1999 Annual General Meeting, Oct. 8-10, Colorado Springs, CO, USA

Theme: “Emma: Jane Austen at her Peak”

When Harriet Smith hears Emma describe the difficulties of having a dance at the Westons’ house by deprecating “a crowd in a little room,” Harriet praises Miss Woodhouse for having “the art of giving pictures in a few words.” We are expecting a crowd in a large but truly warm and cozy hotel for the 1999 AGM. But while lacking Miss Woodhouse’s talent for pithiness, the AGM Colorado Springs Steering Committee would like our JASNA friends to form a picture of what awaits them, along with a little background on what we have been doing. For like Miss Woodhouse, the hostess of Hartfield, we in Colorado “hope [we are] not deficient in what is due to guests!” An AGM with Many Peaks (and, we trust, few valleys)

Hosting the AGM for 1999 has far more significance for us here in Colorado Springs than its being JASNA’s final Annual General Meeting of the twentieth century. True: with Colorado Springs being nestled at the base of towering Pikes Peak, we are thrilled to be able to focus the AGM on the novel that is widely considered not only Austen’s masterpiece, but also one of the greatest novels ever created, Emma as “Austen at Her Peak.” But as the twenty-first AGM in JASNA’s history, we know that we have not only 20 wonderful previous AGMs to follow (and hard acts they are!), but also that as the 21st AGM, ours, in some ways, should particularly highlight JASNA’s maturity as a society—its truly coming of age as a national and international organization devoted to a writer who is herself timeless. Indeed, this is most appropriate for a conference devoted to the novel whose eponymous heroine is a self-proclaimed “imaginist!”

Relishing this challenge and admittedly being “imaginists” ourselves, we began—even before our application to host the AGM was officially approved by JASNA’s Board of Directors in Richmond in 1996 (talk about optimism!)—to talk with Janeites about what they would like to experience at an AGM. “Lots of speakers,” was the common and not unexpected reply. And we heartily concurred. But we also raised with Janeites whom we met at the Richmond AGM—both speakers and attendees there—and elsewhere the idea that perhaps they would like to experience, as both presenters and audience members, a variety of formats for breakout sessions that would supplement—but not replace—the 40-minute time slots devoted to a single speaker that have become traditional at AGMs: for example, debates, point-counterpoints, two or three shorter presentations on a theme during the same time slot, panels. People expressed enthusiasm. Now we had to find speakers willing to do this.

Consequently, as soon as the Board approved our application to host the AGM three years hence, we began at the Richmond AGM to canvass for presenters and, in so doing, to spread the word about using varied formats for breakout sessions. Then in March 1997, Brenda Tooley and I initiated an intensive and extensive 18-month-long campaign for proposals for “breakout” sessions, suggesting in our announcements the various formats that these presentations might take. We published our “call for papers” in numerous venues, using both traditional print sources and an award winning (the “Links-2-GO” award) website, created and maintained by Brenda Tooley of The Colorado College. We also both mailed and personally distributed (at conferences and meetings we attended) bookmarks with our website address and detailed flyers about the type of program we sought to create. And of course, JASNA News generously ran our announcements multiple times so that we could target the organization’s entire current membership.

The results were thrilling and beyond even our imaginists’ great expectations! We received more than 70 proposals involving more than 80 persons, from both academic and non-academic backgrounds, both long-time JASNA members and newcomers to JASNA as the result of their seeing our call for papers. All are united by their love of Emma and Austen.

So the 21st JASNA AGM is a “peak” experience for us in several ways:  

  • we have the most presenters
  • we have the most varied program of breakout sessions, which we believe are the backbone of the conference
  • we have the first AGM website
  • we will be the first AGM to accept payment for AGM Registration by Visa or Mastercard.

We hope that offering credit card registration will be especially helpful to attendees from outside the United States because their payments will automatically be converted to American currency (thus obviating the need for international bank drafts), as well as to those who, like many of us, simply prefer to pay by card. (Imagine Lydia Bennet with a credit card!)

by Joan Klingel Ray, Co-Coordinator 1999 AGM

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