The theme of the Spring Meeting of JASNA-SW, the Southwest Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America, was "A Day of Pride, Prejudice, and Politics," and I had the good fortune of being on the program with a stellar group of speakers:
First, there was Dr. Charles Lynn Batten, the UCLA professor about whom I've been hearing for years. The conversation with my fellow Austen addicts usually goes like this:
"You mean you've never heard Lynn Batten speak?"
A disbelieving shake of the head and pitying look follows.
Well, now I have heard Dr. Batten speak, and he is not only exceedingly knowledgable and insightful about Jane Austen, he was also downright hilarious. Dr. Batten's talk was called "Jane Austen: Conservative or Liberal?" His verdict: Austen was most likely a moderate Tory.
My opinion? I see his point, which is far more well-researched than my own belief, which is, quite simply, that Jane Austen had exactly my politics and beliefs. Same favorite colors. Would have like the same movies, too. As Karen Joy Fowler put it in THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, "each of us has a private Austen."
Then there was Margaret Horwitz, JASNA's Traveling Lecturer, who gave an illuminating talk called “The Legacy of Her Voice: Ethics and Wit in Austen’s Novel Pride and Prejudice and Its Filmed Adaptations." Dr. Horwitz's talk made me want to go back and watch both the BBC mini and the 2005 movie (as if I need an excuse) to see all the symbolism in props and camera angles that Margaret pointed out in her lecture.
As for me, I gave the very first public reading of my upcoming novel, RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT. If I am to judge by the laughter in the audience, then everyone was having as good a time as I did.
If that wasn't enough fun, there was a white elephant sale of – you guessed it—Jane Austen related books and tschotschkes. I spent $60 on 12 back issues of PERSUASIONS, the wonderful bound journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Such a deal! My bookshelves are groaning. But I'm all smiles.