. JASNA CWNY will kick off the festivities with a discussion of Persuasion led by our own Celia Easton.

There is so much to talk about in this book. Celia has suggested a few things to consider. First, let's consider the Royal Navy. Great Britain was at war for most of Jane Austen’s lifetime. As Captain Wentworth’s employer, passion, and source of wealth, the Royal Navy figures prominently in Persuasion. In the quote above Anne Elliot refers directly to “the Trafalgar action”. This is one of the few direct references to military action in Jane Austen’s novels. (Is it the only one? Let’s discuss.) Aside from being Captain Wentworth’s profession, what role does the Royal Navy play in the novel? Why might Jane Austen have chosen the Royal Navy as such a central theme in this novel? What exactly happened at Trafalgar?

Second, we may consider Persuasion as an example of Jane Austen’s mature writing. On their website JASNA writes:

“Often described as “autumnal” in tone, Persuasion is the story of a mature heroine and second chances.”

Persuasion was written in what would turn out to be the autumn of Jane Austen’s life, and, as her last completed novel, represents the writing of a mature Jane Austen. In Persuasion Jane Austen makes dramatic use of free indirect discourse to show us what Anne Elliot is experiencing. How did Jane Austen's writing mature? How might Persuasion be compared to Northanger Abbey, which was published at the same time as Persuasion, but completed many years earlier?

Third, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars Great Britain was transforming into a modern nation. The empire was growing. New financial processes were in place to finance the wars, and Britain had mobilized her industry and agriculture to win a long and costly war. As Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth proceed toward “the comparatively quiet and retired gravel walk,” what cares and concerns will they face in the modern Britain? How does Jane Austen approach the changes that are occurring in Britain? Finally, what can we learn from Jane Austen to help cope with changes that are occurring today?

Of course we need not limit ourselves to these suggestions. A poll in 2008 showed that Persuasion is the second most popular of Jane Austen’s novels among Janeites (1). (No prize for guessing the most popular). What is it in Persuasion that appeals to you? Why might Persuasion be so popular? Is there anything you have always wondered about in Persuasion?

So many questions, so little time, but be assured that, while we may not find any answers, we will have some great conversation discussing these issues. As Anne Elliot says:

"My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company." Persuasion chapter 16.

Please join us for some of the best company to be found anywhere.

"I am half agony, half hope..."
1. Jeanne Kiefer, Persuasions On Line, 29.1 2008.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Plans of Economy

Venue for Huntington Beach AGM
“She drew up plans of economy, she made exact calculations, and she did what nobody else thought of doing: she consulted Anne…”
Persuasion chapter 2

Event:       JASNA CWNY January Meeting
Title:         Jane Austen and Economics, a reprise of a talk given at the 2017 AGM
Speaker: Chris Cassidy
When:      Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 1:00 pm
Where:    Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Second Floor Community Room

In 2014 an odd thing happened in the world of books. A 700-page exposition of economic theory became a number one best seller on the New York Times Best Seller list for hardcover nonfiction. The book was Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. It is not often that an economics text makes the bestseller list, and Jane Austen had a role in making it happen.

Piketty’s work deals primarily with the distribution of wealth within populations across both space and time. He looks carefully at the composition and ownership of wealth in several developed nations from the eighteenth century to the present. In order to demonstrate the effects of wealth distribution and bring some life to his statistics, Piketty uses examples from the works of Jane Austen and Honore de Balzac. Piketty writes in his introduction:

“Film and literature, nineteenth century novels especially, are full of detailed information about the relative wealth and living standards of different social groups, and especially about the deep structure of inequality, the way it is justified, and its impact on individual lives. Indeed, the novels of Jane Austen and Honore de Balzac paint striking portraits of the distribution of wealth in Britain and France between 1790 and 1830.”

While Piketty uses many examples from Jane Austen’s work to illuminate his theories of wealth inequality, Michael Chwe’s successful book, Jane Austen, Game Theorist, explains how the work of Jane Austen previews the field of game theory. Game theory is a set of ideas that encompasses understanding how people make decisions based on the anticipated decisions of others, and it has become important in modern theories of economics. According to Chwe, Jane Austen had it all wrapped up two hundred years ago.

Both Piketty and Chwe have been very successful in using the works of Jane Austen to illuminate different aspects of modern economics. In both cases, her work provides both insight into the economics and a hook to interest and engage readers.

Our speaker at this month’s meeting will examine how Jane Austen has influenced modern economics and has become a bridge between academic fields and the general public. This talk was originally given at the 2017 AGM and, apparently, no one fell asleep.

British Two Pound Coin with Jane Austen

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Harp and a Window

A Harp and a Window
"Mr. Bertram," said she, "I have tidings of my harp at last. I am assured that it is safe at Northampton; and there it has probably been these ten days, in spite of the solemn assurances we have so often received to the contrary…Henry, who is good-nature itself, has offered to fetch it in his barouche.” Mansfield Park chapter 6.

Event:       JASNA CWNY Jane Austen Birthday Luncheon
Speaker: Jennifer Staples on “The History of the Harp"
When:     Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 10:30 am
Where:    Monroe’s Restaurant, 3001 Monroe Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618

Our speaker and musician for the Birthday Luncheon is Jennifer Staples from Syracuse, NY. Many of you know Jennifer as an expert seamstress and producer of some of the very fine Regency period attire seen at our annual Jane Austen Ball. What may be less familiar to you is that she is also an expert on the harp.

The harp appears in most of Jane Austen’s novels. We are probably most familiar with Mary Crawford’s use of the harp to entangle Edmund Bertram.

“Miss Crawford's attractions did not lessen. The harp arrived, and rather added to her beauty, wit, and good-humour; for she played with the greatest obligingness, with an expression and taste which were peculiarly becoming, and there was something clever to be said at the close of every air….

A young woman, pretty, lively, with a harp as elegant as herself, and both placed near a window, cut down to the ground, and opening on a little lawn, surrounded by shrubs in the rich foliage of summer, was enough to catch any man's heart. The season, the scene, the air, were all favourable to tenderness and sentiment.”  Mansfield Park chapter 7.

Edmund’s a goner thanks to the harp and possibly the window.

However, Jane Austen used the harp not only as an instrument of seduction, but also as an instrument of consolation. In Persuasion, when Mrs. Musgrove learns that Captain Wentworth is to visit, she recalls that her unfortunate son Richard served with Captain Wentworth, and she is saddened by the remembrance of her lost son.

“That she was coming to apologize, and that they should have to spend the evening by themselves, was the first black idea; and Mary was quite ready to be affronted, when Louisa made all right by saying, that she only came on foot, to leave more room for the harp, which was bringing in the carriage.

"And I will tell you our reason," she added, "and all about it. I am come on to give you notice, that papa and mamma are out of spirits this evening, especially mamma; she is thinking so much of poor Richard! And we agreed it would be best to have the harp, for it seems to amuse her more than the piano-forte." Persuasion chapter 6

He may have “been nothing better than a thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable Dick Musgrove”, but his loss is now painful, and the harp is there to soothe.

Jane Austen herself enjoyed a good harp concert. Writing to Cassandra from Sloane Street in 1811 she said:

“…the day of the party is settled – above 80 people are invited for next Tuesday evening and there is to be some very good music, 5 professionals…One of the Hirelings, is a Capital on the Harp, from which I expect great pleasure…”
Jane Austen’s Letters, Deirdre Le Faye, (ed.), 4th ed. p. 188

So our talk at the luncheon is about the harp. Mary Crawford was able to enlist Henry’s barouche to transport her harp from Northampton. Jennifer will be bringing three harps from Syracuse to help explain the history of this instrument which Jane Austen used both to soothe and to seduce.