Deborah Yaffe

Blog

By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 20 2018 01:00PM

Last year, I blogged about Alejandra Carles-Tolra, a young Spanish photographer, based in London, who had won a competitive grant to photograph Jane Austen fans.


Carles-Tolra’s photo essay, “Where We Belong,” is now finished. Twenty-one photos are available on her website, and a selection accompanied a recent article in the Guardian about her subject: the Jane Austen Pineapple Appreciation Society, a smallish band of British Janeites, most of them female, who met a few years ago at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England, and now get together regularly to dress in Regency clothing and do Austen-y things.


The JAPAS – I still don’t get the whole pineapple thing, but perhaps a commenter can enlighten me – was founded by Sophie Andrews, a Janeite who blogs at Laughing with Lizzie and is also a featured “ambassador” for the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation. *


Carles-Tolra’s photos -- which show JAPAS members strolling, napping, and leaping, Lizzy Bennet-like, over a gate in a verdant field -- aim to explore “themes of belonging, femininity and escapism” in this “community of like-minded people,” she writes.


I’ll leave it to the photography critics to decide how expertly Carles-Tolra presents those themes. For the rest of us, it’s fun to catch the allusions – check out her Regency-costumed version of Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World” – and ogle the beautiful gowns.



* The literacy foundation was established by collateral Austen descendant Caroline Jane Knight, a member of the last generation to grow up at Chawton House, down the road from the Hampshire cottage where Austen wrote or revised all six of her finished novels.


By Deborah Yaffe, Aug 3 2017 01:00PM

I like to think that I am not a complainer, but I have to admit that I've done a lot of complaining on this blog.


Some of my moans are chronic: I never tire of pointing out that quotes from filmed adaptations of Jane Austen’s works are not, in fact, quotes by Jane Austen. And some of my moans are situational: This year, I have frequently noted the misfortune of being an American Janeite with a limited travel budget just when the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death has brought an avalanche of Austen-related events to Britain.


How exciting, then, to be able to combine my complaints into one Super-Moan, as I managed to do when I ran across this post by Sophie Andrews, who blogs at Laughing with Lizzie and is a volunteer ambassador for the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation.


As you’ll recall, one of the many, many bicentenary events that we budget-conscious American Janeites can’t experience is Sitting With Jane, the art trail composed of twenty-four specially painted, Austen-inspired, book-shaped benches located in and around Basingstoke, in Austen's home county of Hampshire.


Luckily, however, Andrews has visited all twenty-four, and in her post she provides excellent photos of the front and back of each one, along with some details about its location. Judging from her photos, the artistic approaches and interpretative attitudes taken by the bench creators vary widely, from Regency restraint to comic-book sass, but many are quite lovely and all are interesting. Grr! Why can’t I go see them myself?


But really now: If you’re going to create a bench (“Jane and Her Forgotten Peers”) dedicated to Austen and some of the pioneering female writers who came before her, and if you’re going to put that bench outside Winchester Cathedral, where Austen is buried, shouldn’t you make sure that any quotes you attribute to Austen actually come from one of her books?


Yes, I’m afraid it’s true: On the back of the Winchester Cathedral bench,* next to a portrait of Austen, appears this quote: “It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”


***headdesk***


I have said it before, and no doubt I will have to say it again. Jane Austen did not write this line, no matter how many web sites claim she did. It is a garbled version of a line written by Andrew Davies in his screenplay for the 2008 television adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.


I hate to think of Jane Austen rolling over in her nearby grave at this misattribution. On the other hand, she might have enjoyed the irony: A bench dedicated to great female writers uses a quote from a male one.



* In fact, “Jane Talk,” another bench in the Sitting With Jane series, also uses movie quotes (though not the Davies one) in a “modern graphic art style” montage of Austen-related lines. But at least the creator of that bench seems to have realized she was using movie lines. (The “Jane Talk” bench is supposed to “inspire all to read [Austen’s] novels,” though I must grumpily point out that this goal might be better served by quoting from those novels, rather than from screenplays based on them but written by other people.)


Quill pen -- transparent BookTheWriter transparent facebook twitter