California, Southwest Region
“Serious Laughter”
December 1, 2012

During the Bennett sisters’ sojourn at Netherfield, the officious Miss Bingley confides to Elizabeth that she could not possibly tease or laugh at Mr. Darcy: “‘Teaze calmness of temper and presence of mind!  No, no —I feel he may defy us there.  And as to laughter, we will not expose ourselves, if you please, by attempting to laugh without a subject.’” Elizabeth’s response is characteristic: “‘Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed at!’  cried Elizabeth.  ‘That is an uncommon advantage, and uncommon I hope it will continue, for it would be a great loss to me to have many such acquaintance.  I dearly love a laugh.’”

Like her heroine in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen dearly loved a laugh.  But in her literary quiver, humor was an arrow with which she deftly pierced pomposity, ignorance, and the social callousness of her day.  “Serious Laughter: The Importance of Humor and Satire in Jane Austen’s Time” will bring us together to examine the culture of laughter and ridicule, verbal and visual, in the eighteenth century.  This event will be held from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM in the Centennial Ballroom of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, 431 West Seventh Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014.

Timothy Erwin, Professor and Cultural Studies Chair at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, will discuss how Catherine Morland, Jane Austen’s heroine of Northanger Abbey, finds herself amid the urban scene in Bath, and becomes a participant in the visual culture of the period, artfully reflected in the work of such Regency satirists as Matthew Darly, James Gillray, Isaac Cruikshank, and Thomas Rowlandson.

Audrey Bilger, Professor of Literature at Claremont McKenna College and author of Laughing Feminism: Subversive Comedy in Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth, and Jane Austen, will illustrate how Austen took part in—and refined—a tradition of enlightenment feminist humor.  By drawing on satire and comedy, Austen and other authors of the period made serious points about the gender politics of the eighteenth century, and thereby advanced the rights of women.

During a congenial luncheon, prepared especially for us by Chef Boris Chernov, you will be invited to try your hand at charades.  Then Diana Birchall will lead us in the traditional toast to “l’aimable Jane” and Syrie James will share a preview of her latest novel, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen.

Following lunch, the highly acclaimed cast of the Impro Theatre will regale us with an impromptu version of “Jane Austen Unscripted,” a witty and informed improvisation based on the comedic situations and characters in Austen’s novels.  Those who have seen Impro Theatre’s performances before know that each hilarious performance is original to the moment and the suggestions of the audience.

You are certain to enjoy the day, laughing with Jane Austen!

Pre-registration is required by November 26.  For details about the cost and menu as well as a registration form, go to the JASNA-SW Winter Meeting webpage.

Questions regarding the schedule or event venue may be directed to Carla Washburn at or 818-414-2680.  Questions regarding the on-line registration process may be addressed to Terry Ryan at

—Claire Bellanti

James Gilray: Following the Fashion