Book Club Guide
Deborah Yaffe is available to speak to book clubs about Among the Janeites,
either in person, when feasible, or via Zoom/Skype. Please contact her for
1. How did you first encounter Jane Austen: on the page or on the screen?
Which is your favorite of her novels? Of the movies based on her novels?
2. Do the people profiled in Among the Janeites have anything in common,
beyond their love of Austen? Is there a typical Janeite?
3. Author Deborah Yaffe avoids sweeping explanations for Austen’s popularity,
arguing that “none of the explanations seemed to capture the essential. . . the element of the unexplainable at the heart of any true love.” Do you agree? How would you explain Austen’s appeal?
4. Among the Janeites portrays a range of responses to Jane Austen, with different readers seeing her as conservative, progressive, feminist, colonialist, etc. What accounts for this wide range of interpretations? Which comes closest to your view?
5. Would you enjoy taking a literary tour like the Austen tour described in Chapter 2? How might seeing the places Austen lived change our understanding of her novels?
6. Have you read any sequels or retellings of Jane Austen’s novels, like those described in Chapters 3 and 4? Do you enjoy this kind of writing, or do you think it violates or exploits the original?
7. Arnie Perlstein (Chapter 6) thinks Austen’s books contain hidden subtexts and puzzles. Do you think great literature should be understood as coded and cryptic? How much does Arnie’s mode of interpreting Austen differ from the academic approaches discussed in Chapter 5?
8. Christine Shih and Phyllis Ferguson Bottomer (Chapter 7) diagnose Austen’s characters using modern-day psychological and neurological categories. Do you think this is a valid way to look at literature?
9. In Chapter 9, Yaffe writes, “There were Jane Austen fans before there was an Internet, but Jane Austen fandom – an international community of people bound together by a shared love for Austen’s books and their filmed adaptations – is a creation of the digital age.” Do you agree? How has the rise of the Internet affected Austen fandom?
10. Do the fan conventions portrayed in Among the Janeites strike you as enjoyable, or just strange? What do you think Janeites get out of these gatherings?
11. The “tension between the desire for community and the desire for exclusivity probably lies at the heart of any fandom,” Yaffe writes. How does this tension play out in Among the Janeites? Do you agree that it’s a tension inherent in fandom?
12. Best Mr. Darcy: Laurence Olivier, David Rintoul, Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen?