Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Engaging Mansfield Park

Fanny Price comes to Mansfield Park

"What if they were among them to undertake the care of her eldest daughter...?"
Mansfield Park ch. 1

When I finally finished binge reading all six of Jane Austen's major novels, Mansfield Park was hands down my least favorite. I struggled to even finish the book - twice. As for Fanny Price, I found her the least interesting of Jane Austen's heroines. 

As it turns out, I was in good company. According to a survey of Janeites done by Jeanne Kiefer (1), only 4% of respondents picked Mansfield Park when asked about their favorite Jane Austen novel. When asked about a favorite heroine, Janeites were also not very kind to Fanny Price. Only 4% picked Fanny, although she did edge out Catherine Morland (3%) and Marianne Dashwood (1%). The correlation between novel and heroine favorability is not surprising as Jane Austen's heroines tend to dominate the novels.

This was the state of things in 2014 when JASNA CWNY (then JASNA Rochester region) met to discuss Mansfield Park during the anniversary year of it's publication. As a result of that discussion, I came to realize that there might be much more to Fanny Price than I had originally acknowledged. 

Clearly, I had to read Mansfield Park again, much more carefully and with a better appreciation of the character of Fanny Price. Following an interest in writing and online media, I decided to read the book and write an online blog article about every chapter. This seemed the best way to slow down and read the book more attentively. Thus was born 

It took from May 8 until September 2, but I finished it. In the end, I was partially successful. I have much more respect for Fanny, and now regard Mansfield Park as Jane Austen's greatest literary achievement. However, if faced with a long plane ride or a day at the beach, I'll still pack Pride and Prejudice (although I have them all on my iPad).

I'll be discussing my attempt to better understand Mansfield Park at our next JASNA CWNY meeting. I may not convince you that Mansfield Park is Jane Austen's greatest work, but I'll show you how much work it took to bring me to that conclusion.

See you there!

Event:    JASNA CWNY March meeting
Topic:    Engaging Mansfield Park
Where:  Barnes and Noble Community Room,  Pittsford, NY
When:   March 19, 2016 at 1 pm

1. Kiefer, Jeanne, Anatomy of a Janeite: Results from The Jane Austen Survey 2008, Persuasions On Line, Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2008

For an in depth discussion of the Fanny Wars see:
Troost, Linda and Greenfield, Sayre, A History of the Fanny Wars, Persusasions, vol. 36 2014.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

"One of the First Refinements of Polished Societies"

The First Jane Austen Ball Rochester, NY (photo credit Lisa Brown)

“…you shall if you please, name the very day of the ball.”
Pride and Prejudice ch. 9

Well, the day of the ball has been named. Your JASNA Central and Western NY Region and the Country Dancers of Rochester are sponsoring a Jane Austen Ball on April 24, 2016.  This will be an opportunity to dance like Jane Austen and her characters.

Ball Practice
“You’re getting six weeks’ notice on this, because these people are serious: You’ll need time to make or rent costumes, and practice…” said the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (you will need to scroll down to the paragraph entitled Hitting the floor with The Physical Snob). Serious yes, but Jane Austen fans are also fun-loving and friendly. For those who are a bit rusty on “The Physical Snob,” ball practice lessons will be offered starting this Sunday, March 13, followed by a pot-luck supper. By the time the ball starts, you will be ready to lead off the dance like Fanny Price and Henry Crawford.

The ball will be led by Beverly Francis, an expert on Jane Austen. She has put together a program of period dances, and her knowledge of Jane Austen’s work and times will give a true Regency feel to the ball.

The nationally known group Childgrove from Ann Arbor MI will provide music.  Childgrove has Debbie Jackson on piano, Anne Ogren on violin and viola, and Martha Stokely on oboe, pennywhistle, and recorder. Together these three have brought the music of Jane Austen’s time to people all over the country.

The ball will be held at the Memorial Art Gallery Ballroom in the old Cutler Union building. Built in 1933, Cutler Union was the original women’s dormitory for the University of Rochester. On the outside the building is in the neo-Gothic style (think Northanger Abbey), and inside it is pure elegance.

Memorial Art Gallery, Cutler Union Building

So prepare to step into the pages of Pride and Prejudice. A full Jane Austen experience awaits you at the Jane Austen Ball. Full details of the event can be found at the website of the Country Dancers of Rochester: