Portland AGM – Day Two ~ I first refer to Laurel Ann’s post at Austenprose for her take on Day 2 – we did a lot together, but also tried to attend different break-out sessions – so here is a quick summary of my day two: I should start this by saying something about my love of Northanger Abbey – it took me few readings, over a few years, but now I count it as one of my favorites, Catherine an engaging heroine and Henry quite to-die-for and Austen more on her game than she is often given credit for – you can read this former post about my thoughts on NA, rather than repeat all that – but just wanted to emphasize how much I was looking forward to this AGM and it most certainly exceeded my expectations!
I was completely bummed that I had to miss the Team Tilney offering headed by Maggie “‘Da Man” Sulllivan and thankfully Laurel Ann shared the happenings with me – I had to go off to a THREE hour [yikes!] regional coordinator training session, which was great – some new people, some old friends, some great new ideas – Claire Bellanti, VP of Regions gave an inspiring meeting – and we all left with plans for new programs and ways to connect with each other in our varying attempts to bring Jane Austen into the lives of the folks in our respective regions. Claire had us all introduce the person next to us and we each had to share what book, other than of course any Austen, we would want with us if stranded on a desert island – interesting responses [perhaps a future post]!
After a quick lunch with Laurel Ann, we headed into the official AGM opening, hearing President Marsha Huff on her love of Northanger Abbey; the JAS Secretary Maureen Stiller who spoke of the loss this year of two great Austen scholars Elizabeth Jenkins and Brian Southam; and Steve Lawrence from Chawton House Library and Joan Ray thanking members for their generosity to the NAFCHL [North American Friends of Chawton House Library] –
and then on to the Plenary speaker Stephanie Barron, noted author of the Jane Austen mysteries, on “Suspicious Characters, Red Herrings, and Unreliable Detectives: Elements of Mystery in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey” – a delightful talk on the mystery elements in Austen, a crime in every novel, the heroine as solver, the detectives and pseudo-detectives, and the final restoration of order. Barron quotes W. H. Auden and his three requirements of a mystery novel, all present in Austen’s works: a closed society; a state of innocence with the “crime” committed by a fallen member of the society; and the societal ritual that the criminal has knowledge of in order to commit the crime, but is overcome by one of superior knowledge who restores order [thankfully!] – Barron then applies this pattern to Northanger Abbey – the investigators, the clues, the red herrings – Henry as the consummate detective, Catherine as ignoring the clues, Isabella the dropper of clues, John Thorpe as the red herring, General Tilney as the fallen one – with Henry finally restoring order, Catherine all the while gaining understanding of the male world, “penetrating the veil” as in all good gothic novels. Barron ended her talk with a comment on the Kathryn Sutherland kerfuffle about one’s editors [you can read more about it here], a reference to her short story to be part of Laurel Ann’s Jane Austen short story anthology Jane Made Me Do It [we all whooped! Laurel Ann swooned!], and answered some questions on her latest book Jane Austen and the Madness of Lord Byron – she spoke about following Austen’s chronological real life in the writing of her fictional mystery series, and oh! what will happen in 1817. All in all quite a wonderful introduction to this year’s AGM!
Then off to the first of many break-out sessions – and what a task to choose! – each session offering such variety and depth – the choice so difficult – I decided to do at least one on the gothic literary features of NA, one on fashion and all that muslin, and of course, something on Henry Tilney. So my first was to hear the ever interesting Janine Barchas on “The Real Bluebeard of Bath: A Historical Model for Northanger Abbey” a brilliant tour through the nightmarish history of the Farley-Hungerford Castle, within driving distance form Bath, and a place that Austen would likely have visited or known about in her time in Bath. Professor Barchas shared the words in a contemporary guidebook, Richard Warner’s Excursions from Bath , a book known to have been in George Austen’s library and containing Jane’s marginalia – and here we have some real-life gothic tales about what went on in Farley Castle and may have served as Austen’s inspiration for her own Abbey story, truth of course being far more bizarre than fiction!
Then off to see Stephanie Eddleman on “Henry Tilney: Austen’s Feminized Hero?” – One of the things that can get my dander up in a discussion about NA is talk that Henry is too feminine to be a true hero, or too condescending to be an equal lover to Catherine, or too distant as a character to engage the reader – so I was hoping that Prof. Eddleman would give me much needed ammunition! – and she did indeed: Henry as the one hero who stands apart – he is her only witty hero; he is feminized but not feminine, and unlike Austen’s other feminized male characters [Frank Churchill, Robert Ferrars], Austen is not critical of Henry. I most appreciated Eddleman’s answer to Marvin Mudrick’s contention that Henry is a detached, disengaged character – she feels that Henry develops intimacy through his intelligence and wit, always encouraging Catherine toward her own independent thinking. I hope this talk will be in Persuasions – it gives much needed support for Henry as True & Worthy Austen Hero.
With all these great thoughts swimming around in my head, off we ran to the Portland Art Museum for the General Reception with the Wild Rose Garland Dancers – we arrived slightly behind schedule and found long lines for food and drink – Laurel Ann off for food, I did drinks – the long line frustration only lessened by a gentleman who told me all about his breakout session by James Nagle on “Dismemberment in the Library with the Quill Pen” – all about Regency succession rules, primogeniture, entails, etc. – Laurel Ann also went to this, so between the two of them I felt as though I had not missed this obviously interesting and entertaining talk – so this made the line move – we ate and drank and stood for the dancers as there was not a seat in sight – the dancers quite lovely and great fun to watch – here are a few pictures [with apologies for the dark and motion]:
[with thanks for letting me take a picture of his sneakers for my son!]
Next to me, however, was a woman who said she was sorely distracted by the distant statue of a rather large naked man [rear view only] – pictures duly taken, much laughter around and we were lost in the giggles for the rest of the evening [too much wine perhaps and not enough food?] – I see that Laurel Ann posted on this and the woman left a comment, so we are glad to have found her – and send you thanks Brenda for making our evening! – not that the dancers were not fabulous – we were just giddy at this point and who could resist!
I regret not taking more photos of the museum offerings – I see that Diana Birchall has several on her blog – so I send you over there for a peak to Light Bright and Sparkling. And you can view the Museum website as well.
And then the evening not nearly over – back to the hotel for the author book signings and to hear Jeff Nigro’s talk on “Mystery Meets Muslin: Regency Gothic Dress in Art, Fashion and the Theatre.” Jeff is the new RC for the Chicago Region and had spoken at that AGM two years ago on Art – so here again, another interesting visual treat about art and fashion and the literary and theatrical world of Austen’s time – I am not sure I will ever look at the art of the period the same ever again, or at least trust what I am looking at! – I am not even sure I can understand my notes! – so much information in this talk! – the mixing and matching of styles in the historical and contemporary works of art, with an emphasis on the “Gothick Picturesque”, the eclectic Regency gothic – Nigro shows that Austen’s Northanger Abbey is itself an eclectic mix, an overlapping of genres, as encompassed in both the Thomson and Brock illustrations. This was such a visual tour, one must see it to appreciate it, and not well described without the visual piece to accompany it – I would dearly love to get Jeff to visit Vermont and share his love of the arts with us…
So Day Two –who knew that just sitting around and absorbing all things Austen could be so invigorating and exhausting! I will add this – hanging out with Laurel Ann had many perks! – the book she is editing involves a number of great Austenesque authors who have each contributed a story to the anthology [see Austenprose for details] – but while I have been attending AGMs for a number of years and was happy to introduce Laurel Ann to a number of JASNA people [and as soon as they understood she is the force behind Austenprose they all nearly genuflected!] – but her contacts with her authors was a treat for me to be introduced and spend some time with them as well – I have a few pictures of them and append them here with links to their sites – great writers all who embrace Austen in their own imaginative ways – I look forward to Laurel Ann’s book publication [alas! not until next October – just in time for the Fort Worth AGM!] – so thank you Laurel Ann for this – great fun all around!
Syrie James and her husband Bill were a delight to meet – she costumed every day and he for the ball [will save the elaborate ball dress for tomorrow!] – Syrie has authored The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte [we bonded on a mutual love of Jane Eyre], and Dracula, My Love [on my TBR pile -I hear it is great!] Visit her website here.
Cindy Jones has a new book coming out [March 29, 2011] My Jane Austen Summer: A Season at Mansfield Park – we had a great chat and I look forward to reading her book – please visit her blog at First Draft to learn more about her and her forthcoming book. Cindy is also blogging at the new Austen Author’s blog.
Marsha Huff is, of course, JASNA President – this is her last AGM as head of the troops, and she has now passed on the torch to Iris Lutz from the Tucson Region – it has been a wonderful four years with Marsha and we will miss her – but I don’t think she will wander very far from the activities! In this picture, she has just given Laurel Ann her JASNA Life Member pin! – so congrats to Laurel Ann on this!
Laurie Viera Rigler needs no introduction, but you can view her website here and her blog here – always a sheer pleasure to spend time with Laurie – but alas! no gossip on her next book – we must content ourselves for now with her “Sex and the Austen Girl” creations [such a punishment…]
And I will close with another fashionista picture of Rebecca Morrison-Peck, one of the Emporium vendors – you can visit her shop at Etsy here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/thethatchedcottage, where you will find all manner of Regency fashion pieces. I was quite disappointed to try on two lovely spencers – one too large, the other too small – so will wait for another day to adorn myself – I purchased a Regency dress pattern three years ago , and that is as far as I have gotten – my Singer retains its dust and I think I should just give in and buy something from one of these far more talented mantuamakers!
Vic, who we sorely missed and hope one of these days to meet at an AGM, has posted links on her Jane Austen Today blog to several of the AGM posts already out there – so check out the thoughts and pictures of everyone else! … and finally,
Stay-tuned for tomorrow, Day Three and the Ball fashions! – I think this was the most costumed AGM yet!