Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 26 2013 01:00PM

There is joy in Janeite-ville this week: the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America – the JASNA AGM – kicks off today in Minneapolis!

I attended my first AGM in Philadelphia in 1983, four years after JASNA’s founding, when I was a college freshman and the whole affair was far smaller and more sedate.

This year’s AGM (theme: “Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. . . Timeless”) will welcome seven hundred and fifty Janeites for a packed four days of lectures, tours, dance lessons, craft workshops and special events – everything from a Regency fashion show to a Minneapolis pub crawl.

The whole shebang culminates in Saturday night’s banquet and ball, which many Janeites attend in Regency costume. (I must confess that I’m especially looking forward to the Sunday brunch event, a panel on the fabulous "Lizzie Bennet Diaries.")

Like Lady Catherine de Bourgh, I must have my share in the conversation. I’ll be talking about and signing Among the Janeites at the University of Minnesota’s book store at 4 pm today (not an AGM event, but if you’re in the neighborhood. . .) and then signing again during the AGM’s mass author event on Friday night from 6 to 7:30 pm.

On Saturday, I also have the honor of introducing breakout speaker Emily Auerbach, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who is the author of Searching for Jane Austen, which challenges the stereotype of Austen as a sweet maiden aunt penning decorous domestic dramas.

The JASNA AGM is criminally fun. Hope to see you there!

By Deborah Yaffe, Jun 13 2013 01:00PM

I had an unbreakable date at 1 pm yesterday: that was when online registration opened for this September’s Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America. The JASNA AGM – yes, that’s the train wreck of an abbreviation; with enough practice, it rolls effortlessly off the tongue – is a four-day-long party for those of us who call four days of talking about Jane Austen. . . a good start.

I attended my first AGM in 1983, when I was a seventeen-year-old college freshman and JASNA itself was only four years old. I must have registered late: when I prospected in JASNA’s archives while researching Among the Janeites, I discovered that my name doesn’t appear on the list of attendees. Back in those pre-Colin Firth days, you could get away with late registration, because the world of Austen fandom was a smaller, quieter place. I was probably waiting to register until I was sure I didn’t have too much classwork that weekend.

Nowadays, you can’t wait: AGMs routinely sell out their six hundred-plus slots -- 471 of the 650 slots at this year's conference are already gone -- even though registration fees come to several hundred dollars, not to mention hotel and airfare. This year’s conference – it’s in Minneapolis, with the two hundredth anniversary of Pride and Prejudice as the theme – will be my seventh in thirty years, but my fifth since 2009, when I began thinking of writing a book about Jane Austen fans. (You’ve got to love a book project that allows you to write the JASNA AGM off as a business expense.)

The Minneapolis AGM program includes the usual mix of the serious and the unserious, the academic and the popular -- scholarly lectures, country dancing, tea-drinking, hat-making, a Regency fashion show, a souvenir emporium. I’m looking forward to two presentations in particular: a talk by Emily Auerbach of the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the many sequels, prequels, retellings, updates and mashups that have made P&P a pop-culture phenomenon over the past decade or so; and a panel featuring the creators of "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries," the delightful web series reimagining P&P as a video blog.

And of course I’ll be there, signing Among the Janeites. That way, I get to write off yet another JASNA AGM.

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