August 2015 Meeting: The Austen Project

August 22, 2015

Prepared by member Cheng, with thanks to Anna for leading our discussion with a set of useful background notes.

The most noticeable aspect of this month’s topic was that it was not approached with universal enthusiasm. Only one member had dutifully read the three books already published by HarperCollins in their Austen Project (A.P). Most had read one or two and a couple none. Publishers beware: this group has suffered a surfeit of spin-offs.

Naturally, the first question was why is this series being written? As an introduction to Jane Austen for young readers? Or an ego-fuelled literary lark by six best-selling authors invited to write “their own unique take on Jane Austen’s novels”. The discussion of the actual concept behind the A.P. and whether of not it was achieved was far more interesting than the three books.

We agreed that there is a basic necessity to first recognise exactly what a book is about and what drives it before attempting to convert it into a film or a sequel, prequel or spin-off. With Jane Austen there is so much more complexity, insight and depth of emotion to consider than merely the plot.

Class matters – as in any English situation – determines the outlook, actions and lives of all the characters. If you change this in a retelling then you’ve changed far more than the plot. The A.P. gets it glaringly wrong.

The NORTHANGER ABBEY  by VAL McDERMID was voted the least memorable by those who had read it. A home-schooled, Twilight obsessed Cat Morland in Dorset is invited to the Edinburgh Festival by wealthy neighbours and meets the Tilneys, who have a gothic castle on the Scottish Borders. So the book follows the original plot closely and is well written but has nothing new to say. Crucially, the voice in Jane Austen’s work is of such importance that without it this version just doesn’t work. (See review in The Guardian by Jenny Colgan)

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by JOANNA TROLLOPE also sticks to the plot and does successfully take the two sisters into the modern world. The updated characters – Wills the shag-bandit, Nancy Steele and her plastic surgery, Robert Ferrars the gay party-planner, etc. – are amusing reinventions. And Marianne’s asthma and depression are a clever 21st century way of making her illness credible whilst avoiding the darker and deeper turmoil of Jane Austen’s heroine. It was felt that this was the best of the three offerings and Trollope was more comfortable keeping her tale closer to her usual milieu. (See review in The Guardian by Paula Byrne)

McCall Smith, EmmaStrongest disappointment was expressed over ALEXANDER McCALL SMITH’s EMMA, one member averring that it was below par, lacking all subtlety and wasted reading time!

Emma is perhaps the most difficult character to take into the modern world, particularly if the author doesn’t grasp the precise nature of her aloneness, her lack of worldly experience outside the boundaries of a small village and her subsequent development of an over lively imagination. Transposing her into a confident university graduate returning home to Norfolk to run her father’s life and meddle in everyone else’s starts the book on a steep descent into pure satire. We discussed various possibilities for alternative contemporary settings, none completely satisfying. McCall Smith has been quoted as saying that he doesn’t like Emma. Did he focus his attention on her father instead? Eight chapters to introduce him! (Please read Anna Creer’s perceptive review in the Sydney Morning Herald)

Deidre Shauna Lynch, writing on “Sequels” in Jane Austen in Context (p. 160) was quoted :

Never wasting words, practising an exquisite economy … Austen represents in several accounts of the development of the novel the innovator who trimmed away the flab of the form. Yet through a strange twist of fate she appears to be the cause of verbiage in others.

Readers yearning to escape their own terrible times and immerse themselves in an attractive Regency world where men were men and women were fragile have ensured a constant flow of Austen-inspired sequels, prequels, spin-offs and updatings. You-tube and blogging are now almost O.C.D. However, our members were divided over whether the A.P. will really draw younger readers to the ‘true texts’. One thought that in this online, screen-obsessed world, films such as Clueless and the Bollywood Bride and Prejudice are more likely to succeed.

We digressed into trying to recall how many other authors had sequels – will someone in years to come write continuations of Harry Potter? A member quoted Deidre Shauna Lynch again:

Indeed, the history of Austen sequels – and, in particular, the timing of the up-turns in their production – seems to confirm a cynical understanding of sequel writing as the literati’s closest approximation of a get-rich-quick scheme.

The A.P. seems to have come to a crashing halt right now – these three novels were all available as remainders last Christmas.

Will we be re-reading them? No.

After this thought-provoking discussion we tested ourselves with queer quotes and questionable quizzes and confirmed that our topic for September would be Letters in Austen’s novels. We also sent best wishes flying to a couple of members who missed the meeting for health reasons. We hope they’ll be back on board for our next meeting.


August Meeting.

August 10, 2015

The August meeting will be held this Saturday, August 15th, at 1.30pm in the Friends’ Lounge of the National Library of Australia. We will be discussing The Austen Project.


Coming soon to Canberra, a lecture on portraiture in Pride and Prejudice by Professor Will Christie.

July 24, 2015

Professor Will Christie presents: ‘A striking resemblance’: Portraiture in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
in Public Lecture
Date: 12 August, 2015 – 17:30 – 19:30
Venue: National Portrait Gallery, Acton ACT
‘A striking resemblance’: Portraiture in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

In this lecture, Will Christie looks at the role played by the portrait, and by the aesthetics and language of portraiture, in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. He examines how Austen exploited the uncertain status of portrait painting in the 18th century and the ambiguity of ‘ideal imitation’ as championed by art theorists like Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Professor Will Christie is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and President of the Romantic Studies Association of Australasia (RSAA), He was formerly Professor of English Literature and Pro Dean for Research in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney.

In April 2015, Professor Christie moved to the Australian National University, where he is now Head of the Humanities Research Centre. His publications include the award-winning Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Literary Life (2006); among his research projects are a network of Eastern and Western scholars exploring cultural relations between China and the West.

With this public lecture, Professor Christie seeks to introduce himself to residents of Canberra with an interest in the humanities and creative arts.

Further information and registration
‘A striking resemblance’: Download the lecture flyer (441K PDF)
This lecture is free and open to the public

Please register for this event
Please register via Eventbrite
or contact
Colette Gilmour, Humanities Research Centre, ANU
E colette.gilmour@anu.edu.au
T 02 6125 4357


Emma – 200 years of perfection: Report on JASA Weekend Conference 2015, Pt 2

July 15, 2015

For Part 2 of our report on this year’s JASA Weekend Conference, Marilyn and Sue summarised the 7 papers which followed Barbara Seeber’s Jane Austen and Animals (see Report Pt 1).

Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield, Multimedia Emma

Greenfield and Troost, who specialise, among other things, in the study of Austen adaptations, discussed three recent adaptations of Emma – Emma (BBC miniseries, 2009), Aisha (Anil Kapoor Films, 2010), and Emma – Approved (Pemberley Digital VLOG, 2014). They demonstrated how each of these films focus on themes or ideas – materialism, the pursuit of fun, and the idea that life is about being true to oneself – that we don’t find in Emma itself. Cheeriness (often conveyed through bright colour) and fun seem to underpin many of the later Emma adaptations, but in Emma itself, they argued, happiness is seen to be a more tranquil thing.

Most of the recent adaptations of Emma have roots in Clueless, they suggested. And yet, despite identifying differences between Emma and these Clueless-inspired adaptations, Troost and Greenfield said they like Clueless. At question-time, Greenfield suggested that adaptations should not necessarily aim at “coming close to the novel”.

David Norton, Emma and Knightley as lovers: Keeping secrets and telling tales

The secret is out (Illus by CE Brock, 1909, via solitaryelegance.com, presumed public domain)

The secret is out (Illus by CE Brock, 1909, via solitaryelegance.com, presumed public domain)

Norton saw the novel, set in Hartfield (or HEARTfield), as being about what it means to be human and humane.

Emma is, Norton argued, a secretive novel. We must look past Emma’s perspective that beguiles the first time reader, and notice the clues that Austen includes in the text to present the changing relationship between Emma and Knightley. This relationship, and the one between Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill, are hidden from view, with Austen regularly wrong-footing her readers.

In Vol 1, we see Emma and Mr Knightley as old friends. Mr Knightley doesn’t propose to Emma until he’s sure that Emma is not in love with Frank (in Vol. 3). Norton suggested that Emma doesn’t recognise her love for Mr Knightley until Vol. 3. Perhaps, it is in Vol. 3 Ch. 11, when she states that “She saw that there never had been a time when she did not consider Mr. Knightley as infinitely the superior”. Or, it could be Vol. 2 Ch. 8. When Mrs Weston suggests that Mr Knightley is interested in Jane Fairfax, there are three dashes in the first edition (the only three dashes in the novel), “If he really loves Jane Fairfax —” before her denial. What did Austen intend, he asked, by those dashes? Does it indicate a sudden realisation on Emma’s part?

Mr Knightley later clarifies that Jane Fairfax has not the open temperament that he would want in a wife (and which he clearly sees in Emma).

All sorts of red herrings, such as the “blunder” episode, distract the reader but in Vol. 3, their love starts to become apparent – at the Crown Inn ball, and then in Mr Knightley’s gratification that Emma has repented her behaviour to Miss Bates.

The moral of the novel (Vol. 3 Ch. 15): “My Emma, does not everything serve to prove more and more, the beauty of truth and sincerity in all our dealings with each other?”

Susannah Fullerton, Location, location, location

Fullerton proposed that the novel, which is partly about establishing who is “queen” of Highbury, is set in places known for their relationships with royal places. Highbury, itself, is fictitious, but other places mentioned in the novel exist and are places with which Austen was familiar, such as Richmond, Kingston, Brunswick Square, and Brighton. Each of these has a royal association.

Fullerton also pointed to other places in the novel as having relevant associations. Box Hill, for example, was renowned for its scenery and as “a place of debauchery” and is thus a fitting place for the critical scene of the novel to take place. Characters behaved without bounds in this boundless place. Robert Martin meets Harriet in Brunswick Square, which is where the foundling hospital stood in Austen’s days.

The novel is set in changing social times and the restlessness is represented in Highbury, with the rising middle class represented by Mrs Elton , the Coles Mr Perry playing more forthright roles in society.

The setting in Emma is so precise, Fullerton said, that a map of Highbury has been constructed by Dr Penny Gay.

Sayre Greenfield, Words with Austen Pt 1: Emma’s speakers and Austen’s word games

Sayre Greenfield shared some of his research into works that are in the library at Chawton House, showing how they contribute to our understanding of Austen’s world view. For example, riddles and word games feature heavily in Emma. Greenfield pointed us to books and magazines, which show that these were a major form of entertainment for girls and young women of Austen’s time. He discussed the role of these word games in the plot, but also pointed to Mr Knightley’s criticism of Emma to Mrs Weston that:

But I have done with expecting any course of steady reading from Emma. She will never submit to any thing requiring industry and patience, and a subjection of the fancy to the understanding.

For Mr Knightley, games are all well and good, but Emma could do with something more serious!

Another topic that Greenfield explored was that of old maids. He described a book by William Hayley, published in 1785, titled A philosophical, historical, and moral essay on old maids. By a friend to the sisterhood. In three volumes. This description of old maids in one of his chapters sounds very much like Miss Bates:

The curious Old Maid is a restless being, whose insatiate thirst for information is an incessant plague both to herself and her acquaintance; her soul seems to be continually flying, in a giddy circuit, to her eyes, ears, and tongue; she appears inflamed with a sort of frantic desire to see all that can be seen, to hear all that can be heard, and to ask more questions than any lips can utter …

Now, proposed Greenfield cheekily, Hayley defines old maids as women unmarried by their fortieth year, and it just so happens that the unmarried Jane Austen turned 40 the month Emma was published. What was she really wanting to say about “old maids” he asked?

Barbara Seeber, The pleasures (and challenges) of teaching Emma

Seeber commenced her talk by stating that “the politics of gender underpin divided opinions of Jane Austen”. She looked at some of the reasons why students say they don’t like Emma – Emma herself is unlikable, the book lacks a plot, and it’s mostly a romance. She teased them out one by one, particularly in terms of their gender implications.

She discussed the paradoxical value of adaptations in the classroom, noting that they can draw students in but can also derail them from thinking beyond their focus, which is usually “feelings”. This focus is often criticized, she said, as the “Harlequinisation of Austen novels” but denouncing adaptations as Hollywood romanticism, dismissing them as popular culture, buys into the devaluing of women, in that works enjoyed by women are often dismissed as trivial. This is ironic, she argued, because Austen satirizes those who claim themselves above the popular novels (eg Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice, and John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey).

The obvious, and frequent, counter made to the argument that nothing happens in the novels, that they are merely domestic or romantic, is to point to references or allusions to wider issues like the Napoleonic Wars, the slave trade, and the governess trade in Austen’s novels. BUT, Seeber argued, to justify Austen in this way is to undermine the real story of, say, Emma, which is about the achievement of self-awareness and living in the every day. In other words, to justify the value of Austen by pointing to her references to the bigger picture is to undermine the importance of feminine (or more domestic) values.

Linda Troost, Words with Austen Pt 2

Troost focused her second paper on the question of whether Frank Churchill is good guy or “a jerk” and argued, convincingly, that he’s more good than bad. Drawing from both a close analysis of the text and an understanding of human psychology, she suggested that much of Frank’s negative behavior arrives out of his invidious situation than from any real “badness” in his character, and pointed out his positives. He is, after all she said, Mr Weston’s son.

She also, concomitantly, argued that much of Mr Knightley’s criticism of Frank stemmed from – or was at least aggravated by – his jealousy, his belief that Emma was interested in Frank.

David Norton, Miss Bates: A medley in three parts

Norton argued that Emma is the least grammatical of Austen’s novels which reflects the more irrational workings of its characters’ minds, unlike, say, the characters in Pride and Prejudice. He focused his argument on the incessant flow of Miss Bates who, he saw, as a prime revealer of plot and character in the novel. She is self-conscious and her self-questioning invites Emma’s insult at Box Hill. This is similar to the insults which we find amusing in P&P’s Mr Bennet, but Emma’s wit is insolent and unfeeling.

Norton discussed the use of dashes – which create the less grammatical style – in the novel. Sometimes they convey the dashing around of thoughts: Austen punctuates Miss Bates’ speeches with dashes to mark both the rhythm of her speech and frequent change of subject. But the “dash” can also represent “a pause or omission”. It also plays this role in Emma when characters pause before they say something they might regret, or have not fully realised themselves. Austen invites us to consider what could have been said.

Miss Bates, he said, provides a barometer for us of Jane’s feeling and, subliminally, Jane’s relationship with Frank. Miss Bates is poor, but very human, and we respond to her with loving amusement. Harking back to his first paper, Norton concluded that Miss Bates is a brilliant, comic creation who tells the untold story.


Emma – 200 years of perfection: Report on JASA Weekend Conference 2015, Pt 1

July 13, 2015

JASACT decided not meet in July because – lucky us – JASA’s biennial weekend conference was being held in Canberra so, in lieu of our usual meeting report, we are now posting on the conference.

The conference’s first speaker was Barbara Seeber, Professor of English at Brock University, St Catherine’s, Canada. Her topic, Jane Austen and Animals, was drawn from her book of the same name. Today’s post is a brief report on that book because one of our members bought it and has read it over the last week! How good is that. Our second post will comprise brief summaries of the rest of the papers.

Prepared by member Sally.

Animals are everywhere

Barbara K Seeber
Jane Austen and Animals
Ashgate Publishing, Surrey and Vermont, 2013

Paws up who hasn’t thought at some point ‘But there are no animals in Jane Austen’s novels.’ Even my shih tsus complained to me about ‘the lack of dogs in those books you are always reading’ and were hardly mollified when I reminded them about pug and pug’s puppies in Mansfield Park. Fortunately, I am now able to lend them my copy of Barbara K Seeber’s Jane Austen and Animals which I bought after hearing her thought-provoking speech at JASA’s recent conference on Emma, and which reveals that:

Commodified animals are everywhere in Austen, whether as meat, prey, transportation, entertainment, or even decoration … (Preface: x).

Brock ills from Emma

He was very sure there must be a lady in the case (CE Brock, 1909 Dent ed., from solitary elegance.com)

Drawing on animal rights literature, feminist theory (including ecofeminism), arguments about vegetarianism, and other sources, both contemporary to Austen and recent (all helpfully summarized in the introduction), Seeber argues that:

Austen aligns her objectification of nature with the objectification of women and, more specifically, the hunting, shooting, and racing of animals with the domination of women. Austen draws parallels between the position of women and animals, and her uneasy marriage plots critique women’s subordination as part of nature. (p 11)

In separate chapters she then proceeds to examine: 18th and early 19th century animals rights discourses, particularly those linking the treatment of women and animals; Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park in the context of contemporary debates on hunting; the importance of nature through the relationship of Elizabeth and Darcy; the significance of Fanny Price’s love of nature, and the ways in which she is treated variously as slave and animal; and the use of food (and agriculture) to comment on male dominance and social inequities, particularly in Emma. These are just a few examples from Austen’s novels (including the juvenilia) and her letters which Seeber draws on to illustrate her argument. In the final chapter she writes insightfully on the role of nature in the unfinished novel Sanditon and the poem that Austen wrote about the Winchester horse races just two days before she died. Seeber’s conclusion then shows how the representations of hunting in recent film and television adaptations have missed Austen’s point.

And Lady Bertram’s nameless pug(s) finally receives the attention that he or she and his or her puppies deserve, at least from us, if not from their owner.

On one reading, I don’t feel that I have done justice to Seeber’s argument and many insights, but I plan to keep her book within easy reach as I re-read Austen’s novels. So, back to Sense and Sensibility to re-consider tree-loving Marianne and predatory Willoughby and his horses and pointers.


June 2015 meeting: Secondary sources on Emma

June 20, 2015

Emma coversHaving spent our last three meetings discussing Emma, volume by volume, we devoted our June meeting to discussing secondary sources on Emma, with each member, where possible, choosing one source and discussing its main points. We love seeing the different themes different critics or academics explored and, even more so, the very different opinions expressed on some of the characters

Christopher Brooke, Jane Austen: Illusion and reality (1999)
Brooke, our member said, was generally positive about characters that the critics have tended not to be. He sees Mr Knightley as fallible, Mr Woodhouse as fine, and Frank Churchill the hero of the subplot. He argues for example that Mr Knightley’s jealousy of Frank Churchill exposes Mr Knightley’s feet of clay, while Frank Churchill’s sanguinity, easy charm, together with the fact that he had a vision for his future (with Jane) are positive things that can endear the reader to him. He also sees Emma as the perfect daughter.

Brooke’s focus, though, is the two levels of Austen’s novels, the surface and what lies beneath. Our first reading of Emma tends to be superficial as we follow the clues, the way we might in detective fiction. He argues that the deepest bonds in the novel are between Harriet Smith and Robert Martin, and Emma Woodhouse and Mr Knightley, but that these couples aren’t focused on during the book.

The book succeeds, he argues, because we see it through Emma’s mistaken vision, through her fixations.

Susannah Fullerton, A dance with Jane Austen (2012)
Fullerton provides general background on ballroom dancing, clothing, etiquette, which helps us understand the role of balls and dances in the novel. Deirdre Le Faye’s introduction tells us that people would sometimes travel up to 20 miles, involving around four hours travelling, to go to a ball.

It is in the two main dances/balls in Emma that we (though not necessarily Emma herself!) become away of her true feelings. On the first occasion, she reacts with horror when Mrs Weston suggests that Mr Knightley might be interested in Jane Fairfax, and on the second Emma becomes acutely aware of Mr Knightley’s charms (“his tall, firm, upright figure”) when he dances with Harriet Smith to save her from Mr Elton’s insulting refusal to dance with her.

Richard Jenkyns, A fine brush on Ivory: An appreciation of Jane Austen (2004)
Jenkyns presents a very different point of view of Mr Woodhouse from Brooke’s benign one. He sees Mr Woodhouse as a vampire spinning a web to keep Emma close. He, in fact, likens Mr Woodhouse to Mrs Norris in Mansfield Park! Mr Woodhouse has no zest for life, no vitality (he argues, for example, that the shorter the party the better). He is the most successful villain in Austen’s books in terms of getting what he wants. He’s stealthy, adept at “false solicitude”. For example, he uses concern for tiring his servant James as an excuse to keep Emma from going out, but is more than happy to use James to bring his friends to him. His disdain for matrimony is an insult to the memory of his wife. He’s a bloodsucker, and the equivalent of what we’d call today “passive aggressive”. It’s telling that kind, sweet Mrs Weston says no-one but Mr Knightley could put up with him.

Has Emma learnt manipulation from him? We discussed at some length whether we thought Emma manipulative, including how we defined “manipulation”.

Maggie Lane, Growing older with Jane Austen (2014)
Maggie Lane looks at Mr Woodhouse from another point of view, his health. He is described as a ‘valetudinarian’, that is, one who has a concern for health (as against a ‘hypochondriac’ who imagines himself/herself sick.) Lane is more positive about him than Jenkyns, arguing that he doesn’t try to elicit sympathy as Mary Musgrove does in Persuasion.  Perhaps he doesn’t because everyone runs after him!

He restricts daughter’s freedom by his feebleness, but then again his helplessness augments her power. Being a dutiful is good for her public credit. Lane posed an intriguing idea: does Emma’s failure to rebel in any way against her father make her more timid than Fanny Price?

(Another article suggests that Mr Woodhouse might have suffered from hypothyroidism, but we agreed that, even if he did, no-one would have known.)

Bruce Stovel, “Emma’s search for a true friend” in Persuasions, #13, 1991
Stovel argues that the novel is about Emma’s search for a true friend. In the novel’s opening we realise the Miss Taylor had not been Emma’s friend in the real meaning of the word. It had been an employer-employee relationship in which Emma listened to her governess but did “exactly what she liked” (a view Mr Knightlely reiterates later to Miss Taylor/Mrs Weston).  And Emma’s choice, Harriet, is not going to be a true friend either. Harriet idolises her, and Emma behaves more as mentor. Emma realises later in the novel that she should have befriended Jane Fairfax, but for all Jane’s qualities, she doesn’t have the openness desired of a real friend. Emma’s true friend all along is of course Mr Knightley.

Stovel defines friendship as involving mutual support among equals. He also discusses the relationship between marriage and friendship, and quotes two writers admired by Jane Austen: a character in Samuel Richardson’s Sir Charles Grandison says that “marriage is the highest state of friendship that mortals can know”; Samuel Johnson wrote in The Rambler that “marriage is the strictest tie of perpetual friendship”.

Austen plays with the idea of friendship throughout the novel. In the proposal scene, Emma realises that she should listen to Mr Knightley “as a friend” even though she expects what he’s going to tell her will be distressing. Stovel says that at this moment she has finally achieved the “self-denying, generous friendship” she ascribes to herself in the novel’s beginning. The novel ends with the new couple sharing their lives with “a small band of true friends”.

Joseph Wiesenfarth, “The civility of Emma” in Sensibilities, Dec 1995 
(also in Persuasions, #18, 1996)
Wiesenfarth explores Emma as a book about civility, about how to behave like a citizen. He writes:

The task of civility was to create a code of conduct for civilization, which implied the harmonizing of peoples from all walks of life. The code of civility, therefore, had to address both sameness and difference in human nature. Sameness inheres in our instinctual life; difference in our birth, class, rank, and wealth as well as in those individual oddities that we used to call humors.

Stupidity and ignorance are the enemy of civility, which is defined by elegance (“the refinement of civility in our appearance, thinking, feeling, and acting”) and amiability (“sensitivity to the needs of others”). Mrs Elton and Harriet are ignorant and/or stupid in their behaviour but many characters do not evince perfect civility, including Mr John Dashwood, Mrs Churchill. Miss Bates, by contrast, is finely attuned to civility, but Frank shows “no English delicacy towards the feelings of other people”. Emma is ashamed of sharing her conjectures, though is not ashamed of thinking them!

Wiesenfarth explores Emma’s sexuality, suggesting that Emma believes that she has it under control, when in fact she doesn’t. He argues that “civility” must recognise and encompass physical needs like food and sex, and must recognise and balance the “sameness” and “difference” between people.

He says that Emma presents readers, who are not “dull elves”, riddles to solve. We enjoyed discussing the novel’s various “riddles” and the ways in which the characters got so many of them wrong.

Other discussion
Other books read:

  • Cambridge companion to Jane Austen which has a chapter on Emma by John Wiltshire, which the member did not find particularly useful
  • William Dersiewicz’s A Jane Austen education. 

One member said that she noticed on this reading what a clever narrative tool Miss Bates is. Miss Bates gives a lot away, such as how often Frank is around her place! She tells us much, in her patter, about who is where, who is seeing whom.

A member noted that Frank assumed his engagement must be secret. Austen doesn’t explicitly tell us, she felt.

We discussed the tensions regarding status throughout the novel: Harriet, the Coles, Mrs Elton, for example. One member suggested that “class” becomes issue when it starts to change. Emma was happy to raise Harriet up, until Harriet sees herself capable of moving up! Mr Elton thinks he can move up. People will mix across classes, eg at dinner, but will be offended if people don’t know their place (e.g. Mrs Elton calling Mr Knightley, “Knightley”.) One member was interested in Robert Martin’s visit to London when Harriet was staying there with the John Dashwoods. On what (social) basis did they all go out together she wondered.

Business

We discussed next year’s JAFA, and the theme for the day symposium. Member Sally will continue working on this and keep us informed.

The meeting concluded with a fun quiz on dancing and balls in Austen, and the usual sharing of quotes.

There will be no meeting in July, in lieu of the biennial JASA Conference to be held in Canberra.


June 2015 Meeting Reminder

June 19, 2015

Our June meeting takes place on Saturday June 20, at 1.30pm, in the National Library of Australia’s Friends’ Lounge. We’ll be discussing secondary sources on Emma, with each member, where possible, reading and sharing with the group a secondary source of her/his choice.

If you can’t find a source, come anyhow, and join the discussion.

See you there.


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