Gentle Readers: I welcome today Theodora Ziolkowski, * a student at the University of Vermont, who attended our JASNA-Vermont event on April 15, a talk on “Jane Austen’s Sanditon” by UVM Professor Eric Lindstrom.
Theodora wrote a piece for the UVM student newspaper The Cynic, and I append it here with her permission. Always joyful to see young people at these events, and Theodora brought her friend Dan Bishop along as well – a young man with an interest in Jane is not an everyday occurance, so we were all doubly pleased to have them both in attendance!
The day started off with what is every organizer-of-an-event’s worst nightmare: a major misspelling in the sandwich board signage that announces the talk on the street [on three corners of the campus] – I did not at first notice the signs while I was busy setting up for the day, but it was pointed out to me by some early-birds, and the inital shock of realizing my error of giving signage info over the phone rather than by email hit home hard – so
“Jane Austen’s Sanditon”
was broadcast to the world as
“Jane Austen’s Fanditon”
– that old “S” and “F” confusion over the phone, now permanently in print for all the world – and thankfully here photographed by one of our members – it did of course end up being the hit of the day – people thinking we had a full fan-fest in the works! – and now I am thinking it would make for a great title for such an all-day event!
[Courtesy of Sarah at Two Girls Fishing]
Now on to Theodora’s essay on the talk, with thanks for her insightful commentary!:
Jane Austen’s “Sanditon” – A Talk by UVM Professor Eric Lindstrom for the Jane Austen Society of North America, Vermont Region – April 15, 2012.
by Theodora Ziolkowski
Soft chamber music, peppermint bonbons, cucumber sandwiches and steaming cups of English breakfast tea: all means of transporting a community of Jane Austen fans to rural nineteenth century England.
On Sunday, April 15th, the Hauke Conference Center at Champlain College held yet another event for the Vermont chapter of “JASNA,” the Jane Austen Society of North America. “Janeites,” or declared Austen enthusiasts, gathered in the Champlain College building to celebrate a shared admiration for a beloved writer.
The sunny afternoon event began with students and JASNA members filling up their plates and mugs for the talk. Many milled about the tables of Austen memorabilia items for sale, including calendars, paper dolls, bookmarks and notecards. Others stood in tea-drinking circles to speak with fellow Austen enthusiasts.
Deb Barnum, JASNA-Vermont Regional Coordinator, introduced the event, the novel and UVM Professor Lindstrom, the event speaker. Lindstrom’s talk, “How to Love ‘Sanditon’” revolved around Austen’s last and unfinished novel. The [twelve]-chapter manuscript was first published by editor R. W. Chapman in 1925, many years after Austen’s death in 1817.
Lindstrom began his talk sharing internet clips of Austen-related interviews and pictures, including a photograph of a Peep diorama entered for the competition held by the Washington Post.
[image from Jane Austen Today]
Lindstrom also showed a watercolor of Austen painted by her sister, Cassandra, in which Austen is seen only from the back. The “history and mystery” of this faceless Jane, Lindstrom said, contributes to the appeal of this visual representation of the novelist.
For a novel boasting a brief fifty pages, “Sanditon” offers an unavoidable contrast to the marriage plot typical of Austen novels. The absence of the marriage plot leaves room for readers to study Austen’s temperament, Lindstrom contended.
In “Sanditon,” we find a more ironic vision—a “book that might leave Austen readers cold,” Lindstrom said in his opening remarks. In the novel, two towns echo one another, a trait indicative of the changing English national character, Lindstrom said. “Sanditon” can thus be considered a “condition of England novel,” or a storyline where housing and the quest for perfect health exist at its heart.
The novel’s characters themselves are caricatures, and the thematic obsession with illness and the decaying body can be seen as contributing to what Lindstrom depicted as the “menacing” mood of the novel.
Lindstrom described “Sanditon” as understanding beyond its limitations of England. Even the name, “Sanditon,” suggests an “un-foundational” place – Austen, he pointed out, is discreet in the novel: she had to pretend the world was better than it was at the time.
The Vermont branch of JASNA hosts many events throughout the year, including talks and an annual birthday tea.
[This article also appeared in the online version of The Cynic here.]
Theodora Ziolkowski, an English major and Film and Television Studies minor, will graduate in May from the University of Vermont (UVM). Theodora has served her four years as an undergraduate as an editor for Vantage Point, the student-run arts and literary journal at UVM. She recently began writing for The Cynic, the UVM student newspaper, for which she writes reviews and a poetry column for the Arts pages. A lover of writing, books and good coffee, Theodora wrote a manuscript of poetry for her senior honors defense. Her love for Jane Austen began in high school when she became enchanted by Elizabeth Bennet and her world of sisters, elegant dances, piano-playing, and romance.
[Theodora tells me that her first date with Dan was watching the DVD of her favorite Austen novel – Emma Thompson’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility! ]
Deb, I would love to have attended this event – no, not just for the tea and cucumber sandwiches – “How to Love ‘Sanditon'” might help me appreciate that fragment a bit more than I do.