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Dear Friends and Readers,

Izzy and I arrived home safely last night around 10:30 pm (Daylight Savings Time still); we both had our deeply gratifying moments, and happy times and conversation we'll try to remember for a long time to come.   As the title of this JASNA was Jane Austen and the Abbey, and its topics Northanger Abbey, the gothic, and Henry Tilney, I can do no better than offer a still from the 2007 Granada Northanger Abbey (Andrew Davies, the writer) of J.J. Feilds as Henry Tilney driving Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland into the pretend Abbey (Castle Lisemore, Ireland):

On the bridge crossing over:

This is just one woman's account of what I saw and heard. 

Izzy and I arrived after a long plane ride (from 10:20 am to 7:20 pm, Washington time); we took the lite train into the hotel, a vast tall two-towered enormous building. We managed to check in, get to our room, unpack, and rush out to register by 6:00 pm Portland time. 

Then it was time for me to find the Burney people as I had already missed the day's sessions and reception, and did not want to miss anything of the dinner and talk afterwards. Happily the women at the JASNA AGM reception desk were able to find out that drinks and dinner were across the street, in another tower of the hotel, down in the lowest level. 

I went over and found myself among friends I had made at EC/ASECS and ASECS and online; they welcomed me and by the time the dinner was over I had met a small group of new people, heard the history of the Burney society (given by the president, Paula Stepankowsky, telling of its inception to the present time, and of all the accomplishments, as for example, the plaque in the Abbey), and I was cheered by the good feeling emanating at all 6 tables.  I talked Marilyn Francus at the Burney dinner; I finally met Elaine Bander in person; I talked again with Jocelyn Harris (who just flies about the earth -- she had come from London, been to NY, and now was in Portland, soon to go to Otago, New Zealand again); her student, Janine Barchas was giving a paper on historical context for NA..  I don't remember what I ate, only that I drank scotch and ginger ale and looked forward to the Burney society conference for half the next day.

Izzy had found herself supper at a local McDonald's, wandered around Portland a bit, and was ready for bed. I stayed up late reading Winston Graham's Memoirs of a Private Man which should rather have been called Memoirs of a Socially networking financially successful writer.

The next morning she had a ticket to the continental breakfast downstairs, and I didn't.  But I was allowed in and both of us had croissants and orange juice, and I had coffee.  The breakfast was held in a room not nearly enough to accommodate even half the people to the conference (said to be 690).  There I encountered Diana for the second time in our lives. Izzy's plan was to watch ice-skating on her computer for about an hour, go to a large session occurring in the Grand Ballroom whose topic was Henry Tilney, and then to an hour and one-half of dance workshop which would have helped her do the dances on Saturday night.  She did all that.

As for me, I first chaired a panel at the Burney society.  The topic was "Real Terror" in Burney's grotesque gothic. Marie Thompson spoke about how grotesque realities were represented in the novel of Frances Burney and Charlotte Smith. Prof. Galperin (he of Historical Austen) and Marie Thompson had two different sets of texts, mostly all Burney and all Charlotte Smith; he Evelina and Northanger Abbey, and Prof Galperin once again differing. Both speakers praised the gothic as a mode women could use to communicate their real lives through and to one another. I noticed and said both papers show that there was a pivotal shift in the way gothic was understood and presented in the later 1780s into late in the French regency. Miss Thompson concentrated on particulars in the texts of Burney and Smith: she showed that Smith has many a female harridan and Burney's older women are often destructive, that Burney's characters are complex and don't fit preconceptions about communities of women nor the female gothic; she discussed a concept I found in other papers: the domestic gothic, how ordinary life holds terrors.  Prof Galperin showed the strongly pro-patriarchal strain that comes through in Evelina and NA; Henry Tilney and Lord Orville will carry on the patriarchy; Prof Galperin's larger purpose was to break down genre distinctions so that the gothic is the real.

A gatehouse with a lodging place for servants to live, a lead-in to the privileged spot Austen is not going to want to give up. What more can she need her Emma might have asked.

The plenary lecture by Cynthia Wall was called "The Impress of the Invisible." What she wanted was to show us how readers are led to ignore the typical gatehouse and nearby parking lodge as simply the introduction to the actual luminous cards.  The gatehouse and parking lodge are far more than this. They kept being built to give prestige, status and impose an aristocratic ordering and set of values (as in the train shuttle).  She showed how Park Gates when say X is pulled over for a license, he hasn't got a chance of anyone believing he didn't do it.  These are buildings which uphold the establishment.

Prof Wall went over several different texts picking out passages which includes the characters going through these gates and lodges and coming up the long progressive path to the mansion:  from Pilgrim's Progress to Mysteries of Udolpho to Northanger Abbey, from Mansfield Park to Camilla.

What I most enjoyed about the lecture were all Prof Wall's slides showing so many parking lodges, gatehouses, massive gates at the opening of Portsmouth; all meant for ostentatious display yet often a poor miserable wretched person would be living in the private ones.

A modern ruin

There was much talk afterward on these two papers and also on the gothic as it had emerged in the session in general. Again the idea that the gothic in these papers had become indistinguishable from the real was pointed out. I remembered that in the Landmark Trust catalogue there are numerous lodges and gatehouses, and that Jim and I had stayed in a hunting Lodge which had a vast bed in an alcove with a mirror about the bed. this was a place a great duke kept his mistress. A 15th gatehouse in Devon now sports the Jacobean ceiling once in a mansion.  Nowadays the lodge has the prestige elements in it. 

Afterward (when all had gotten up and were standing about, going off, having coffee &c&c), I introduced myself to and talked with Juliet McMasters at the Burney meeting, telling her how much I had admired her work all these years, including the book on Trollope. She said she had an interest in Thackeray too -- I knew that but don't know Thackeray that well. 

Then this really pleasant time and group of people merged into the larger JASNA.  I enjoyed the small time I had just as much as I had enjoyed their lectures at the EC/ASECS last autumn and mean in 2011 when I hope to go to the NYC JASNA AGM to go early enough to participate in the whole of the Burney society conference. I wish I could give a paper.  It'd have to be on the diaries for these are what I like in Burney.

Well it was near 1, time for the welcoming address to JASNA and the first plenary lecture by Stephanie Barron.  Izzy and I met in our room, went out to grab a hot dog for her and a banana and coffee for me, and then hurried back to go to the Grand Ballroom for the first time.  An enormous number of people were in that room, and within the limits that no one could be there who couldn't afford it in some way (the average cost must've been about $1500 for 3-4 days), they were varied in type, from academic and professional (lawyers, business people) to Austen readers, to people dressed up in 18th century costume they had either gone to a lot of trouble to sew themselves and/or expense to buy. Everyone attempted to be friendly with everyone else.  The first plenary at this Austen AGM was by the author, Stephanie Barron who has grown fairly independent by writing mysteries with Jane Austen as a major character in them.

Stephanie Barron looked youngish and pleasant.  Her talk consisted of aligning story lines in Austen's P&P and NA with story lines in her and other mystery stories fitted against categories drawn from mystery outlines as described in the popular presss or reviews.  She was turning Austen into modern mysteries this way.  At one point during the question time afterward (some inane) Izzy grew restless and asked me why we were sitting there. Barron did have a basic honesty.  Apparently her latest book has Byron's name in its title and he appears; she told us she had not read Byron's letters (not even apparently a selection) and recommended an older biography written in the 1930s which she had just read. She does a minimum of research it would seem.  She also revealed something of her original inspiration or idea: she reads Austen's letters until she come across  an incident which lends itself to modern women's romances; then she makes up a full-blown mystery out of that using elements from the famous six novels.  She likes to have other marquee characters. I noticed that the title of her first book resembled that of Sayer's Unpleasantness at the Bellona ClubJane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor.  I can't help seeing that the typical double title resembles the titles of the Bobbsey Twin or Nancy Drew series.

In the 1987 NA a statue of a woman broods over Catherine Morland in the Abbey room; she is the missing mother, the woman whose loss Eleanor Tilney longs for

Then it was time for the break-out sessions and mine came first. Its new title is "People that marry can never part: An intertextual reading of Northanger Abbey. I read the book in the context of Genlis's Countess of C********** and two other gothic tales from Adele et Theodore; Charlotte Smith's Montalbert, a powerful enthralling gothic with patterns and attitudes that resemble Austen's ow;, Anne Fuller, The Convent, or the History of Sophia Nelson, a startling eye-opener as it satirizes to many books; finally Margaret Atwood's Lady Oracle, written with NA in mind. I 'read" Northanger Abbey in the context of a different set of gothics than is common: through the lens of French texts, real life cases, and little known and modern anti-gothics. My aim was to read Northanger Abbey against a fuller backdrop of the gothic, to explore and defend the gothic, especially those called "female" and those which feature younger sons. Among my points is the argument that coerced into nunnery tales are not about sexual violation but the confiscation of a woman's life.  Imprisonment motifs reveal the wife abuse of the era as well as behavior that comes close to the torture of being a hostage (living in solitude, dependent on a cruel person, in the dark &c&c).  I'll say no more until it's published by Persuasions (or rejected), except that the paper went over very well:  it was well-received in the room, and I was thanked by several people over the course of the next two days: either they were there and enjoyed the paper, or they had been told by someone else I had done an excellent paper. This made me feel so good.

In addition, that the next day I was chuffed to discover that among the last papers give was Gillian Dow's paper where Dow made the same central point: as I: Genlis's Duchess of C******** was a primary source for NA. I no longer can make precise shorthand forms nor quickly but just attest to how forceful, vigorous and confident many younger women are today. In her session she had all the "important" people there. Gillian rightly emphasized how quickly English works were translated into French and vice versa; she mentioned the women writers whose novels I've worked on a lot: Sophie Cottin, Germaine de Stael.  Genlis wrote 17 novels. She added a detail I hadn't noticed:  Mrs Tilney died 9 years ago in the novel; so the Duke of C********* imprisons his wife for 9 years.  She did come over to me later on that night to talk and say she understood how close to hers is my work and we should pool energies. I shall write her briefly before the end of the week. She said to watch out for a conference in Chawton in July on other 18th and 19th century women. I could write about Smith at long last. I have to email her soon.

In the 2007 NA, Felicity Jones as Catherine, deeply distressed to discover she has been tricked into standing up the Tilneys and cannot jump out of the carriage as John Thorpe just laughs and makes the horses go faster

After Gillian's talk I and Izzy went to hear Elvira Casal's talk on courtship and deception in NA. She had a big enough crowd in her room and spoke clearly and in an easy to understand talk style. It was like being in a classroom. As opposed to most of the talks which were about context, genres, archetypes, placing Austen amid other women's novels (Helena Maria Williams's Julia, for example), Elvira sensibly analyzed the motives and behavior of John Thorpe and Henry Tilney and showed us why Henry so valued Catherine (for her honesty, generosity of spirit) and how Catherine asserted herself to chose (wisely) what she wanted and reject what she (rightly) didn't.  Hers was a humane reading of the novel, about how people construct lies to control what's happening around them and to control others.

I took few notes so this brief resume of a few papers and what I remember of Juliet McMasters' and Jeff Nigro's lecture on Regency Gothic dress in the era and in today's films will comprise the rest of the scholarly or bookish/art content I can contribute as a record of what happened. I feel morally persuaded (and from what I remember) Mr Nigro's talk was excellent.  Alas it came so late at night I couldn't take much of it in; Izzy said she drowsed. The one comment (with stills) I remember best is his assertion (probably true) that along with hair-, women's costumes are often far more modernized than the men's costumes in film adaptation.  There seems to be a feeling that it's necessary to please the woman viewer by giving her images of herself to identify with in the film, while it is not necessary to please men this way.  Perhaps film-makers believe few men watch or identify.  At supper tonight Jim said he had wondered why in the era men wore these terrifically high and uncomfortable collars; they didn't add to your looks; you had other clothing items to make you look exclusive.  Corsets flatter women's bodies in ways they want: when Isabel put one in at the JA Museum in Bath, we laced her up and then put a mid-18th century dress on her, she did look lovely. On the other hand, until recently too in film adaptations male actors were trussed up all around their necks until they could barely move their heads easily and they did not look any better for it.

The high point of the conference for me that others can perhaps join in on was Juliet McMaster's lecture, which was basically a meditation on the "holy fool" nature of Catherine Morland's character who has "wisdom in simplicity."  She began by talking of how Claudia Johnson and other academics often downgrade the importance of character's personalities; Prof McMasters wanted to show that responding deeply to characters the way we can respond to people can be a valid guide for seeing into the author's larger purpose and meaning of her book.  She showed us how Catherine Morland makes "holes" in our imagination and how we care deeply about what happens to her. She cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible; she acts out of a refreshing honesty. Henry's jaded dullness is rejuvenated by Catherine; he needs her.  It could be that Isabella Thorpe's mercenary and corrupted behavior influences Catherine's, but it does not (as Emma is not hurt by Frank Churchill). That carriage ride by Thorpe is an abduction but it's not the body that's emphasized, rather Catherine's mind he tries to attack.  Catherine is suggestible, can be colonized, but she is fundamentally too good to be alienated and maintains her own space. Prof McMasters suggested Catherine's reading of Udolpho saved her from Isabella; she is so absorbed in her books and her own values, they can't touch her.  I love how Prof McMasters ended her lecture; it was on how Catherine under the tutelage of Elinor turns from gothics to the natural world and learns to love a hyacinth and Henry's response (my epigraph for this blog):  we can never have too many holds on happiness.  During the course of the hour, Prof McMasters quoted Wordsworth, Keats, and ideas about the romantic imagination.  These writers also used the gothic as a form of awakening in their poetry. I have left out much that she said as part of her line of argument, but hope I have done justice enough to this moving talk.

Of course I really loved the meeting with friends, the overtly or directly social activities of the conference.  Diana Birchall had organized a lunch at South Park restaurant. There I met with a few friends on Austen-l and Janeites and now Women Writers through the Ages who I had been writing to for years now.  Two of the women were just beautiful (physically -- how I feel my age!), and one was so generous as to give Izzy advice on what to do with her career (hoped for) as a novelist.  She and Diana told Izzy her Cinderella story (the only one she has on the Net) is superb and she must finish it.  I met Arnie Perlstein who is a nice guy at this lunch. Izzy did take pictures with her camera and maybe we'll figure out how to put them on this blog, but in the meantime here's one of the general talk I filched from Diana's blog:

You glimpse Cindy Jones, and see Christy Somers, Katherine McCormack, Ted Adams, Izzy and me

We went to the social hours and I drank and chatted away.  We bought books at the Emporium, including a graphic novel version of Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho, Austen's Northanger Abbey, and Sheridan LeFanu's Carmilla (all in one book). Diana and I managed to steal an hour and go to the gigantic Powell's bookstore. It's sort of overwhelming and we all bought a book (Izzy one by Terry Pratchett, Diana one on ballet and ballerinas, me Nuala O'Faolain's posthumous Best Love, Rosie.  We (Izzy and I) went out to a lovely Italian restaurant one night and had a good meal and I drank.  We went to the ball, dressed up: Izzy in a white lace dress, and me in my black velvet one with the big black satin bow at the back.  I did get two people to dance with me even if I hadn't gone to the workshops and managed to go up and down the line twice.  I hope I did not make a fool out of myself and look too ridiculous for I was not in costume the way most of them dancing were.  I did drink, gentle reader, scotch and ginger ale when I could get it, wine when I could not.  This helped on the night of the banquet when Isabel found the excitement and tension of the four days had been too much and had to go upstairs early. I saw some people at that table were made uncomfortable; to my mind, they were intolerant over a couple of minutes' difficulty and I should have ignored them but did not.  I was trying for Izzy's sake to persuade her to stay and dance as I knew she wanted to.

We did love the Wild Rose Garland dancers at the Portland museum. They did gestures which reminded me of Lancashire cloth-making and the instruments were folk, original, 19th century. The dancers were delicate and authentic. The museum has some lovely 19th to early 20th century American art.  There were at least two other mother-daughter pairs at the JASNA, and we sat with one:  Miriam Rheingold Fuller (whose Domestic Gothic in NA I heard) and her daughter: both in costume.  We walked by ourselves through the museum and then back to the hotel and then out again to dinner at a nearby good Italian restaurant.

Of course part of this socializing is meeting and talking with people whose names you never learn or who tell you their names but you know little else but the talk is fun because there's a shared interest and nothing fraught, nothing going or resting on it, disinterested.  I talked with one gentleman with a bow-tie twice at breakfasts and then discovered he was one of those who owned one of the book stalls. I talked with a woman who will be organizing the NYC AGM and she explained why it costs so much to do power point presentations and so why one is discouraged from doing this sort of thing -- though if it's justified they can be done. I talked with the people running the book stalls.  One woman recommended a new Tracy Chevalier.  I met up with people from our JASNA-DC group during the large meetings in the ballroom.  I met the curator of the Jane Austen Chawton cottage at the banquet.  Unfortunately, I forgot to ask her name, but found myself inquiring whether she was a museum or Jane Austen person. She replied both.  At the end of Elvira's talk I came up and re-introduced myself and we chatted as two friends. I spoke with Mary Margaret Benson while the dancing on Saturday night went on. I thanked her for allowing me to register Izzy late and helping us out in all sorts of ways. She and her team made it all possible -- and for so many people.

Why do people go to conferences? Not really to hear the thoughts of the papers, because eventually many get into print. You go to be validated; to talk to people in your community like yourself.  To share feelings and thoughts.  The conversations on the bus (in this case trolley-cars and bus shuttles).  You are among your particular tribe.  A tribe not linked by genes or biology.  Perhaps this accounts for my worst moment.   While listening to Prof McMaster's opening, a woman came to sit next to me.  She was one of the many in Regency costume.  She did differ from most of these by the perfection of her outfit. From head to toe she was dressed in impeccable later 18th century clothes; everything she had matched, from a partly rose-colored reticule to a spotless part-white dress.  She had regency shoes she had made.  Reader, she made me very uncomfortable. She took out of a thin bag a kind of cardboard figure which she proceeded to knot or knit at.  What was uncanny is that if she had been an 18th century lady, she'd have never been that clean or done such an act in a public lecture. It was entirely incongruous with her chair, with the lecture itself, with the year 2010.  Sometimes too she sat there so still. I doubted she was hearing the lecture. I felt very alien from this woman:  there seemed a kind of madness about the way at one point she ostentatiously took out a pair of fragile knitted gloves and put them on and off with a slight movement of her body. She did want people to see her, to pay attention.  For her the procession and parade at the banquet must be a must-do. Yet beyond the absurdity of her behavior and apparent consistency of dress, she had no corset on. Most of the women I saw wore no corset. These 18th century styles are not flattering to even young women unless they wear a corset; they are set up for corsets; modern taste does not idealize fecundity and in any case middle-aged women have (to put it tactfully) had it (more on the lack of laced corsets in my comments).

To turn back to the matter of the conference, the thing shared (here Austen and her era):  if nothing original, you hear a lot of development and get the feeling of what people are thinking and feeling this year, and this year we are all pro-gothic.  For Prof McMasters the gothic is an awakening experience; for many the other side of the real.  You are in for conning of course (maybe not so much in a JASNA but in some conferences where there is intense competition) and have to figure out what's valuable and what hype, what personal aggrandizement sheerly and what of genuine interest

Then there is the occasional great moment:  the illuminating paper, film, encounter. For me this time the moment was the close of Juliet McMasters' paper and hearing & seeing that Gillian Dow had come to precisely the same conclusions I had and facing up to how she had put it across much more persuasively than I had and appreciating why and how.


P.S. Gentle reader, about 4 months ago now my ability to get down the form of Pitman stenography precisely and quickly as people speak went from me.  It takes me too much time to make the forms clear; if I try to do it quickly, they don't come out right. I can try to make them bigger and then they come out clearly but that too takes time. Meanwhile the person is talking on. I have lost my hand-eye coordination when I write in long hand-writing too nowadays: my forms don't come out the way I mean them to, letters disjointed, the wrong ones sometimes.  So from here on in only the jists of talks and what I can remember.  

Year chases Year, Decay pursues Decay,
Still drops some Joy from with'ring Life away...
                ---Samuel Johnson


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 2nd, 2010 05:44 am (UTC)
Arnie Perlstein on Austen-L
From Arnie's posting:

The 2010 JASNA AGM is now complete, and I am headed out of Portland after a lovely long weekend which provided the Austen fix that every genuine obsessive Janeite requires now and again to carry us through the year. The Portland AGM team, so ably staged by Mary Margaret Benson, Frank McClanahan, Susan Schwartz, and numerous others, was a huge success in every way. Most important of all, the quality of the presentations was very high, and I both enjoyed all the 5 breakout presentations I attended, and also regretted not being able to attend another 10 which were in scheduling conflict with the others or with my own. It is a reflection of the vitality of JASNA that there is such hot competition for the coveted
privilege to give an AGM presentation, and I am so happy that I finally got a chance to do so, and had it turn out well.

I hope that my talk about Mrs. Tilney's mysterious fever will be included in the next Persuasions, but even if not, I will be including an expanded version of my talk in my book, so sooner or later it will be out there for all to see.

Although I enjoyed all the plenary addresses, my personal favorite was the one given by Juliet McMasters, which was her usual blend of profound insight based on encyclopedic Austenian knowledge; witty self-deprecating humor; and poetic whimsy and charm. My breakout session happened, by serendipity, to immediately precede mine, and so I was thrilled when the last significant point she made in her address was that Catherine NEVER tells Henry any of the details of her Gothic fantasy about General Tilney's murderous actions. That was the perfect lead-in to my presentation, because that is an integral textual detail which undergirds
my own interpretation of Mrs. Tilney's death in childbirth. So I was very lucky that Juliet's insight was still ringing in the ears of all the AGM attendees when I gave my talk.

Of all the breakout sessions I attended, my personal favorite was Janine Barchas's presentation about "The Real Bluebeard of Bath: A Historical Model for Northanger Abbey". Of all those besides myself doing cutting edge Austen scholarship these days, no one is doing it better than Janine. She announced that she has a book coming out which I am certain will be a
revelation to all Janeites interested in her kind of creative
historical/literary sleuthing. Her book surely will include expansions of her articles about the Hellfire Club and Sir Francis Dashwood and also her geographical analysis of Bath as embedded in Northanger Abbey.

Anyway, her talk, when aligned alongside mine, demonstrated very dramatically how Jane Austen LAYERED her covert allusions. Her talk included the identification of a real life Bluebeard with real life memorials to the dead, and puns on directionality, and SO DID MINE--except we were talking about completely independent real life sources! ...
Nov. 2nd, 2010 08:11 am (UTC)
Complementary conference views
Wonderful Ellen's-eye view of the conference. A few comments:

I do hope you will propose a talk for the Burney in 2012, how perfect that would be!

Have you seen Stephanie Barron's manifesto on the Sutherland thing: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/stephanie-barron-defends-jane-austen-at-conference_b15547

It's Juliet McMaster. No S.

In the "filched" picture (grin), that's Kathleen McCormack on the left. She's been on Janeites for years, too.

"You are among your particular tribe." How true. It is a tribe, for good or bad, and gives us a sense of belonging.

We are in deep agreement about Gillian Dow. Her abilities are breathtakingly impressive.

Glad Isobel is going to finish the Cinderella story.

Nov. 2nd, 2010 11:34 am (UTC)
Portland in Oregon not Maine!
I was writing this blog at 1 in the morning after a long day of many tasks (including reading, commenting on and grading at least 25 student papers). On Facebook I put Portland in Maine when it's in Oregon.

So Mike wrote:

"I saw "Portland" and at first I thought, "Portland OR" and "Dang, she's going there without me!" But, too bad, it was just "Portland ME." (Although, story is that "Portland OR" was named after "Portland ME" by its first mayor. IIRC, the toss-up was between "Boston" (MA) and "Portland" (ME). "Boston OR" just doesn't have the right sound. All in the flip of a coin."

Then Diana:

(Confused) But it IS Portland OR!


Okay, maybe I'm even more confused than might be thought possible; I thought EM posted earlier that she was back from Portland ME. Maybe a typo ... or reader error. Anyway, I'm from PDX and most of my family lives there.


Yes, the conference was in Oregon! I climbed the Astoria Tower, ate at Voodoo Doughnuts, and visited my friend's beaver dam in Beaverton. Does that convince you?


-) but wait, now that's ;-( I miss those evergreen forests here in CT, land of the mud-brown winter.

To which I replied the next morning:

My excuse must be I wrote that blog between midnight and 2 am -- after a long day which included reading and commenting on and grading at least 20 student essays, to say nothing of scores of short answers. Why I wrote Maine I can't think. Only I can't find where I put Maine. I didn't know Mike's family was in Portland Oregon. He nows lives in CT. Ellen
Nov. 2nd, 2010 11:46 am (UTC)
My first AGM
From Christy:

"Dear All,

My first AGM time was so preciously wonderful....and connecting with all of those uniquely energied "fleshy envelopes" of animation and charm has made this extension into the more completely 3D-reality of Janeite friendship and admiration infinitely more satisfying.

I'm determined to simply reserve this part of the year as often as is possible for this enriching opportunity for 'family' celebration of Jane Austen......our collectively-spiritual sister in life and art.

Thank You Diana, for everything that added added to those special touches around all of this new experience....and the super blog updates and photos are just terrific! It was such a real treat and memorable keeper to hear Arnie, Ellen and Diana speaking your JA's NA perspectives live and in color.~~~:-)

And to all the other lovely Janietes I met and spoke with....if there is the tiniest chance for that 'past lives' business being even a little bit so....I've known you all in dearest friendship in another life~~~~:-)

Christy, who is now planning to convince her -so often the most patient of husbands, Fritz- that the drive to Fort Worth, Texas doesn't seem so very far~~~:-)

And here's a little interesting something:


Nov. 2nd, 2010 01:18 pm (UTC)
Margaret Atwood's The Nature of the Gothic
What more appropriate than another by Atwood on

"The Nature of the Gothic"

I show you a girl running at night
among trees that do not love her
and the shadows of many fathers

without paths, without even
torn bread or white stones
under a moon that says nothing to her.
I mean it says: _Nothing_.

There is a man nearby
who claims he is a lover
but smells of plunder.
How many times will he have to tell her
to kill herself before she does?

It's no use to say
to this girl: You are well cared for.
Here is a safe room, here
is food and everything you need.

She cannot see what you see.
The darkness washes towards her
like an avalanche. Like falling.
She would like to step forward into it as if
it were not a vacancy
but a destination,
leaving her body pulled off
and crumpled behind her like a sleeve.

I am the old woman
found always in stories like this one,
who says, _Go back, my dear_.

_Back_ is in to the cellar
where the worst is,
where the others are,
where you can see
what you would look like dead
and who wants it.

Then you will be free
to choose. To make
your way.

Nov. 2nd, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
Dancing the night away
Dear Ellen,

There aren’t many conferences where you actually get to DANCE with the scholars you admire most!

Thanks so much for coming. I’ll be in touch with you about the essay contest which will only take a few of your hours next May and June.

Nov. 3rd, 2010 12:40 pm (UTC)
Tired afterward
I'll bet you're tired after your very busy week. I enjoyed reading your accounts of the conference. A pity you had to come back to so many papers though .... Fran

(I returned to over 60. E.M.)
Nov. 7th, 2010 06:45 pm (UTC)
From Kathy:

"Dear Ellen,

I loved reading your account of the Jane Austen Society meeting and only wish I could have been there.

Diana posted a photo of you at her blog, too. It's so nice to see you.

I'm rereading Emma--well, I have been reading her in bits and pieces all fall. What strikes me this time through is Emma's intrinsic kindness. In one early chapter her thoughts about the Bateses are very compassionate. Naturally her behavior is just ghastly at times, but her anti-hero status seems to me much exaggerated.

Nov. 7th, 2010 08:30 pm (UTC)
Burney conference
"Dear Ellen:

Thank you again for chairing a session at the Burney meeting. I am so glad that you got to join us and even made it in time for part of Thurs. and the banquet! Thank you for your kind words about the conference in your blog.

Cathy Parisian"
Nov. 7th, 2010 08:35 pm (UTC)
Sessions fascinating
From Judy:

"I can see from your blog that you did a lot that was worthwhile at the JASNA, and it must have been good to meet up with some of the people you have been corresponding with on the net. Some of the sessions sound really fascinating, but I'm sorry to hear that the dance and banquet were a disappointment though and that Isobel was upset, and you too of course. Still it sounds as if she had a good time at the earlier sessions and people clearly enjoyed meeting you both, looking at the nice comments on the blog. I do sympathise about the shorthand - I write Pitman's too but I know it is very rusty by now and I don't think I would be up to transcribing a lot of notes from a session!


P.S.: Gentle reader, Izzy found herself unable to stay for the dance. The excitement and tension of the sevaral days had been too much. What to do about appropriate 18th century dresses I don't know (see my next comment on corsets).

And my stenography powers are gone ... E.M.

Edited at 2010-11-08 04:46 pm (UTC)
Nov. 8th, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)
In 2004 or so we visited Bath and went to the costume museum. Izzy was about 20 and we put her into a corset. That's the reality: someone had to lace her up. When she wore it with one of the dresses, she did look lovely to modern eyes: young, not heavy as yet, with her breasts held in.

If women want to wear 18th century style clothes, they had better do it for real, especially older women. I saw women in modern heavy shoes; hair inappropriate. It would cost far more to make the whole act accurate, and requires a maid, laced corset, and youth to look well. Yet (remembering the snide remarks Jennifer Ehle received over her body size and face shape) even such a lucky spirit (time, money, maid, youth, real beauty, a dress made precisely for her) is not flattered by these fashions.

Though there were rows of dresses, and many accessories, I did not see any corsets on sale in the shop -- another non-reality in this play-game. I admit I would not expect a woman to go without underwear (panties) but that's what 18th century women did. They'd have pantaloons to keep them in countenance and safe from prying hands.

Cela suffit for a comment on these costumed women. I didn't note the men as there were far fewer of them in the first place and even fewer in costume.


Edited at 2010-11-08 04:47 pm (UTC)
Nov. 9th, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC)
Coerced gentle encounters?
While at JASNA I'd occasionally get into conversations with people I didn't know: it was enforced a couple of times.

In the big ballroom the person up front would declare one must talk to the person next to you, and people really would turn and talk.

Here's one exchange I experienced: a woman turned to me and asked me which Austen I thought the best. Perhaps she had me "tagged" as a scholar from something I had said or done (very minimal because I remember nothing). I said something like, I think her art reaches its finest peak in Mansfield Park. And then something like it's powerful, rich (&c). She paused and said, slowly, well I know that's a common or frequent opinion. (The word "opinion" is loaded in common talk, as in opiniated; there is no idea of informed judgment versus opinions.) Then something like I don't agree, and muttered words about Fanny Price who she doesn't like. I then said what was the book she thought best. "My favorite is Persuasion." Ah, to which I replied, I used to feel that but lately I'm so aware it's unfinished and all the crudenessness and sentimental and over-blackened character" (words like this). Silence. Then I said, "my favorite is Sense and Sensibility. It's not her best but it's my favorite." Then stiff, "I can't agree with that." As I had said nothing for her to agree or disagree with (she had not been listening to my words for real), and she was unwilling to tell me why she'd never cite S&S as her favorite, that was the end of conversation.

So out of 6 books by Austen she's probably read she dislikes 2.


Edited at 2010-11-09 06:32 pm (UTC)
Nov. 9th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)
Over historicizing
ON Austen-l Arnie queried a comment I made about Janine Barchas in another blog.

I'll reply to him on Austen-l and here too:

In brief reply to Arnie,

I was thinking of another talk I heard by Barchas in the ASECS at Richmond last year.


She proposed as a literal source for the non-incident at Blaise Castle (remember they never get there) a castle or abbey which is in the location of Somerset. There is not a shred of evidence this other place is referenced. Her talk about this place was very interesting, but it has no particular bearing on NA -- that is, any more than any other historical site.

Here's what I wrote in another blog about it:

Janine Barchas’s talk was based on an article she had recently had published. She took a map of the Bath area and found that near the mileage Austen says that Thorpe drove Catherine on the way to Baise Castle is what is today a heritage site: Farleigh Hungerford Castle. By assuming that Austen meant us to know this, and meant us to remember many details about this castle known at the time through rumor and tourism, Barchas was able to inject into Northanger Abbey the violence of the 14th century, a family history filled with cruelty, murder, ruins, moats, and ghosts and buried spouses.



The example became what Austen expected us to remember when Henry chided Catherine for imagining terrific happenings around her. Barchas said that we know Austen owned a guidebook which had a picture of Hungerford chapel; Austen also owned and left marginalia on a copy of Richard Warner’s Excursions from Bath (1801). While the slides were picturesque, and the history of this place as a tourist site as well as originally was of real interest, it seemed to me Barchas’s talk showed us the dangers of over-historicizing.

By over-historicizing I meant the idea you can necessarily add meaning to a text by finding out the particulars of history of Austen's time. It's more in the general feel of Hungerford chapel and many other such places that NA's satire resides.

I did hear a talk at the Burney society which relates to Blaise (the plenary lecture by Cynthia Wall). It seems that in fact Blaise is a reconstituted structure, wholly rebuilt (as I recall) and tourists were not welcome there. If you know that, you can see further how absurd and ridiculous and also exploitative and stupid are the Thorpes -- and indifferent and careless Catherine's brother too, how besotted over Isabella. He has not bothered to find this out either.

My argument really is that unless you have a literal citation or some really persuasive evidence in the text a specific text or place is alluded to, you get caught up in details that have no relevance (over-historicizing).

It's a matter of tact and discipline. Blaise is mentioned in NA so the real Blaise is relevant. Hungerford is not so it is relevant only as an archetype.

I have the same objections to some of Jocelyn Harris's "finds" -- archetypcally they're fine, but she does not persuade they are specific sources or alluded to.

Ellen Moody
Nov. 10th, 2010 12:08 pm (UTC)
Archetypal buildings
I've had a long objection from Arnie to say "everyone" believes in Barchas's paper and that the one given at the JASNA AGM is the one given at last spring's ACECS at Richmond, to which I replied:

I didn't realize it was the same talk. If it was the same, I'd say the same thing. There is no direct connection: it's an archetype that is part of Austen's imagination and there are others (like Kenilworth which she visited).

There are fashions in scholarship. I understand the impulse to insist that a particular text or place is a literal source. I did a paper myself on intertextual readings, and found how difficult it was to bring into the novel (NA), sources or background which are not literally provable as sources (Smith's Montalbert and Fuller's The Convent) but to content they are sources is to mispeak and misrepresent. It's easier and attracts attention.

There have been many arguments for specific places behind Pemberley too; it's the same thing: they are archetypally relevant.

Nov. 11th, 2010 01:22 pm (UTC)
From Ted Adams:


I agree that the moment one starts theorizing about what isn't in the text you can be on shakey grounds. However Janine Barchas nicely tied Farliegh Hungerford and Blaise Castle together IMHO.


"Blaize Castle ... In the meanwhile, they proceeded on their journey without any mischance, and were within view of the town of Keynsham, when a halloo from Morland, who was behind them, made his friend pull up, to know what was the matter. The others then came close enough for conversation, and Morland said, "We had better go back, Thorpe; it is too late to go on today; your sister thinks so as well as I. We have been exactly an hour coming from Pulteney Street, very little more than seven miles; and, I suppose, we have at least eight more to go. It will never do. We set out a great deal too late. We had much better put it off till another day, and turn round."

As Brachas pointed out in her presentation, JA is quite specific here about where the party is when they turn around, (seven miles from Pulteney Street). Blaize Castle is about 15 miles to the northwest of Bath. Farleigh Hungerford is about 7 miles to the southeast of Bath, i.e., on the same road going in the opposite direction.

Moreover Farleigh Hungerford is rightly described as "Impressive 14th century castle with hidden treasures and sinister past" (English Heritage. Org) while Blaize Castle is a folly, i.e., a fake antique built in 1766.

Brachas argued that JA's mention of the specific distance that the party had traveled was not an accident. Not only is Thorpe misleading Catherine as to what she will find at Blaize, he is literally 180 degrees turned around in the wrong direction from what she wants. JA mentioned how long the party had traveled and, to underline the point mentioned the distance.

If people don't get to where they want to go, it is not an unreasonable speculation to ask what would have happened if they had gone in a different direction. In this instance, not only do we know what the most obvious other direction is, we also know how far.

This is a detail that comes from the text, not over-historicizing. I believe that Brachas has truly come up with an insight that is fully supported by the text.

Nov. 11th, 2010 01:24 pm (UTC)
Radical scepticism (1)
IN response to Ted, who writes:

JA is quite specific here about where the party is when they turn around, (seven miles from Pulteney Street). Blaize Castle is about 15 miles to the northwest of Bath. Farleigh Hungerford is about 7 miles to the southeast of Bath, i.e., on the same road going in the opposite direction.

Yes, the paralleling of the corner the characters turn to a geographical configuration connecting Hungerford to Blaize is ingenious. That Austen had the guide points to a relationship similar to that with Stoneleigh Abbey and Kenilworth: they are part of the furniture of the mind she has and can rely on other readers having. But you could equally look for another abbey or castle and point out how many miles they are from Blaise in a road going in the same (or opposite if you like) direction. The configuration is in the author's mind, not the text.

Arnie pointed to source studies as fashionable. I don't think they really are, or another way of putting this is they never went out of style, only were less noticeable when deconstructionist kinds of perspectives dominated. The absence of politicized thematic criticism recently also makes a gap in what to pay attention to. But there is a another school of criticism which has become fashionable of late: it comes out of book history studies. For lack of a better term, I'll call it radical scepticism. I did not myself see the initial clash over this at the EC/ASECS but there was one, and I saw the fall-out in at least two sessions. A much respected older male scholar (tenured at famous university) gave a talk on the publication of novels in the 18th century, and showed statistically something like 80% of all books we now call novels were published anonymously and the same kind of number were not called novels. Anything but. They were "true" and "authentic memoirs," or "histories" or "life stories" (biography was not a popular term and autobiography is first used as a term by Southey in something like 1809). A similar number for anonymity is found for poetry and plays.

He used the example of Defoe to show that we talk as if Defoe's novels were called and regarded as novels by him; further to read our works you would think all Defoe's works had his name on them upon publication. In fact None of his novels did -- I'm not sure about his other works. Moll Flander was itself printed later in the century in expurgated and other (additions to the text) form where the author was said to be Laetitia Atkins. Anyway he showed how you could demonstrate how we can't know Defoe wrote MF and maybe he didn't. In another paper (by chance) doubt was cast on Roxana as by Defoe.

I know from my work on Anne Finch and Mary Wortley Montagu how for the latter nothing was published under her name and the former at least 3/4s of her work is not published or anonymous. For them we have ms's with their names on them -- especially Finch.

Another much respected older male scholar (tenured at famous university) got up excited. He is a Defoe scholar, written articles a biography, a book and really there was a vehement debate when he insisted Defoe wrote MF. But in fact the other man was right -- we have no evidence for sure and Defoe works go u up and down in numbers over the years. Sometimes 500 works attributed, sometimes 200, sometimes less.

(continued in next)
Nov. 11th, 2010 01:24 pm (UTC)
Radical scepticism (2)
Radical scepticism is salutary; it makes us see what we know and how much is speculation. Radical scepticism about Austen shows us we know she wrote the first 4 published novels because her brother in his lifetime wrote that biographical notice which declared all six hers. Because her nephew wrote the life in 1870 and declared Lady Susan, and Watsons hers, and because of the family's keeping all ms's.
It teaches us that for NA all we can say for sure abuot sources are the titles _she_ cites _in the text_. I admit I don't stay with that, but what I am contending for is not saying for sure something is a source unless you have more evidence which does not come out of configuring numbers and analogies. I am bothered about the one source I suggested in my paper: for why does Austen not cite Genlis's Adelaide and Theodore or duchess of C***** somewhere. Gillian Dow said it would not be realistic for Catherine and Isabella to cite it. But that won't do. The narrator could have in some way at some point.

So sources for NA are Blaise, Radcliffe, the novels named by Austen and her characters and anything specifically quoted (Chapter 1 for example). No more. If Austen wanted us to imagine Hungerford, why not write Hungerford? why write Blaise? Because Blaise was reconstituted and not open to the public. Phony from the get-go.

Book history teaches us how the works at the time were seen and read for sure. I'm not saying I go for it, as Scott was (it's thought) known to be the author of his novels well before he died and it came out and we now have papers galore to prove it, but we don't know how many people really did know

Nov. 15th, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC)
Full summary of Gillian Dow's paper
Diana Birchall:


There were so many enticing-sounding talks at this AGM, we were spoilt for choice - and it was very hard to choose, with seven (yes, seven) talks going on at any one time. One of my favorites, because the one in which I learned the most, was presented by Gillian Dow. Gillian is an English professor at the University of Southampton, and Director of Chawton House Library Study Centre (We met in 2009, when I presented a paper at the epochal "New Directions in Austen Studies" conference she organized at Chawton.) Her talk for the AGM was entitled "Italy, Switzerland, and the South of France might be as fruitful in horrors as they were represented: Northanger Abbey and the Horrors of the European Novel." The conference booklet promised that the talk would "situate [Austen's] vision of the English novel in Northanger Abbey within the context of her reading of both native and European fiction. By considering the Gothic novel within the debate on the rise of the novel in the late eighteenth century, Dow will focus on the importance of the work of French women writers of tales 'fruitful in horror.'"
Madame de Genlis

Since I have read very few French novels, and still fewer that might be called French Gothic, of the sort that Austen might have read and satirized in Northanger Abbey, it was clear there would be a learning curve here - but one worth undertaking, because we tend to forget, in exploring Austen's reading and what influenced her, to take into account her exposure to French literature. Fortunately, Gillian Dow is an inspiring speaker; she has a remarkable gift for being able to present and synthesize complicated information in the most lucid, delightful, stimulating way, and I came away feeling I'd really learned a lot about her subject.

Dow pointed out that at the time Austen was growing up, translations of foreign novels were flooding the market, and when she was parodying the Gothic genre in Northanger Abbey, she didn't only have in mind English works like Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho, but popular French novels too. She clearly knew Madame de Genlis's Adelaide and Theodore (published in 1782) very well, for she mentions it in Emma. The central episode of this novel, The History of the Duchess of C---, is parodied in Northanger Abbey in Catherine's dire suppositions about the late Mrs. Tilney as an abused wife. There are a great many French titles in the Godmersham catalogue, and Jane Austen would have had access to her brother Edward's library with its novels both in French and in English translation. And the diary of Mary Martha Butt, who was at Mrs. Latournelle's School just a few years before Jane Austen, says, "While here I read The Duchess of C with delight." This is to say nothing of what French novels Austen may have read, or heard about through her cousin Eliza de Feuillide, who returned to England in 1790 after her husband was guillotined, and who married Jane's brother Henry in 1797, Eliza de Feuillide.

In Jane Austen's day, literary critics were down on French novels, as being immoral. A typical critical remark was, "Even the dextrous hands of English translators cannot make them 'safe.'" This attitude is reflected by the ignoramus John Thorpe, who criticizes Camilla as having been written by "she that married the French emigrant" (e.g., Fanny Burney D'arblay). Austen herself seems to have taken the side of the English reviewers, and be conservative on the question of French novels - but she read them!"
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