Jane Austen Summer Program rescheduled for 2021

Dear JASP-ers,

This announcement comes with a heavy heart. To prioritize the safety of participants, volunteers and speakers in light of global health concerns, we have made the difficult decision to reschedule our 2020 Jane Austen Summer Program to next year. Previously scheduled for this June, our program “Jane Austen’s World” will now take place June 17-20, 2021.

We have an exceptional lineup of speakers and events, and it is incredibly sad to have to make this hard decision. JASP brings together a vibrant community of scholars and non-scholars to celebrate Jane Austen, and we hope that this community can still come together and experience our program next year. Many of our speakers have already agreed to come next year instead.

If you registered for JASP 2020, you have the following options: 

Receive a full refund of your registration and any add-ons. 

— Apply your registration toward next year’s JASP. We will reserve your spot in next year’s program. 

— Gift your registration to someone else to attend in 2021.  We will send the recipient a gift certificate.

— Donate all or part of your registration to JASP.  As many of you know, JASP is run by a small staff and a tireless group of hardworking graduate students and volunteers, but we could not make it such an unforgettable event without you. We aim to use the extra time to make our 2021 program even better, and we appreciate your support. Donations are tax-deductible.

Please fill out the form linked to below by APRIL 30 to allow us to begin processing your donation, refund or registration for next year. If you made a hotel reservation with the JASP group discount at the Hampton Inn, your reservation will be canceled automatically and with no penalty. You will receive an email notice directly from the Hampton Inn. 

Click here to let us know how to handle your registration

If you have questions or concerns, please email: jaspregistrar@gmail.com. And stay tuned to our website, janeaustensummer.org, and various social media channels for the latest updates on our 2021 program. 

Thank you and stay well.

Until next year,  
Inger Brodey and James Thompson
Co-founders, Jane Austen Summer Program

Another look at Lydia Bennet

A new discovery sheds new light on an old character

When it comes to irritating Austen characters, Lydia Bennet is certainly high on the list. Trampling her own reputation and flaunting her disregard for that of her sisters, Lydia is the selfish younger sister that we never wanted. Readers aren’t alone in this sentiment: a recent article from “The Guardian” suggests that Austen’s inspiration for the character arose from an undesirable sister-in-law. According to the article, Mary Pearson, the alleged archetype for Lydia, was deemed an unlikely match for Austen’s brother, Henry— a prediction that came true after only a few months of their engagement. While the exact reasons for this break are unclear, the article does associate both Pearson and Lydia with a reckless urge to be wed.

Although Lydia is definitely approaches marriage without consideration for the consequences of her dalliances, it’s a little difficult to believe that Austen only wanted a thoughtless static character to fill in her plot. For instance, the time that other characters spend deliberating over the significance of Lydia’s plight is quite substantial — suggesting that it should also weigh on our own minds. In a similar vein, Mary’s reaction to Lydia’s elopement, though disregarded by Lizzie, speaks to the complexity of Lydia’s predicament:

“Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson; that the loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable—that one false step involves her in endless ruin—that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful.”

-Jane Austen, “Pride and Prejudice”

Though it does ring of the excessive moralizations to which Mary is prone, her words tap into the problematics of femininity in the Regency era. Why should it be that there is no forgiveness for a false step, particularly when Lydia’s marriage to Wickham elicits every reaction from joy to condemnation? Furthermore, why should a young girl bear the blame for living in a social structure that predisposes her to helplessness?

Later iterations of Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” also tap into the contemplative currents that surround this character. Uzma Jalaluddin’s “Ayesha at Last” emphasizes the vulnerability of girls like her Hafsa, a contemporary analog of Lydia. Jalaluddin uses Hafsa’s fall from grace (the publication of explicit photos on the Internet without her consent) to illustrate the systemic disregard for women’s reputations, as law enforcement refuses to acknowledge that a crime has been committed. Yet this is also a moment of heartening solidarity between women, as Ayesha stands by her cousin:

Ayesha at Last book cover

“Hafsa is not ruined, Ayesha said.
“Her reputation is in tatters and the vultures are circling.”
“Let them circle!” Ayesha said loudly.

-Uzma Jalaluddin, “Ayesha at Last”

Here, Jalaluddin highlights a sympathy toward Lydia that was less apparent in Austen’s own work. Moreover, she refuses to allow her protagonist to engage in the victim-shaming that so often accompanies discourse surrounding Lydia-type figures.

This trend has its roots in an earlier “Pride and Prejudice” adaptation, “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.” A series of YouTube videos detailing the life of Lizzie Bennet and her sisters, the vlog’s handling of Wickham’s taking advantage of Lydia and the responses to it work to normalize practices of supporting victims of relationship abuse. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of solidarity between women in a heartwarming sequence of exchanges between the Bennet sisters.

Lydia, from “The Lizzie
Bennet Diaries”

So, just as the mystery of the “real” Lydia’s identity continues to excite and engage Austen scholars and readers alike, I find that the character is just as fascinating. Though Lydia Bennet might raise eyebrows and tempers alike, this character and her actions open the door to myriad societal critiques, and show us the importance of looking beyond appearances.

Free online discussion: Authors Sonali Dev and Soniah Kamal on food and family in Jane Austen’s work and adaptations

Attention, Jane Austen fans: Join us on June 4 at 7 p.m. for an online event: “Food, Family, and Identity with Sonali Dev and Soniah Kamal,” hosted by Jane Austen and Company, JASP’s free public humanities series. This event is free and will take place over Zoom.

Jane Austen Summer Program co-founder Inger Brodey will interview Sonali Dev (author of “Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors” and the forthcoming “Recipe for Persuasion,” which hits shelves May 26) and Soniah Kamal (author of “Unmarriageable“) about their novels, Jane Austen, and the role of food and family in Austen’s work and adaptations. A Q&A will follow.

Dev and Kamal were guests at our 2019 program, “Pride and Prejudice and Its Afterlives.” Read more about them here and here.

To register and receive the Zoom link for this event, please fill out the form here. Please note: Spots are limited and are first-come-first serve.

For more information, check out Jane Austen & Company’s blog here. Have a question for Sonali Dev or Soniah Kamal? Leave it in the comments below!

Order Up: Spotlight on Marcel’s Catering Cafe

A longtime JASP partner makes a difference in Chapel Hill

Driving along Fordham Boulevard in Chapel Hill with the windows down, one would be hard-pressed to ignore the tantalizing aromas wafting from the nearby Marcel’s Catering Cafe. For over 30 years, this family-run business has served the Chapel Hill community, not only catering events, but also building connections and memories within this slice of blue heaven.

Marcel’s entrees look positively scrumptious!

Case in point: Marcel’s has provided the catering for the Jane Austen Summer Program since the inaugural conference in 2013, nourishing our attendees and the marvelous relationships that JASP fosters. “We have always enjoyed working with JASP and are missing it this year,” says Marcelle Prater, who owns and operates the catering cafe with her husband, Larry. The feeling is certainly mutual, as UNC graduate fellow Eric Bontempo states, “For the last two years, I have had the great pleasure of working with Marcel’s Catering Cafe to plan the menu for the JASP banquet and the Regency ball. I have taste-tested numerous menu items (I take my job very, very seriously), and they’re all delicious!” Likewise, JASP co-director Inger Brodey highlights the business’s accommodating nature. “Marcel’s has been a joy to work with,” Brodey says. “[Prater] has been very understanding of our small budget and has helped us with a variety of configurations for our banquets.” Whether arranging box lunches or providing last-minute support, Marcel’s has been an invaluable partner for JASP.

But the story doesn’t stop there: Marcel’s continues to support the Chapel Hill community, even in the midst of crisis. Throughout the pandemic, Marcel’s has worked to provide affordable entrees while maintaining social distancing, with options such as vegetarian lasagna and pork tenderloin with apricot chutney available for preorder and pickup from the cafe. 

UNC’s covid-19 workers show their appreciation for Marcel’s with a signed card

Beyond this, Marcel’s is also providing meals for UNC Hospital’s covid-19 workers. Funded by donations, Marcel’s has empowered the community to show its support for our front-line health-care professionals.

While we’re sad not to be seeing each other this June, we applaud the impact Marcel’s Catering Cafe continues to have in the Chapel Hill community.

Interested in donating food to UNC’s covid-19 workers? Email Marcelle Prater at marcelleprater151@gmail.com or call at (919) 967-0066. For more information on menus, hours, and pricing, visit the Marcel’s Catering Cafe Facebook Page.