Handsome, clever, rich, snobbish, imperious, witty, proud, and prejudiced in favor of her own class, her own ideas, and her own way of doing things, Emma continues to fascinate readers, who see in her foibles aspects of the human condition. In her program notes for the JASNA Annual General Meeting that was held in Colorado Springs in October, 1999, Professor Joan Ray reminds us that “Emma has been historically regarded by critics of the novel as one of the greatest British novels ever written and Jane Austen’s best: Austen at her creative and writing peak.” As the focus of the AGM, Emma set off debates and controversies. The three conference papers on Emma included here examine some of the diverse issues raised by the novel: Dr. Bader asserts that Mr. Woodhouse’s bad behavior is not “hypochondriacal”; Professor Anderson explores the gender dynamics of the characters’ relationships and questions why Austen seems to “choose husbands who are more like fathers than lovers for her heroines”; and Professor Jackson opens a broader topic when she considers Emma’s “dilemma” in terms of moral, ethical, and spiritual values. If you combine the ideas expressed here with the essays forthcoming in Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal, which is due to be out soon, and with the essays published in the special film issue (available on this website), it is obvious that no one will have the last word on Emma as a character or Emma as a novel.
The papers included in this issue of the Persuasions On-Line Miscellany offer insights into problems ranging from source studies to plot development in Austen’s novels. Professor Salber investigates the effect of meddling on the plot of Pride and Prejudice; Dr. Caplan offers a new candidate for the source of Emma’s William Larkins; Professor Yee looks at friendship and equality in Persuasion; and Ms. Lerman, a high school senior in Los Angeles, distills her ideas about how certain characters in Austen’s fiction serve as the writer’s alter ego. In addition, we are pleased that the extended format of this online journal has given us room to publish Dr. Hansen’s comprehensive examination of the rhetorical dynamics of Austen’s marriage proposals. Each of these papers broadens the cultural context of the novels, and we become better readers of fiction when we consider what these authors tell us about Jane Austen, her fiction, and her world.
The global audience of Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal On-Line grows with every issue of the journal. Readers as far away from Baltimore as Saudi Arabia, Australia, New Zealand, England, Canada, and South Africa have contacted us over the past year. It is gratifying that so many readers “hit” our site from their homes and offices. Pamela LiCaizi O’Connell’s article about Jane Austen fan fiction (“fanfic”) in the “Circuits” section of the New York Times and in the New York Times on the Web (13 January 2000) listed the JASNA website and generated a new source of interested and committed readers of Jane Austen’s works. High school and college students all over the world find that they can access the essays in Persuasions On-Line from their homes and dorm rooms. Our contacts with other readers of Austen’s works can only expand through this medium.
It is intriguing to contemplate what use Frank Churchill would have made of the web and ebay. Who would need Ford’s? Who would need to ride off to London for a day? Gloves, a whole selection of pianofortés, the most current sheet music—all available to Frank without his having to leave Highbury!
Professor of English, Goucher College