It is a great pleasure to contribute an introductory message to Persuasions On-Line, a preeminent source for Austen studies. The essays in each volume, written by North American and international scholars, are selected through a peer-review process, and many were also vetted for presentation at past Annual General Meetings. Persuasions On-Line receives far more visitors each year than any other section of JASNA’s web site. The Society’s own members are, of course, among the readers. In addition, students and scholars all over the world consult Persuasions On-Line for the latest scholarship and literary criticism about Jane Austen and her work.
Like most JASNA members, I read Persuasions On-Line for pleasure. The papers are sophisticated and thoroughly researched but free of the specialized jargon that raises a barrier between academics and the “common reader” (to borrow Virginia Woolf’s description). These essays, in combination with papers from Persuasions posted on the web site, constitute a virtual library of Austen materials, easily utilized with the site’s own search engine (the “Search” tab on the navigation bar).
Friends who are not Jane Austen enthusiasts often ask me what JASNA members find to discuss almost 200 years after the author’s death. Implicit in their question is the suspicion, “Hasn’t it all been said by now?” Persuasions On-Line offers proof that new insights continue to emerge. The essays often provide information and viewpoints about topics of current interest as well. In “The One-Sided Romance of Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy,” Joan Kingel Ray presents her discoveries concerning Tom Lefroy and her theory about their relationship. Members who saw the recent movie Becoming Jane, loosely based on the Austen-Lefroy romance, will be interested in Professor Ray’s conclusions.
Another paper with timely significance is “An Invitation to the Dance and a Proposal of Marriage: Jane Austen’s Emma and Two Film Adaptations,” by Nora Foster Stovel. Professor Stovel analyzes Austen’s use of dancing as a metaphor for courtship and applies her analysis to two movie versions of Emma, one of which will be featured on Masterpiece Theatre this winter. As with many essays in Persuasions On-Line, the works cited in Professor Stovel’s essay comprise a comprehensive reading list for anyone interested in pursuing the subject further. For additional perspectives, the section of the JASNA web site devoted to “Austen on Film” provides links to Persuasions On-Line and Persuasions essays relating to film adaptations.
JASNA is grateful to Susan Allen Ford, Editor of Persuasions On-Line and Persuasions, and the distinguished Editorial Board, whose work and creativity contribute to JASNA’s mission by publishing the latest Austen scholarship.