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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Diving deep

We Janeites like to say that Austen’s novels repay slow and careful perusal, and that every time we reread, we discover something new.

Now’s your chance to test that proposition: The Rosenbach, Philadelphia’s venerable museum and rare-book library, is hosting an online Austen series that will spend a full six months examining Pride and Prejudice, a few chapters at a time.

The series, “Austen Mondays,” will air on YouTube from 7-8:30 pm (US Eastern), beginning on September 19 and concluding on March 13 of next year – twenty-four Mondays in all, with breaks for Halloween and Christmas. The program is free but requires registration, and recordings will be available afterwards for participants who can’t join live.

The series, which the Rosenbach calls a “biblioventure,” follows similar deep dives that the library organized into Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 2020, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 2021, and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre last fall and winter. (Not to mention the “Ulysses Every Day Reading Challenge,” which encouraged participants to make their way through James Joyce’s notoriously difficult masterpiece over two pandemic-stalled months in spring 2020.)

In the first half-hour of each “Austen Monday,” Edward G. Pettit, the Rosenbach’s manager of public programs, will “interview scholars and Janeites about all things Austen.” (No word yet, as far as I can tell, on which scholars and Janeites will participate). The remaining hour will be given over to “a conversational annotation” of that week’s chapters of P&P, according to the library’s announcement of the program.

Along the way, Pettit will highlight the Rosenbach’s own P&P holdings, which include an 1813 first edition and an 1832 copy of the first American edition. Two episodes of the series will be dedicated to discussion of Pride and Prejudice adaptations – one episode for the BBC’s iconic 1995 miniseries, and another episode for all the rest. (If you have a problem with that allocation of resources – well, let’s just say you won’t get much sympathy from me.)

“Together we’ll examine why and how Pride and Prejudice continues to be one of the most beloved books of readers everywhere,” the library’s announcement promises. All in all, it sounds like a delightful way to spend every sleepy Monday evening of the fall and winter.*

* And will the Rosenbach be putting that beautiful logo (scroll down to the bottom of the page) on, say, a coffee mug? Because I would be delighted -- ahem! -- to receive one for a holiday gift. Even though the rendition of the beautiful grounds at Pemberley is pretty clearly cribbed from the 2005 adaptation.

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