Breakout Speakers

Let everybody on the Hill hear me if they can.

We are pleased to announce our outstanding breakout speakers and pique your interest with descriptions of their presentations.  When you register for the AGM, you will select one presentation from each breakout session.

BREAKOUT SESSION A – Friday, October 21, 2:45-3:45 pm

A1. Funny Lady: Dangerous Humor and Female Empowerment in Austen’s Emma
Mackenzie Broderick, Northwestern University

From Emma Woodhouse to Amy Schumer, female-driven comedy has always courted controversy.  Participants in this session will explore how humor works in Emma and its impact on character relationships.  In this novel, a woman dares us to laugh, and this is just as revolutionary today as it was two hundred years ago.

Mackenzie Broderick is an undergraduate at Northwestern University, where she studies English, Creative Writing, and History.  In 2013 she attended the AGM celebrating 200 years of Pride and Prejudice as a student essay winner, and she is excited to return.  An aspiring novelist, she plans on carrying her love of Austen to postgraduate studies and beyond.

A2. Influence and Interference: The Ethics of Attention in Emma
Lorraine Clark, Trent University

“Influencing” or “interfering” with people’s education, marriages, jobs, even health, requires “a something between the do-nothing and the do-all,” as Emma insists to Mr. Knightley.  Determining this “something” demands above all “attention”—a clear-eyed, rational, yet loving discernment of the reality of others’ characters.  How does Emma school our cognitive and ethical discernment?

Dr. Lorraine Clark is Associate Professor of English at Trent University, where she specializes in 18th-century and Romantic literature and philosophy.  She has published a book on William Blake, articles on Persuasion and Mansfield Park, and has been a JASNA AGM speaker at Lake Louise, Toronto, Fort Worth, and Montreal.

A3. “Exquisite” Nature: Serious Pastoral in Emma
Mary Jane Curry, North Carolina Region

Has Emma really experienced “very little to vex her”?  She faces lifelong intellectual and physical confinement.  To understand her inner life better, we shall detect and discuss Austen’s clues: Emma’s responses to nature.  Participants will connect passages in Emma with “serious pastoral” elements in literature.

Mary Jane Curry, Ph.D. English (1994), founded JASNA’s Alabama Region, has been a judge for the JASNA Essay Contest, and is a JASNA Life Member.  Recently retired from university teaching including the British novel, she is revising her booklength manuscript on serious pastoral in Austen’s fiction.

A4. Emma: Knowing Her Mind
Marcia McClintock Folsom, Wheelock College

Austen explores Emma’s mind using the free indirect discourse developed in Mansfield Park, presenting Emma’s brain as mobile, telepathic, quick.  Emma’s mind sometimes registers uneasy awareness of alternatives to her chosen behavior.  But although the narrator knows Emma’s mind, Emma herself must experience shocks to her consciousness to know it herself.

Marcia McClintock Folsom is Professor of Literature, Chair of Humanities at Wheelock College.  She is the editor of Approaches to Teaching Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Approaches to Teaching Austen’s Emma, and co-editor with John Wiltshire of Approaches to Teaching Austen’s Mansfield ParkA recent essay in Persuasions 28 is “Power in Mansfield Park: Austen’s Study of Domination and Resistance.”

A5. What Emma Knew: Modes of Education in Emma
Jessica Richard, Wake Forest University

This session will illuminate theories and models of women’s education in early 19th-century England and in Emma.  In this context, rather than teaching her lessons, the novel vindicates Emma’s independent intuition and knowledge, aligning her—and Austen—with radical theorists of women’s education.

Jessica Richard spoke at the Montreal AGM on Mansfield Park and education.  Her current book project is on education in eighteenth-century British culture.  Her publications include the book The Romance of Gambling in the Eighteenth-Century British Novel (Palgrave 2011), which concludes with a chapter on Persuasion.

A6. The Darkness of Emma
Anita Soloway, Tel Aviv University (retired)

At the center of Emma, Austen develops a lively, optimistic tale of a young woman’s moral growth, while through its secondary and tertiary characters, she creates a somber vision of the vulnerability of our lives that anticipates Persuasion.  Are there “blessings of existence” that can counteract its devastations?

Dr. Anita Soloway, a specialist in Victorian literature, taught for many years in the English departments of Barnard College and Queens College, CUNY.  She recently retired from Tel Aviv University’s Department of Foreign Languages.  Dr. Soloway spoke at the Montreal AGM and has published in Persuasions.

A7. The Authoress of Hartfield: Emma Woodhouse, Unlearned, Uninformed, and Daring
Amy Stallings, Regional Coordinator, Southeastern Virginia Region

Although not much of a reader, Emma recognizes that she is unsuited to be a heroine by the literary standards of her day.  Instead, she casts herself as the omniscient narrator of Highbury, picking her heroes and heroines from among its inhabitants with the creative flair of an authoress.

A JASNA member since the age of fourteen, Amy Stallings is formerly a second-place winner in JASNA’s essay contest.  She is currently a PhD candidate in American History and has spoken at JASNA regional meetings on topics including the role of dance in promoting political agendas during the 18th century.

A8. Solving the Puzzle of Jane Fairfax: Jane Austen and the Anti-Heroine
Gillian Webster, Jane Austen Society (UK-Kent)

What is it about the enigmatic figure of Jane Fairfax that makes her so central to the novel, and why is she not the heroine?  This session will explore Jane Austen’s treatment of the anti-heroine, and how by giving anti-heroine status to an unlikely character, Austen subverts conventions and challenges her readers to accept a different perspective.

In retirement, Jill Webster returned to literature and took an MA in The 18th Century Novel, specializing in the novels of Fanny Burney.  She is Chairman of the Kent Branch of the Jane Austen Society.  She has spoken at regional events and the UK AGM and regularly contributes to the Kent Branch publication Austentations.

A9. Mrs. Elton’s Pearls: Simulating Superiority in Jane Austen’s Emma
Carrie Wright, University of Southern Indiana

Mrs. Elton attempts to assert her superiority in Highbury as a wealthy new bride with her possessions, including pearls.  Pearls traditionally signaled the ideal woman, and the failure of Mrs. Elton’s pearls to symbolize excellence in their wearer is emblematic of the deterioration of class boundaries in Austen’s England.

Carrie Wright is an Instructor of Geology at the University of Southern Indiana, where she teaches Geology for Educators, the Geology of Gemstones, and Historical Geology.  She is also earning her Master of Arts in English at USI, focusing on composition studies and the cultural contexts of gemstones in literature.

BREAKOUT SESSION B – Friday, October 21, 4:00-5:00 pm

B1. Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves: A Mystery Author’s Guide to the Underworld of Emma
Carrie Bebris, Regional Coordinator, Dayton Region

The criminal “underworld” of Georgian England existed not beneath the surface of everyday life, but alongside it.  Meet the lawless transients who roamed just outside the doors of Austen and her characters, discover which major characters themselves commit hanging offenses, and learn to speak 19th-century thieves’ cant in this insider’s tour.

Carrie Bebris writes the award-winning Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, praised by reviewers for their faithfulness to Austen and historical accuracy.  She speaks nationally and regionally on Austen and Georgian social history.  Currently RC of the Dayton Region, she’s served past AGMs as a speaker, Young Writers’ Workshop instructor, and steering committee member.

B2. “The Encouragement I Received”: Emma and the Language of Sexual Assault
Celia Easton, State University of New York at Geneseo

Side-stories of sexual assault, aggression, and improprieties pervade Austen’s novels, although they are neither central nor melodramatic.  While many 18th-century novelists turned teasing, rape, and sexual assault into titillating plot centerpieces, Austen’s context is broader and more complex.  Participants will discuss that context in a close reading of the Elton-Emma carriage scene in Emma.

Celia Easton is Professor of English and a college administrator at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where she has taught courses in the long eighteenth-century and Jane Austen for more than three decades.  She is a former coordinator for the Central and Western New York Region of JASNA.

B3. Faultless Emma: The Imperfections and “Perfect Happiness” of the Heroine “No One” Likes
Sarah Emsley, Nova Scotia Region

Mr. Knightley thinks of Emma as “faultless in spite of all her faults.”  Does Emma want to be perfect?  What are her ambitions?  Do they make her more or less virtuous, and more or less likeable?  And who says a heroine has to be either virtuous or likeable, anyway?

Sarah Emsley is the author of Jane Austen’s Philosophy of the Virtues and the editor of Jane Austen and the North Atlantic.  She’s a member of JASNA Nova Scotia and she has spoken at several JASNA AGMs and regional meetings.  She writes about Jane Austen at https://sarahemsley.com/.

B4. “Dependence or Independence!”
Sheryl Craig, University of Central Missouri

Emma contains 16 female characters who are gainfully employed and who have the ability to conduct business, to manage their own money, and to behave as rational creatures.  Thus, in this novel Jane Austen is making the same argument Mary Wollstonecraft made in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

Dr. Sheryl Craig is the editor of JASNA News and has been a JASNA International Visitor and Traveling Lecturer.  Sheryl’s book, Jane Austen and The State of the Nation, was published by Palgrave Macmillan Press.  Her PhD is in nineteenth-century British literature.

B5. “Accountable to Nobody”: Motherless Children in Emma
Holly Field, South Carolina Region

Mothers of all descriptions appear throughout Austen’s novels.  But in no other novel is the absence of mothers as prevalent as in Emma.  Jane, Harriet, Frank, Isabella, and Emma: does their behavior relate to being motherless children?  In speaking of Emma and Harriet, Mrs. Weston states, “. . . it cannot be expected that Emma, accountable to nobody but her father, who perfectly approves the acquaintance, should put an end to it . . .”

Holly Field is retired from a career as a clinical researcher and audiologist.  She brings her research background to her lifelong love and study of Jane Austen.  She has presented a program on Austen for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program and book clubs in Illinois.

B6. Oysters and Alderneys: Emma and the Animal Economy
Susan Jones, Palm Beach Atlantic University

The Regency runs on animal labor and on animal husbandry, yet the animal economy functions almost invisibly in the background of Emma.  To Austen’s insiders, however, a fascinating code informs the novel.  From Mrs. Cole’s donkey to Mrs. Weston’s “turkies,” animals supply surprising insights into Emma and her world.

Dr. Susan Jones is Professor of English at Palm Beach Atlantic University.  She specializes in Medieval and Renaissance Literature with additional interest in Jane Austen and material culture.  She has published in Persuasions and co-authored Jane Austen’s Guide to Thrift.  She is past co-coordinator of the JASNA South Florida region.

B7. “Could He Even Have Seen Into Her Heart”: Mr. Knightley’s Development of Sympathy
Michele Larrow, Washington State University

Using Adam Smith’s theory of sympathy, we explore how we imagine what others feel when they are different from us.  Emma and Mrs. Weston both accuse Mr. Knightley of not understanding the experiences of those unlike him.  How does Austen convey his awareness of Emma’s emotions as his love increases?

Michele Larrow is a licensed psychologist who works at Counseling and Psychological Services at Washington State University.  She is interested in the portrayal of emotions and social relationships in Jane Austen’s works.  This is her first AGM.

B8. Divas in the Drawing Room, or Italian Opera Comes to Highbury
Jeffrey Nigro, Art Institute of Chicago
Andrea Cawelti, Harvard University

How did arias first performed by glamorous opera stars make their way to the provincial pianofortes of “accomplished” women like Jane Fairfax?  We will track these intriguing developments, and will relate the dynamics of prima donna rivalries in Austen’s time to the character relationships in Emma.

Jeffrey Nigro is a Research Associate in the Department of Ancient and Byzantine Art and an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Museum Education at the Art Institute of Chicago.  He is a lifelong opera lover and a frequent AGM speaker.

A former opera singer, Andrea Cawelti is the John M. Ward Music Cataloguer at Houghton Library, Harvard University.  Her involvement with the Ward Collection includes extensive work with its significant holdings in Italian Opera from the King’s Theatre, London.

BREAKOUT SESSION C – Saturday, October 22, 10:45-11:45 am

C1. “So Prettily Done!”: Illustrating Emma
Deborah Barnum, Regional Co-Coordinator, Vermont Region

Beginning with Bentley’s 1833 edition, to the latest Marvel comic, numerous illustrators have imagined the characters and settings of Emma. This visual journey takes you through the nearly 200 years of Emma’s illustrated history, comparing the artists and their times, and discussing which of the many Mr. Knightleys works best.

Deborah Barnum, a former law librarian, is the owner of Bygone Books, a closed shop of collectible books in Burlington, Vermont.  She is Co-Regional Coordinator for the Vermont Region, authors the ”Jane Austen in Vermont” blog, and compiles the annual “Jane Austen Bibliography” for Persuasions-Online.

C2. “The Post-Office is a Wonderful Establishment”: Epistolary Networks, Private Space, and Postal Culture in Regency England
L. Bao Bui, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

This presentation will address the rhetoric, conventions, and cultural practices surrounding letter writing in Jane Austen’s novels.  In Emma, the postal mail allowed the heroine and her social set to acquire news, share gossip, conduct courtship (both public and clandestine), and construct communities of belonging that extended beyond their immediate vicinity.

L. Bao Bui’s research interests include the U.S. Civil War, the history of communications, the history and politics of food, urban planning, and residential architecture, as well as Jane Austen.  His dissertation is “‘I Feel Impelled to Write’: Social Networking and the Culture of Letter Writing during the Civil War.”

C3. “No Advocate for Entire Seclusion”: In, Out, and About in Emma
Hazel Jones, Jane Austen Society (UK-South West)

Emma remains firmly on familiar territory, thinking “a little too well of herself” until more mobile characters arrive in Highbury.  This illustrated presentation considers the effect of limited geographical experience on Emma’s self-image and explores the journeys undertaken in the novel in search of health, amusement, or a marriage partner.

Hazel Jones tutors residential courses on Jane Austen’s novels, letters, life and times.  She is the author of Jane Austen & Marriage (Continuum 2009), Jane Austen’s Journeys (Robert Hale 2014) and co-authored with Maggie Lane, Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Darling Child (Lansdown Media 2012).

C4. “Where Health Is at Stake”: Fictive Ills, Invalids, and Healers in Highbury
Cheryl Kinney, North Texas Region
Theresa Kenney, University of Dallas
Liz Philosophos Cooper, JASNA Vice President - Regions

This tripartite session examines the patients, the problems and the practitioners of Highbury, “where health is at stake.”  Dr. Kinney will dissect the illnesses of some of the inhabitants and illuminate how Jane Austen uses these fictive ills for thematic purposes.  Professor Kenney will follow with an examination of the importance of sympathy and its relationship to the rational will to do good.  Liz Philosophos Cooper will consider the Regency representation of Mr. Perry and suggest a possible model for Mr. Perry, whose status and respect were as much due to his diplomatic as to his medical skills.

Dr. Cheryl Kinney is a gynecologist in Dallas, Texas and has been named a “Best Doctors in America” and “America’s Top Obstetricians and Gynecologist.”  She has lectured throughout North America and the UK on women’s health in the novels of Jane Austen and other 19th century British authors.

Dr. Theresa Kenney, Associate Professor at the University of Dallas, specializes in the 19th century novel, 17th-century poetry, and Medieval literature, particularly Arthurian romance and Dante.  Her works include Women Are not Human: an Anonymous Treatise and Responses and The Christ Child in Medieval Culture: Alpha es et O!  Her current book, The Christ Child in Early Modern English Literary Culture, is under contract.  The next project is “A More Fascinating Name”: the Importance of Sense and Sensibility.

Liz Philosophos Cooper is a second-generation JASNA member and serves as First Vice President of Regions.  A contributing writer to Jane Austen’s Regency World, Cooper is also a popular speaker on the subjects of Austen’s letters, her publishing history, and Regency life and pastimes.

C5. Critics of Talk in Emma
Juliet McMaster, University of Alberta (retired)

When Emma parodies Miss Bates’s style of speech, she represents a number of characters in the novel who, as alert critics of dialogue, teach us readers how to listen, interpret, and appreciate the characters’ best mode of self-expression.  To a remarkable extent, the oral exchanges in Emma constitute the novel’s action.

Juliet McMaster of the University of Alberta is well known to JASNA audiences.  Besides books on Thackeray, Trollope and Dickens, she has co-edited the Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen and published Jane Austen the Novelist and, most recently, Jane Austen, Young Author.  She has also illustrated Austen’s The Beautifull Cassandra.

C6. Emma’s Serious Spirit: How Miss Woodhouse Faces the Issues Raised in Mansfield Park and Becomes Jane Austen’s Most Complex Heroine
Anna Morton, Greater Sacramento Region

Does Emma learn to listen to that “guide within” herself, that “serious spirit” of Fanny Price, instead of the “vain spirit” of Henry Crawford?  We’ll uncover how Austen created Emma Woodhouse using that conflict in Mansfield Park and the evangelical pursuit of self-knowledge and reform that Austen considered so essential.

Anna Morton is the co-owner and webmistress of Thither, the Regency online costuming shop and resource website, where she designs and constructs period garments and writes articles on Jane Austen and the Regency period.  She also writes and researches for her travel blog, Adventures of Lady Anna.

C7. What’s a Nice Girl like Emma Woodhouse Doing in a Place Like That?  The True Story of Box Hill
Douglas Murray, Belmont University

In Austen’s era, Box Hill—a real beauty spot in Surrey—was notorious: a lover’s lane and a place of drunkenness, even prostitution.  The testimony of 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century antiquarians, travel writers, and artists illuminates Emma, the novel and the character.

Douglas Murray is a Professor of English specializing in British literature and works of the 17th-early 20th centuries.  He co-edited Catharine and Other Writings, the Oxford World's Classics volume of Austen's miscellaneous prose.  His article, “Jane Austen’s ‘passion for taking likenesses’: Portraits of the Prince Regent in Emma” appeared in Persuasions 29.

C8. “Small, Trifling Presents”: Giving and Receiving in Emma
Linda Zionkowski, Ohio University

From apples and pork to “polish” and a piano, gifts create important bonds between characters in the village of Highbury.  However, not all givers are kindly and well-intentioned, and not all recipients are grateful and pleased.  Participants will discuss the different meanings of presents in Emma’s society: are they symbols of affection or displays of power—or both?

Linda Zionkowski is Professor of English at Ohio University, where she teaches eighteenth-century British literature.  Her most recent publications include a forthcoming book, Women and Gift Exchange in Eighteenth-Century Fiction: Richardson, Burney, Austen, as well as articles on the musical culture of Jane Austen.

BREAKOUT SESSION D – Saturday, October 22, 1:30-2:30 pm

D1. “Liking” Emma Woodhouse
Elaine Bander, Montréal-Québec Region

What does it mean to “like” the heroine of a novel?  The author of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion knew perfectly well how to create sympathetic, universally-beloved heroines.  This session will explore, why, at the height of her creative powers, Austen chose to create a heroine who would challenge readers to like her.

Elaine Bander has been speaking at JASNA gatherings since 1993.  She has served JASNA as Vice-President (Publications), Traveling Scholar, Regional Coordinator (Montréal), AGM Coordinator (2014), and Persuasions Editorial Board member.  Elaine, now retired from teaching English at Dawson College in Montreal, has published many articles on Austen, Burney, and detective fiction.

D2. Such an Opening: The First Lines of Jane Austen’s Emma and All That They Mean
Susannah Fullerton, President, Jane Austen Society of Australia

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”  What does this opening, giving Emma’s name, wealth, looks, situation and prospects, tell us of what will follow?  Why is this vital opening sentence ignored at a reader’s peril?

Susannah Fullerton has been President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia for 20 years.  She is the author of Jane Austen and Crime, A Dance with Jane Austen and Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  She leads literary tours to Austen country, and has spoken at many JASNA AGMs.

D3. Marrying Mr. Right-Enough: Domestic Realism and Marital Partnership in Emma
Peter Graham, Virginia Tech University

Though centered on a marriageable heroine, Emma presents a communal protagonist, Highbury, composed in part of new or established marriages with ever-varying proportions of harmony and dissonance.  It empirically shows how the partners in these unions individually and jointly help determine both the community’s nature and the plotline’s path.

Peter Graham is Professor of English at Virginia Tech, where he mainly teaches courses in British literature from the 18th century on. He has published books and articles on the works of Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Charles Darwin, and other writers and has often spoken at JASNA events.

D4. Emma, Slavery, and Cultures of Captivity
Catherine Ingrassia, Virginia Commonwealth University

Emma contains explicit and coded references to the institution of slavery.  This session looks at the slave trade and other kinds of “trade in flesh,” unpacks the cultural significance of Bristol (and Mrs. Elton’s connections there), and situates Emma in the culture of captivity that shapes the novel as a whole.

Catherine Ingrassia is Professor of English.  She has published many essays on eighteenth-century literature and culture, and most recently edited the Cambridge Companion to Women Writers, 1660-1789 (Cambridge, 2015).  She regularly teaches courses on Jane Austen’s novels, most recently a seminar titled “The Persistence of Pride and Prejudice.”

D5. Sketching Box Hill with Emma: Art and the Amateur Lady, from Prinny’s Regency to Victoria’s Reign
Kelly McDonald, Vermont Region

Drawing upon actual artwork, discover Emma Woodhouse’s artistic talent!  Women of her social standing were adept artists, be it landscapes or likenesses, colorful botanicals, Highbury or Chatsworth.  Famous masters and prize-winners will leave you with a new respect for amateur artists and their devotion to preserving images of daily life.

Researching Emma Austen’s family, Kelly M. McDonald has transcribed two thousand letters (also diaries) from the 1790s-1870s.  Articles appear in Persuasions/Persuasions On-Line; Jane Austen’s Regency World.  “A Reputation for Accomplishment: Marianne Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse as Artistic Performers,” in Duquette and Lenckos, Jane Austen and the Arts discusses art in Emma.

D6. Who’s Afraid of Miss Bates?
Rebecca Posusta, University of Colorado

In providing a foil for Emma Woodhouse in the ever loquacious, oh so clever Miss Bates, Jane Austen asks us to consider what it is that Emma fears: what are those things that disturb her quiet world and “threaten [. . .] alloy to her many enjoyments” and make her only seem to have the “best blessings of existence”?

Rebecca Posusta is a Senior Instructor of English at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, where she teaches a variety of introductory courses in literature, 18th century British Literature and Austen.  She has recently published an article on Persuasion and presented a paper on Mansfield Park at the 2014 AGM.

D7. Multimedia Emma: Three Recent Adaptations
Linda Troost, Washington & Jefferson College
Sayre Greenfield, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg

Participants in this session will look at versions of Emma from around the world and in different media: a classic television serial from the BBC, a film set in New Delhi, and an Internet serial set in Los Angeles.  All three versions showcase values of the 21st century, sometimes satirized and sometimes celebrated.

Dr. Sayre Greenfield is Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh in Greensburg; Dr. Linda Troost is Professor of English at Washington & Jefferson College.  They edited Jane Austen in Hollywood and have presented at several AGMs.  They are life members of JASNA and last year were visiting fellows at Chawton House Library.

D8. One Very Superior Party: In Which Mrs. Elton Shews the Inhabitants of Highbury “How Everything Ought to Be Arranged”
Kim Wilson, Wisconsin Region

What does Mrs. Elton mean when she criticizes the parties held at Highbury, and what sort of party would she give?  Informative and amusing illustrations of Regency-era parties, games, foods, and table settings will show participants what Mrs. Elton’s evening party would have looked like and how they can easily recreate it.

Kim Wilson is a writer, speaker, editor, tea lover, gardening enthusiast, culinary historian, and a life member of JASNA.  She is the author of At Home with Jane Austen, Tea with Jane Austen, and In the Garden with Jane Austen.  She has spoken at several AGMs and regional JASNA events.