on a Wednesday morning in August 1814, Jane Austen sat down and wrote to her sister Cassandra: “Now, I have breakfasted & have the room to myself again.—It is likely to be a fine day.” If Jane Austen were to sit down on a weekday morning in August of 1999, might she not have e-mailed her sister: “Now, I have breakfasted & have the computer and access to the internet to myself again.—It is likely to be a fine day”?
While some critics and general readers might consider it outrageous to dedicate an electronic journal to Jane Austen, other scholars suggest that “someday digitized publishing will be the scholarly norm, not because it is the ‘high-tech’ thing to do but because it is the logical thing to do” (Peek 14). I don’t think it is absurd to think of Jane Austen embracing word-processing and e-mails, and, perhaps, shopping for sarsenet, dimity, and poplin on the net. She may even have ordered the newest novel by Madame D’Arblay from one of the on-line booksellers.
Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal On-Line is part of JASNA’s campaign to attract new readers through intellectual discourse. The world already has the movies (with more to come) and now we want to help the audience to get back to the texts. The online journal will appeal, I think, to a broad readership—to scholars, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as general readers—for the articles included in the journal are written by scholars, graduate and undergraduate students, and general readers.
There would seem to be a variety of rationales for an online Persuasions. JASNA’s publication of the electronic journal responds to outside pressures—space considerations, for one thing—as well as financial exigency—libraries today are simply not buying bulky and expensive journals. From Israel a professor writes that her university’s library does not subscribe to Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal; she sees that the electronic journal is quite obviously “the way of the future.” Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal On-Line is available to anyone who can tune into the web.
Timeliness is another consideration. In addition to the annual collection of articles, the new Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal On-Line, which will appear twice a year, will offer articles that have been carefully selected not only to promote scholarly discourse but to create more interaction with the “common readers” throughout the world. The electronic journal allows us to increase our capacity to publish more articles without incurring more costs, which would have to result in higher JASNA dues.
The model we are using for Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal and Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal On-Line—one printed journal and two on-line issues per year—is designed to appeal to the widest audience. Those members of the Jane Austen Society of North America who are not “on the web” will have access to the printed journal; members of JASNA who are on the web will have the added benefit of “receiving” the online journal. In addition, people who are interested in Jane Austen and her works and world will be able to call up a selection of provocative and stimulating essays by a variety of international writers, and they will be able to respond via the net to the new ideas and controversial interpretations that this journal will present.
As a professor and scholar as well as an editor, I see the network potential for sharing our ideas about Jane Austen’s works and about the time in which she lived. The President and the Board of the Jane Austen Society of North America envision that Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal On-Line will offer the electronic community a new venue for intellectual engagement. We hope to expand the community of readers and continue the intimacy that JASNA offers a cohort of Janeites—that is, the community of readers of Jane Austen’s novels who share a love of the texts and an interest in ideas.
Peek, Robin P. “Scholarly Publishing, Facing the New Frontiers.” Scholarly Publishing: The Electronic Frontier. Ed. Robin P. Peek and Gregory B. Newby. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1996.
For technical support, my sincere thanks to the following people who have so generously shared their time, patience, and expertise:
Arthur Silber, Director of Graphic and
Production Services, Goucher College