The Seattle 2001 AGM Program - A Mind Improved


Jane Austen firmly believed in education and constant learning and relearning.  The Seattle 2001 AGM Program will do just that with first-rate general presentations and then smaller, breakout sessions.

  General session speakers include:

·        Carol Ann Medine Keynote Speaker David Selwyn, British author

Games and Play in Austen’s Literary Structures
Published in Persuasions 23 (2001). “Games and Play in Jane Austen’s Literary Structures.” Persuasions 23 (2001): 15-28.
Austen’s treatment of leisure is an increasingly significant aspect of her work.  It provides not only understanding of her subject matter but of her art itself.  The characters’ leisure choices, the illuminating aspect of these choices, will be discussed within the context of larger Regency society.

·        JASNA North American Scholar Jeffrey Nigro, lecturer and enthusiast, Art Institute of Chicago

Estimating Lace and Muslin:  Dress and Fashion in Jane Austen and Her World
Published in Persuasions 23 (2001). “Estimating Lace and Muslin: Dress and Fashion in Jane Austen and her World.” Persuasions 23 (2001): 50-62.
Fashion plays an important, if often unstated, role in Jane Austen’s works and letters.  Her interest in changing styles and her witty and perceptive comments mirrored the complex relationships between French and English fashions and society in her lifetime.  Illustrations will be part of this presentation.

·        Inger Sigrun Brodey, Professor at University of Puget Sound

     Entertaining Grief:  Jane Austen and the Virtuous Victim   Grief figured as a form of entertainment in the "Cult of Sensibility" during the last quarter of the 18th century, in which the tears of the heroine, as well as the readers of sentimental fiction, became an indicator of virtue.  While Jane Austen rejected the extremes of this form, she developed an alternative approach to the entertainment value of grief in her works.

The Breakout Sessions: 

During the three breakout session times, there will be twenty-two speakers from which to choose.  The Seattle planning committee has received numerous proposals from brilliant scholars throughout the world -- all passionate Janeites ready to educate, fascinate and challenge you.  Here’s the list of the speakers and their topics:   

·      Kathleen Anderson – “Uncorsetting Austen:  Sexual Passion and Narrative Structure in the Novels” Austen’s novels boil over with passion.  We, like our fictional counterparts, obtain voyeuristic and sometimes sadistic pleasure from playing Peeping Tom. Follow Austen’s beautiful, eligible, likable women as they travel along the socio-economic grid on their journeys of discovery.

·      Elaine Bander – “Gossip in Jane Austen’s Novels”
Published in Persuasions 23 (2001). “Gossip as Pleasure, Pursuit, Power, and Plot Device in Jane Austen’s Novels.” Persuasions 23 (2001): 118-129.
A pursuit, a pleasure, and often a passion, gossip plays a crucial role in Austen’s work.  As a plot device, informal source of information, or underground support system, the legitimate role of gossip in the novels possesses social and narrative power.

·      Geri Chavis – “Wild Schemes of Pleasure and Pain:  Excursions in Austen’s Courtship Narratives” Excursions of pleasure, trips to places of interest, offer Austen’s characters the opportunity to interact outside the customary restraints of their families.  How they make use of these opportunities in their progress toward successful mating illustrates the subtlety of Austen’s narrative design.

·      Cheryl Bonar Craig – “Getting and Spending:  Conspicuous Consumption in Highbury” Wherever she goes, Jane Austen shops. So do her characters, and their shopping behavior allows us to observe them admiring, evaluating, and acquiring desired objects.  How and what they choose offers insights into their powers of judgment and self restraint, whether applied to goods or to the mates they select.

·      Judith Fiedler – “Lethal Pleasures:  Recreation, Male Bonding and Social Obligation” Jane Austen’s gentlemen, like their real counterparts, eagerly engaged in shooting and hunting, activities which were simultaneously sport, resource utilization, and cherished assertions of privilege.  How they played these roles offers important insights to their characters and social contributions.

·      Marcia Folsom – “I Wish We Had a Donkey:  Pursuing Pleasure in EmmaThe pursuit of pleasure is neither a good in itself nor a suspect activity.  Much depends on the motives of the organizers and participants.  In Emma, activities organized for pleasure can bring joyful richness to life, or can be morally ambiguous, fraught with the potential for inflicting pain.

·      Peter W. Graham – “The Labours of Leisure”  In the leisure class that Austen depicts, pursuit of pleasure takes on moral significance.  Interludes of apparent idleness reveal character and personal values, delineate relationships and build or subvert the sense of community.  In Emma, the dangers of leisure are bluntly exposed.

·      Jack Laney – “Gentlemenly Pursuits:  A Brief Discourse on Snuff, Cravats and Firearms, with Participation from the Audience”  The life of a gentleman in Jane Austen’s world required careful attention to the accouterments of fashion and pleasure.  A rich selection of items necessary to making a proper appearance in Society will be displayed and demonstrated, with hands-on opportunities to practice the essential skills of an aspirant to fashion.

·      Kathryn Shanks Libin – “The Harp in the Barouche:  Musical Courting and Transporting in Jane Austen’s Novels”  Music formed a central tool in a marriageable woman’s battery of accomplishments.  As an emblem of domestic felicity and potential marital harmony, or as a vehicle for expressing sentiment and emotion, it plays an essential part in courtship and the kindling of passion in several of the novels.  Illustrations and performance will demonstrate music in these roles.

·        Juliet McMaster – “Reading Body Language:  A Game of Skill” 
Published in Persuasions 23 (2001). “Reading Body Language: A Game of Skill.” Persuasions 23 (2001): 90-104.
Jane Austen’s characters spend much time reading minute physical signals, such as the blush, the sigh, the downcast look, and the intercepted glance.  In a society in which many topics are out of bounds for discussion, the ability to decode body language becomes an important tool in solving the mysteries of relationships between the novels’ troubled protagonists.

·        Rachele Oriente – “What the Librarian Knew:  The Circulating Library and the Pursuit of Reading in Jane Austen’s Novels”  The circulating library was the place to gather, to converse, to see and be seen, to buy "all useless things"; an index to the Social Register of the community.  Jane Austen’s life, as well as her novels, provides insights into the roles of the libraries and the ladies who patronized them.

·        Sally Palmer – “I Prefer Walking:  Jane Austen and the Pleasantest Part of the Day” 
Published in Persuasions 23 (2001). “‘I Prefer Walking’: Jane Austen and the Pleasantest Part of the Day.” Persuasions 23 (2001): 154-165.
Austen’s most decisive and dramatic scenes occur outdoors.  For her protagonists, walking is vital for health, for forming and maintaining social relationships, for honoring natural beauty and solitary reflection.  Her admirable characters enjoy and appreciate such simple pleasures.  Dislike for exercise and the open air signals moral imperfection.

·        Keiko Parker – “Who Could Ever Be Tired of Bath:  Bath as the Leisure Center in Jane Austen’s Novels 
Published in Persuasions 23 (2001). “‘What Part of Bath Do You Think They Will Settle In?’: Jane Austen’s Use of Bath in Persuasion.” Persuasions 23 (2001): 166-176.
Jane Austen cleverly used the topography of Bath in her novels.  Slides and maps will portray the city and its environs, as seen through the eyes of the author and her characters, their movements and activities.

·        Mollie Sandock – “‘I Burn with Contempt for My Foes’ Jane Austen’s Music Collections and Women’s Lives in Regency England” 
Published in Persuasions 23 (2001). “‘I Burn with Contempt for my Foes’: Jane Austen’s Music Collections and Women’s Lives in Regency England.” Persuasions 23 (2001): 105-117.
Music was important to Jane Austen.  She played the piano every morning, and sang to her own accompaniment.  Songs she sang, collected, and laboriously transcribed shed light on women’s lives and on the ideological debates of her day.  Their words add to our understanding of Jane Austen’s worlds.

·        Paula Stepankowsky and Marian LaBeck – “Pictures of Imperfection:  Gilray, Rowlandson, and the Golden Age of Caricature”  As Jane Austen did in words, the caricaturists of her time looked beneath the surface to chronicle a society on the brink of Social and Industrial Revolution.  Displays of prints, publications and artifacts of the time illustrate what intrigued and captivated Jane Austen and her contemporaries.

·        Bruce Stovel – “Jane Austen and the Pleasure Principle” 
Published in Persuasions 23 (2001). “Jane Austen and the Pleasure-Principle.” Persuasions 23 (2001): 63-77.
Harmony, not sacrifice or conflict, prevails in Jane Austen’s works.  Her novels trace the progression of her characters from the single-minded pursuit of a shallow pleasure to the greater happiness of love and moral reform.  The progress of this transformation is the subject of Jane Austen’s comic vision.

·        Nora Stovel – “Every Savage Can Dance:  Choreographing a Courtship” 
Published in Persuasions 23 (2001). “‘Every Savage Can Dance’: Choreographing Courtship.” Persuasions 23 (2001): 29-49.
The mating-dance aspects of courtship are demonstrated as they play out through the formal etiquette of ladies and and gentlemen at private balls, impromptu dances, and public assemblies.  The patterns of the dance parallel the progress of Jane Austen’s couples to their ultimate resolution in happy marriage.

·        June Sturrock – “Scampering about the Countryside: Austen’s Pedestrian Heroines”  Austen’s intelligent young women share many of the aesthetic preferences of the Romantic Period.  For them, walking can suggest "liberty, perfect liberty", a concern for freedom contrasted to the restricted and enclosed lives of  "ideal women" praised by earlier writers.  Cartoons and paintings of the period portray these characteristic differences.

·        Constance Walker – “The Steventon Theatricals:  Jane Austen’s Prologues and Epilogues”   Jane Austen’s family delighted in home theatricals, and her brother James wrote verses to open and close many of these performances.  The literary taste and sense of humor which enlivened these activities influenced the development of Jane Austen’s early work.

·        Nora Walker and Pamela Whalan – “Choosing the Man:  Heroic Husband or Lustful Lover”   The male characters in Austen’s novels are worthy of examination and comparison.  Are the virtuous too dull to be attractive?  Do the villains have anything to recommend them?  With appropriate passion, in point/counterpoint, the virtures and vices of selected characters will be discussed.

·        Juliette Wells – “Profitable and Purposeful Performances:  Austen’s Accomplished Woman”   The most sympathetic heroines in the novels must play music or sketch in watercolor, both to amuse themselves and to entertain their companions.  But these women are not generally acclaimed for their accomplishments.  It is suggested that Austen firmly resists her culture’s ideal because of the personal, rather than social, nature of these activities.

·        Barbara Wieskamp – “The Dangers of the Ball”   An element of perversity threatened the ball, which brought together people from a variety of classes, backgrounds, and moralities.  Austen creates an atmosphere of foreboding around all her dance scenes, using the settings to educate her heroines about the dangers and unpleasant realities of the world.

Most of our presenters are university professors and experienced Austen scholars. The program has been chosen to cover a wide range of interests. Sessions may include music, slides, demonstrations, and involve audience participation.   The session mix runs from academic, literary analysis to more informal lifestyle/background discussions, although all are grounded in the work of Jane Austen.  A 15-minute question and answer period will follow each presentation. 

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