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Jane Austen Society of North America
2005 Annual General Meeting

October 7-9, 2005
Hyatt Regency Hotel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin




Breakout Sessions

We are pleased to present a roster of distinguished speakers and multifaceted breakout lectures on the AGM theme “Jane Austen’s Letters in Fact and Fiction.”  Sessions designated “Fact” relate to Austen’s own correspondence; those designated “Fiction” relate to her use of letters in the novels.


Session A, Friday, October 7


Elaine Bander  Dawson College/Montreal, Quebec
Jane Austen’s Letters: Facts and Fictions
Published in Persuasions 27 (2005).  Jane Austenís Letters: Facts and Fictions. Persuasions 27 (2005): 119-129.
The Austens were novel-readers and not ashamed of it. Austen’s letters are filled with allusions to novels and poetry, which provide a shorthand way of communicating with her family. Bander explores these literary allusions and shows how this mode of family discourse shaped Austen’s assumptions about, and relations with, her readers as she began to publish. Fact A:1

Emily Auerbach University of Wisconsin-Madison
Searching for Jane Austen: Restoring the “Fleas” and “Bad Breath”
Published in Persuasions 27 (2005).  “Searching for Jane Austen: Restoring the ‘Fleas’ and ‘Bad Breath.’” Persuasions 27 (2005): 31-38.

When Austen’s letters were published during the Victorian era, they were censored to remove language and sentiments considered offensive.  Remarks about body parts and childbirth, for example, and satiric views of people and events were eliminated or changed. Auerbach details both the censorship of the letters and the restoration of deleted passages to illuminate historical views of Jane Austen. Fact A:2

Elizabeth Fay University of Massachusetts-Boston
Scandalous Stories: Recycling Untoward Acts
Austen's letters mention a number of public scandals, including the disastrous marriage of the Prince Regent and Princess Caroline. Fay compares references to scandal in Austen’sprivate correspondence with her use of letters in the novels to treat scandals, such as Lydia’s elopement in Pride and Prejudice. Fay also examines the royal family’s use of letters in actual and threatened publications. Fact A:3

Miriam Rheingold Fuller Central Missouri University/Warrensburg
“I suppose you have heard of the . . . letter?”: Letters Reported but Unrecorded in Jane Austen’s Fiction
Austen’s novels abound with letters, some recorded verbatim and others known only through reports or conjectures about their contents, such as the letter that draws Col. Brandon hastily away on business. Fuller discusses various types of unrecorded letters in the novels and Austen’s sophisticated use of them for plot and character development. Fiction A:4

Susan Allen Ford Delta State University/Cleveland, MS
“No business with politics”: Writing the Sentimental Heroine in Charlotte Smith’s Desmond and Jane Austen’s Lady Susan
Ford compares Lady Susan with Smith’s 1790 epistolary novel, Desmond, whose sentimental heroines explicitly comment on politics and the condition of women. In Lady Susan Austen exploits and explodes the image of the sentimental heroine and depicts the economic and social condition of women from a personal, rather than a political, perspective. Fiction A:5

Judith Judson Arlington, VA
Licit Authoresses: Female Letter Writers of the Georgian Era
Letter writing has for centuries been the principal means of expression for women. Beginning with a look back in history to Mme de Sévigné and other famous correspondents, Judson examines and quotes distinguished women letter writers of the Georgian era, including Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Mary Wollestonecraft, Lady Caroline Lamb, and Austen’s cousin Eliza de Feuillide. Fact A:6

Jonathan Gross DePaul University/Chicago, IL
Jane Austen and the Epistolary Novel
This lecture focuses on Austen’s place in the history of epistolary fiction, which includes many novels written for and popularized by circulating libraries. Gross discusses in particular Emma, or the Unfortunate Attachment, an epistolary novel published in 1773 by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and how it sheds light on Austen’s more masterful writing. Fiction A:7


Session B, Saturday, October 8


Cheryl Kinney and Cynthia Lopez Physicians/Dallas,TX
“A Dangerous Indulgence”: Jane Austen’s Illness and her Letters
Drs. Kinney and Lopez review Austen’s letters for symptoms of her final illness, explore possible diagnoses, including Addison’s disease and other candidates, and survey the treatment and remedies Austen would have endured. The lecture also discusses the medical profession in Regency England and the effect of the Apothecary’s Act of 1815 on the care Austen received. Fact B:1

Elisabeth Lenckos University of Chicago and Newberry Library/Chicago, IL
“. . . and inventing elegant letters,” or, Why Don’t Austen’s Heroes Write More Often?
When Emma fancies herself in love with Frank Churchill, she daydreams, “inventing elegant letters.” Frank, however, writes no love letters, at least not to Emma. Lenckos examines the significance of the failure of Austen’s heroes to write letters to the heroines. The appearance of a letter, such as Captain Wentworth’s at the end of Persuasion, is all the more effective for its rarity. Fiction B:2

Jodi A. Devine University of Delaware/Newark, DE
Letters and their Role in Revealing Class and Personal Identity in Pride and Prejudice
Published in Persuasions 27 (2005).  “Letters and their Role in Revealing Class and Personal Identity in Pride and Prejudice.Persuasions 27 (2005): 99-111.
The letters in Pride and Prejudice speak volumes about their writers. Mr. Collins’s letters show a lack of breeding, while the Gardiners’ embody grace and good sense. Devine demonstrates that Austen employs letters to provide details about the identity, class, and social etiquette of the writers, as well as to reveal the personality of the characters who receive them. Fiction B:3

Zoyd Luce Graduate Student/Dublin, CA
Letter Writing in the World of Jane Austen
During Austen’s lifetime letter writing was the chief means of communication and a significant aspect of daily life. Luce explains letter writing styles, the basic tools of paper, quill pens, and ink, developments in the British postal system, franking and postage, and examples of good and poor letter writing form. Fact B:4

Sarah Emsley Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Laughing at our Neighbors: Jane Austen and the Problem of Charity
“Mrs. Hall was brought to bed yesterday of a dead child, owing to a fright.—I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband.” Can such cruel comments in Austen’s letters be reconciled with her view of charity? Emsley surveys critical attitudes toward this uncharitable aspect of the letters and resolves the issue by looking at Austen’s grounding in classical and theological traditions. Fact B:5

Zoe Coralnik Kaplan Marymount Manhattan College/New York, NY
Fashions and Furbelows, Vistas and Vanities in the World of Jane Austen
Austen’s letters are richly filled with references to the furnishings, accessories, and settings of her Georgian world. Kaplan explains and provides illustrations of the clothing, furniture, art, architecture, food, china, landscapes, and houses known by Austen and mentioned in her correspondence. Fact B:6

Christopher Nagle Western Michigan University-Kalamazoo
The Epistolary Passions of Sympathy: Feeling Letters in Persuasion and Frances Burney’s The Wanderer
Published in Persuasions 27 (2005).  “The Epistolary Passions of Sympathy: Feeling Letters in Persuasion and Burneyís The Wanderer.Persuasions 27 (2005): 88-98.
Focusing on the last completed novels of Austen and Burney, Nagle compares Wentworth’s letter with a letter of similar importance in The Wanderer. He argues that Austen’s revision of Persuasion to have Wentworth reveal his feelings in a letter makes the novel less Burney-esque and more effective; it also emphasizes the sympathetic attachment of shared feelings between Wentworth and Anne Elliot. Fiction B:7


Session C, Saturday, October 8


Freydis Jane Welland
Honorary Life Board Member/Vancouver, BC
Lorraine Hanaway
Honorary Life BoardMember/Wayne, PA
Damaris Jane Brix
Brentwood Bay, BC
Jane Austen, Caroline Austen and Virginia Woolf: A Trio of Writers and their Letters
Austen wrote amusing letters to her niece Caroline, and Caroline, later in life, recorded stories about her Aunt Jane, including Cassandra’s account of a gentleman admirer of Jane’s at a seaside resort. The speakers read from the correspondence of aunt and niece and discuss their relationship. A letter written by Virginia Woolf has a surprising connection to both Austen and R.W. Chapman, editor of the first edition of collected letters. Fact C:1

Elsie G. Holzwarth Attorney/Chicago, IL
Austen and the Admiral: Commemorating the Bicentennial of the Battle of Trafalgar with Connections between Jane Austen and Horatio Nelson
Published in Persuasions 27 (2005).  “Austen and the Admiral: Commemorating the Bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805.” Persuasions 27 (2005): 163-172.
Austen’s letters and novels reveal her knowledge of the Royal Navy and its most famous Admiral. Her brother Frank served under Nelson, though through bad luck he missed the Battle of Trafalgar, October 21, 1805. Holzwarth commemorates the battle, during which Nelson died, and illuminates the many connections between Austen and the Admiral. Fact C:2

Deborah J. Knuth Klenck Colgate University/Hamilton, NY
Epistles and Epistolary Jokes: Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice as Revisions
Published in Persuasions 27 (2005).  “Fun and Speculation: Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice as Revisions.” Persuasions 27 (2005): 39-53.
Learning from her models Samuel Richardson and Fanny Burney, Austen knew how to use letters to illuminate the psychology of her characters. Klenck examines the evidence that Austen’s first two novels were originally written in epistolary form and discusses the subtle ways in which Austen employs the letters she selectively retained in the published versions. Fiction C:3

Kathleen Anderson and Susan E. Jones Palm Beach Atlantic University/FL
The Jane Austen Diet: The Female Body in Austen’s Letters
Published in Persuasions 27 (2005).  
“The Jane Austen Diet: The Weight of Women in Austenís Letters” by Kathleen Anderson. Persuasions 27 (2005): 75-87.
“Fragment and Focus: Jane Austen and the Art of the Blazons” by Susan E. Jones.  Persuasions 27 (2005): 69-74.

Austen’s references to the female body and its parts reflect a satirist’s eye. Her remarks on short necks, long legs, and other anomalies suggest the Renaissance technique of blazon, in which the poet details parts of a woman’s body to portray perfection and its opposite. In search of a diet to correct the flaws catalogued by Austen, the speakers also look at food mentioned in her letters. Fact C:4

Christine Alexander and David Owen University of New South Wales/Australia
Lady Susan and the Epistolary Mode: An Exercise in Editing and Reassessment
Published in Persuasions 27 (2005).  “Lady Susan: A Re-evaluation of Jane Austenís Epistolary Novel.” Persuasions 27 (2005): 54-68.
The editors of the newest edition of Lady Susan discuss Austen’s manuscript, its critical reception when first published, and their own editing process. They redress the balance in favor of this often under-appreciated work and argue that Austen’s early use of the epistolary form heightened her appreciation of the function of letters in her mature fiction. Fiction C:5

Akiko Takei Yamaguchi University/Japan
Jane Austen and “A Society of Sickness”
Published in Persuasions 27 (2005).  Jane Austen and A Society of Sickness. Persuasions 27 (2005): 142-151.
Fully half of Austen’s letters mention ailments of a relative, acquaintance, or Austen herself, and several refer to popular treatments, such as bloodletting. Takei examines Austen’s attitude toward illness and hypochondria, as evidenced in her letters and novels, and draws conclusions about the author’s balanced viewpoint concerning health. Fact: C:6

Alice Marie White University of Southern California/Los Angeles
Austen’s Message to Samuel Richardson: Rewriting Sir Charles Grandison
This lecture disputes the common assumption that Austen admired Samuel Richardson and, in particular, Sir Charles Grandison. White shows that Austen’s letters and novels parody Richardson, rather than revere him. In her own fiction Austen rewrites Richardson’s courtship plots, which ignored the hero’s flaws, and rejects his notion of heroines who are “pictures of perfection.” Fiction C:7


Session D, Saturday, October 8


Carrie Bebris Novelist/Adams, WI
Letters as Storytelling Tools
Drawing primarily on examples from Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, Bebris examines Austen’s use of letters from a novelist’s perspective. Letters serve to reveal character, lend immediacy to the account of an event, give voice to the silent, provide essential details, overcome the recipient’s reluctance to hear unpleasant facts, and propel the plot. Fiction D:1

Barbara Wenner University of Cincinnati/OH
Following the Trail of Jane Austen’s Letters
Published in Persuasions 27 (2005).  Following the Trail of Jane Austenís Letters. Persuasions 27 (2005): 130-141.
This illustrated lecture examines Austen’s letters as rare artifacts: what they look like, why there are so few, who owned, sold, and bought them, and where they are now. Learn why there are more Austen letters in the U.S. than in England. Owners of the letters have included Jerome Kern, J.P. Morgan, Amy Lowell, and Sandy Lerner. Fact D:2

Anne-Marie Edwards Author/Southampton, England
Jane Austen by the Sea
Austen visited seaside resorts in Devon and lived in the coastal city of Southampton. Her 1804 letter from Lyme describes in detail her delight with the seashore. Through correspondence with her sailor brothers, she also learned about life at sea. Edwards discusses Austen’s seaside experiences and how she put them to use in her fiction, particularly in Mansfield Park and Persuasion. Fact D:3

Louise Penner and Cheryl L. Nixon
University of Massachusetts-Boston
Writing by the Book: Jane Austen’s Heroines and the Art and Form of the Letter
Letter-writing manuals were popular in the Georgian era and influenced the style of private correspondence. Penner and Nixon explain and illustrate the conventions of address, grammar, and formality that the manuals taught. They also discuss letters written by Austen’s heroines, some of which follow the dictates of the manuals, while others deviate from the models. Fact D:4

Mary Basson University School of Milwaukee/WI
Mr. Darcy’s Letter: A Figure in the Minuet
Published in Persuasions 27 (2005).  “Mr. Darcyís Letter - A Figure in the Dance.” Persuasions 27 (2005): 152-162.
Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth reveals his balanced character better than description and dialogue could and sets in motion Austen’s theme of the tension between reason and emotion. Using musical selections to illustrate the classical minuet, Basson shows how the novel’s structure corresponds to the minuet form and how Darcy’s letter functions as a figure in the minuet. Fiction D:5

David Andrew Graves Software Architect/Monte Sereno, CA
Vocabulary Profiles of Letters and Novels of Jane Austen and her Contemporaries
An analysis of the words used by Austen in her letters and novels reveals a close correlation between the two, confirming the sense of recognition readers feel when they turn from the novels to the letters. Graves explains this correlation, compares it to the letters and novels of Burney and Edgeworth, and discusses Austen’s writing patterns and favorite words and phrases. Fact D:6




Welcome Plenary Speakers Breakout Sessions Schedule
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AGM Diversions
Special Events Read JASNA
Imaginary Letters
PRIDE & PREJUDICE Screening