Conferences, History, travel

The Janeite’s Dream Weekend

fullsizeoutput_56dThe Who:

Teachers, college students, authors of Austen fanfic and related works, professors, and Jane Austen fans (AKA Janeites).

The What:

The Jane Austen Summer Program, which translates to four days worth of lectures, history lessons, discussion groups, elevenses, and dance lessons (which of course led to a Regency Ball).

The Where:

A combination of the Hilton in Carrboro/Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina’s campus, and The Carolina Inn.

The Why:

To learn more about Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Shelley’s Frankenstein in engaging ways that provide context and make the books relevant even today.

The Highlights:fullsizeoutput_578

Obviously, the ball. I mean, who doesn’t love getting dressed up in a regency dress and
going to The Carolina Inn to spend the evening dancing. (Plus, there was a cutout of Colin
Firth, so I mean…) The dance lessons leading up to it were pretty fun too.

The history. One of my favorite lectures of the weekend was regarding the French Revolution and how it might have influenced Austen and Shelley and their works. On top of this were lectures on gothic fashion, the roles and circumstances surrounding childbearing and rearing during the 19th century (which really emphasized the significance of Mrs. Morland having ten children), and the history of masquerades in British society.

The people. Besides getting to spend four days with my sweet friend Valerie, I was also surrounded by people who deeply love Austen and her works. This leads me to my next point, which is…
fullsizeoutput_571The conversations. Built into the program were discussion groups, where we talked about literally everything from the education system to the #metoo movement and how it all related to Northanger Abbey and Frankenstein. On top of this, we discussed the role of feminism in Austen’s and Shelley’s works, the use of horror, the presence of satire, and many other wonderful topics.

The exhibits. We got access to rare manuscripts and artwork that all related to Northanger Abbey and/or Frankenstein. The art displayed in the Ackland Art Museum included pieces that highlighted the presence of horror during the 19th century, gothic architecture, pieces from Paradise Lost (which was frequently referenced in Frankenstein), and even pictures depicting the story of Job (because Job felt abandoned by his creator much like Frankenstein’s monster felt abandoned by his). The books on display included texts referenced in each novel, including Paradise Lost, The Monk, and The Mysteries of Udolpho. In addition to this, there were other books on display that gave context and explanations to the books themselves, such as explaining the contemporary concept of human life and how electricity might relate to it.fullsizeoutput_570

The theatrical productions. They brought Austen and Shelley’s works to life, while still
causing the audience to laugh.

The secondary literature. John Kessel, author of the Austen/Shelley fanfic Pride and Prometheus spoke along with Ted Scheinman, author of Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan, both of which sounded incredibly interesting. In addition to this, the fellow attendees were a wealth of information regarding books that were relevant, including Austen-based fanfic and other classics, such as The Monk. I walked away with many new books on my to-read list.

fullsizeoutput_57b.jpegThe elevenses. This just sounds poetic. Each day it consisted of something such as scones, fruit, pastries, and cheese. And it was delicious.

Overall, the weekend was wonderful. I was already planning to go back again next year, and then they announced that they would be looking at Pride and Prejudice next, so I am 100% attending the 2019 Jane Austen Summer Program.


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