Is the pandemic over yet?
The answer, of course, depends on where you live, but one hopeful sign that some of us are partway back to normality may lie in the renaissance of in-person Austen fan conventions.
In September, revelers in Regency attire returned to the streets of Bath, England, for the Jane Austen Festival. Last month, Janeites gathered in Chicago for the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting. And on Saturday – or Friday evening, for those of us on the US east coast -- the Australian theater troupe 24 Carrot Productions will host its fourth annual AustenCon in a Melbourne suburb.
After running an all-virtual AustenCon last year, 24 Carrot is sponsoring a hybrid version this year, with many of the conference talks and entertainment options available online for half the price of the in-person event ($20 Australian, or about $15 US, for online tickets, as compared to $40-50 Australian, or about $30-38 US, for in-person ones).
Seven talks or panels will cover literary and historical topics, from autism in Pride and Prejudice to the influence of the East India Company on Austen’s life and works. And attendees – even, in some cases, the online ones -- can participate in an array of Austen-themed workshops and entertainments: sewing, dancing, speed-dating, escape rooms.
Yes, the COVID pandemic still lingers annoyingly, rather like Mr. Collins at the Netherfield ball. But at least Janeites are finding a way to get back to the party.