Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Jul 10 2020 01:00PM

Just a reminder that this weekend will be an exciting one for Janeites: the online version of the popular Jane Austen Festival–held, in virus-free years, in Louisville, Kentucky--runs from tonight through Sunday.

I’ve got a dog in this fight, since I will be on the program twice:

--Tonight at 7 pm (Eastern), I’ll be speaking on the history and contemporary significance of Jane Austen fanfiction, with a live Q&A session to follow the pre-recorded talk.

--Tomorrow at noon (Eastern), I’ll be appearing on a panel with Soniah Kamal, author of the 2019 Pride and Prejudice update Unmarriageable, moderated by Anne Bogel, creator of the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog. A live Q&A will follow the panel, as well.

Registration for the Q&As has closed, but you can watch the talk and the panel on the festival's YouTube channel.

By Deborah Yaffe, Jun 18 2020 01:00PM

Among the many long-scheduled events that have fallen victim to our coronavirus moment, the annual Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, is surely among the most beloved. Since 2008, the local chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America has hosted the festival on the grounds of the eighteenth-century Locust Grove estate.

Over time, the festival has grown into a summer weekend extravaganza of lectures, food, crafts, vendor booths, and demonstrations of everything Regency, from dancing to dueling to bare-knuckle boxing. Thousands attend, and so many come in costume that in 2014 the festival briefly set the record for the largest-ever gathering of Regency-clad revelers, before the competing Austen festival in Bath, England, snatched the title back two months later.

Saddled with this year’s coronavirus lemons, the festival organizers decided to make lemonade: They’ve transformed the now-canceled July 10-12 gathering into a mostly free online event that they are billing as a chance to introduce the festival to Janeites across the globe.

Registration opened last weekend for six days of events (theme: “In the Library with Jane”) that will include talks on everything from Regency jewelry and sports to the relationship between Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Festival vendors will offer online shopping for Regency clothing and accessories, and registrants can sign up for ten online craft workshops costing $40 to $103.50.

On a personal note: I’ll be giving one of the featured talks, on the history and contemporary relevance of Jane Austen fanfiction, from 7 to 8 pm on Friday, July 10. I’ll also be joining the other featured speaker -- Soniah Kamal, author of the 2019 Pride and Prejudice update Unmarriageable -- for a roundtable discussion from noon to 1 pm on Saturday, July 11. The conversation will be moderated by Anne Bogel, creator of the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog.

Although the talks will be pre-recorded, Q&A will be live – I hope to see you there!

By Deborah Yaffe, Jun 11 2018 01:00PM

Thirty-fourth in an occasional series of excerpts from Jane Austen's letters.

The story of Jane Austen fandom has been told more than once, in books by Claire Harman, Claudia L. Johnson, Devoney Looser, Deidre Lynch (as editor), and (ahem!) myself. Austen devotees have been located among those who read her novels soon after their publication in 1813-17, among those who first devoured her nephew’s hagiographic 1869 memoir, and among those who swooned over Colin-Firth-in-a-wet-shirt in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Arguably, however, the first mention of a Jane Austen fan outside Austen’s own family – a Janeite Patient Zero, as it were -- comes in the letter Austen wrote to her sister, Cassandra, exactly 219 years ago today (#21 in Deirdre Le Faye’s standard edition of Austen’s correspondence).

The twenty-three-year-old Austen is staying with relatives in Bath while Cassandra remains behind in Steventon. Amid a bubbly account of what she’s done, who she’s met, and what she’s bought, Jane mentions the Austen sisters’ great friend Martha Lloyd, who has apparently asked Cassandra if she can see the manuscript of First Impressions, the early Austen work that we believe eventually became Pride and Prejudice.

“I would not let Martha read First Impressions again upon any account, & am very glad that I did not leave it in your power,” Jane writes jokingly to Cassandra. “She is very cunning, but I see through her design;—she means to publish it from Memory, & one more perusal must enable her to do it.”

And there you have it: Martha Lloyd, the friend who a decade later set up housekeeping with the Austen sisters and their mother at Chawton cottage, is the first obsessive Austen re-reader for whom we have documentary evidence – the prototype of those people who read all the novels every year, recite dialogue by heart, and mentally file everyone they meet under headings like “Lady Catherine” and “Mr. Collins.”

Welcome to the club, Martha.

By Deborah Yaffe, Nov 9 2017 02:00PM

As this Jane Austen bicentenary year nears its close, I’m happy to report that I’ll get to play a small part in the local commemoration: I’ll be speaking on Among the Janeites and Austen fandom at the Monmouth County Library this Sunday, November 12. The library is located at 125 Symmes Drive in Manalapan, New Jersey.

The library is planning a full afternoon of Austen-bicentenary commemoration: My talk and book-signing will run from 2 to 3 pm and will be followed by a radio play of Pride and Prejudice, which sounds like a lot of fun.

Hope you can stop by!

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