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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Jane Austen's desk, online

The Jane Austen Summer Program, whose four-day symposium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, combines academic study of Austen with light-hearted fun, has been awarded a $100,000 federal grant to create an interactive online Austen platform.

The new site, Jane Austen’s Desk, will host an array of Austen-related materials in what JASP's grant application describes as "an imaginative rendering of Chawton Cottage," the Hampshire house where Austen spent the last eight years of her life and wrote or revised her six published novels.

Also planned are digitally annotated editions of Mansfield Park and Pride and Prejudice, contextualized with resources ranging from "newspaper articles to digitized editions of books Austen was reading during composition to a circulating library catalog to maps of her siblings' travels."

Sounds like fun, no? I’m looking forward to seeing the results once the site goes live. Although the internet already hosts a plethora of Austen sites, including some whose content may overlap with Jane Austen's Desk, it seems that JASP, which is affiliated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, hopes to carve out its own niche by focusing on making academic scholarship accessible to a wider public.

That's a niche that JASP already knows well: In addition to its eponymous summer symposium, JASP sponsors an online lecture series through a sister organization, Jane Austen & Co. Recent programming has focused on race in the Regency, the Regency engagement with Asia, and the culture of reading in Austen's time, and archived recordings of past lectures are available for free.

The National Endowment for the Humanities announced the new award last week, part of a funding round that sent $28.1 million to 204 humanities projects sponsored by museums, universities, and other cultural and community institutions across the country.

Meanwhile, JASP, which is held on the UNC campus, is marking its tenth anniversary this summer, with a June 15-18 conference on Austen’s Juvenilia. Registration is already open, and -- just in case you were wondering whether to bring your Regency gown -- there will be a ball.

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