Persuasions #13, 1991 Pages 5-6
Highlights of our Annual General Meeting
The 1990 JASNA Annual General Meeting having met last year in Washington, D.C., my nation’s capital, it was entirely fitting that the 1991 AGM should take place in Ottawa, Ontario, the capital city of Canada.
For some people the Ottawa conference seemed to get off to a slightly bumpy start, with long lines forming to register for this or that. Generally speaking, however, high spirits were only briefly dampened, gloominess not being able to survive before the obvious goodwill and warm hospitality of our hosts.
JASNA members who arrived early liked the Thursday performance of “An Evening at Hartfield.” It was a pleasant occasion. At home now, I have read “The Highbury Times” produced by this group. (If you have not read it, you might want to get a copy, especially if you are a teacher. Your students will have fun trying a comparable “newspaper” derived from Jane Austen’s novels.)
The conference officially opened when we met in the beautiful Ballroom of the Chateau Laurier. Here we listened to readings of some favorite passages from Emma, and looking around we could see the Chicago region’s famous quilt and also the banners that our regional groups had created to be hung in the ballroom. The workmanship and imagination and time involved in their making was impressive. Each of the dozen or so banners announced, so to say, its origin. Thus for example, the banner of the Tar Heel State of North Carolina depicted a large foot with a tarred heel; Tennessee featured its famous “Grand Ol’ Opry”; Maine showed a reflective Jane Austen sitting on the shore, looking out at a lighthouse. Myself a patriotic ol’ dawg from Maine, I thought the banner produced by lobsterman Bill Hamilton and good wife Maxine (both of Cape Elizabeth, Maine) might not unreasonably be considered among the better ones on display.
The choice of our speakers for the two General Sessions and for the Sunday Brunch was a major triumph of the Ottawa Program Committee that devised this “shedual.” (Never mind, now! Up there they can talk any way they want to.) In any case, all three speakers were great performers: learned, wise, witty, and eloquent. Hugh McKellar spoke on “Canadian Connections in Jane Austen’s Circle”; John McAleer on “What a Biographer Can Learn About Jane Austen from Emma; and, at the Brunch, Juliet McMaster spoke on the “Secret Languages of Emma.”
The number and rich diversity of workshops and other activities made choices attractively difficult for us all. Decisions, decisions! I heard the reading of some excellent papers, among them those by Louise Flavin (“Indirect Discourse and the Clever Heroine”), Bruce Stovel (“Emma’s Search for a True Friend”), and Peter Sabor (“Walter Scott’s Review of Emma”). As is usual, we all enjoyed the questions and the lively discussions that inevitably follow each reading of a paper at our Workshops. (For example, “How do you explain the appearance of indirect discourse in the 18th century?” “Did Jane Austen actually ever read Scott’s famous review of Emma?” Good questions!)
At the Saturday evening banquet, Helen Denman, revered as founder of the Ottawa JASNA chapter, led us in the traditional toast to our Jane. Then, after the banquet a very special treat for us was the presentation of “Music and Dancing in Emma.” “Researched, devised and arranged” by Elizabeth Graham-Smith, it involved some fine singers, instrumentalists, and dancers, all of whom charmed us and most certainly deserved the standing ovation they received.
Well, these comments tell you of the highlights, for me, of this fine conference. They will perhaps remind you of some of your own memories and suggest others not mentioned here.
Finally, I believe we can agree that for the success of this convention congratulations should of course go to our President, Eileen Sutherland, and to other of our officers. Most especially do we congratulate and thank James Reicker, Chair of the convention; Lois Handy, in charge of registration; and all the small army of volunteers who helped them. Also, it was good to browse (and buy) in the inviting Book Mart. All the stalls displayed interesting items. Welcome back, Pat Latkin, with your new booklist.
Ottawa is a handsome, spacious city: a great place for a conference. Service at the Chateau Laurier was excellent. And close by is the National Gallery. The building itself is superb, the collection of paintings remarkable in scope and complexity.
So thanks to everybody. Now on to Long Beach, California, and the Queen Mary for the 1992 Annual General Meeting!
Oh, I almost forgot. I want to mention the elderly but spry and very helpful doorman at the Chateau Laurier: an all-around jolly good chap, I’d say.