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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

It's that time again

Signs of autumn: Falling leaves. Halloween pumpkins. And the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America, which starts this Friday in Denver.

This year’s conference, titled “Pride & Prejudice: A Rocky Romance,” will be my fourteenth, if you count the virtual AGM in the pandemic year of 2020. I grew up in Colorado, so a return to my home state is always a pleasure. And a JASNA AGM is typically the most fun a Janeite can have, since it features lots and lots of conversations, both formal and informal, about Jane Austen.

As usual, I’m looking forward to renewing old acquaintances—including with people featured in my book Among the Janeites. And as a semi-professional connoisseur of Austen fandom, I’m always interested to see the ways in which the conference reflects changes in Austenworld.

Last year, a plenary speaker offered some daring, against-the-grain interpretations of Sense and Sensibility (a pregnant Marianne Dashwood?) that you wouldn’t have heard aired in that setting even a decade ago. Conclusion: JASNA is opening up to less orthodox approaches to Austen. (Except not so much: During the Q&A, the speaker was essentially heckled by aggrieved attendees.)

This year, I note that three of the thirty-five scheduled breakout sessions concern Pride and Prejudice fanfic, while one of the supplementary workshops on offer is designed for Janeites who hanker to write their own Austen adaptations. Conclusion: After years of implicit disdain for—or at least hesitation about--this form of Janeite playfulness, JASNA is starting to embrace it.

What else is new in our little corner of the fan universe? I’ll know more after a weekend of joyous fun masquerading as research. Hope to see you there!

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