The weekend after returning from the Woolf conference in Vancouver, I attended a meeting of my local chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA). We don’t have local or regional chapters of the International Virginia Woolf Society (IVWS); JASNA has a membership of around 4,000, IVWS 400, so it’s understandable.
But it’s not about size, I’m not trying to compare the two groups. They’re different but complementary–I’ve read Woolf papers about Austen and Austen papers about Woolf. Woolf reminds us of our debt to Austen.
I’ve never attended a JASNA annual conference, so I was fascinated to read through the program for the upcoming meeting this September in Minneapolis. Plenary speakers and breakout sessions cover literary, historical, theoretical and sociological viewpoints — “The Law of Inheritance in Jane Austen’s Time” and “Mothers and Other Strangers: Images of Motherhood in Pride and Prejudice,” and “Ladies’ Magazines of the Regency Period” are a few examples–as well as the nods to popular culture: we grappled with the impact of “The Hours,” while Austen scholars and readers consider the movie adaptations of the novels plus “The Lizzie Bennett Diaries,” Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Death Comes to Pemberley, and more sequels and spinoffs than you can imagine.
But I was particularly captivated by the hands-on workshops being offered: English country dancing; crocheting a reticule or knitting a wrist cuff; Jane Austen note cards; bonnets, tams & ribbon headpieces.
We have fun at Woolf conferences, but are we missing something? In fact, it came up at the planning meeting for next year’s conference in Chicago when Paula Maggio showed her Mrs. Dalloway shoes and Elisa Kay Sparks mentioned her WWWD (What Would Woolf Do) bracelets. Woolfians may get to show their crafty side yet! And if the Janeites can have whist tournaments, why not lawn bowls for us?
Woolf said of Austen: “The balance of her gifts was singularly perfect. Among her finished novels there are no failures….” With that in mind, it’s time to reread Pride and Prejudice in honor of its 200th birthday and pay homage to our and Woolf’s foremother.
- Meet the Jane Austen obsessives (telegraph.co.uk)
- Jane Austen expected to appear on the next £10 note, Sir Mervyn King suggests (thetimes.co.uk)
- guardian tecnologia: New website displays celebrities of Jane Austen’s youth (guardian.co.uk)