This just in: The latest Jane Austen Summer Program updates

We here at the Jane Austen Summer Program are busy prepping for next month’s symposium, and we have got a lot of JASP news to share with you. So sit back and let us catch you up:

Creative writing workshop

my-post-53.jpg[UPDATE: We have a few spots open for this workshop; sign up here.] New this year, the creative writing workshop will focus on creating new content with an emphasis on writing adaptations. The workshop — led by Professor Randall Kenan of UNC’s creative writing program, Eleanor Griggs of the UNC Department of English and Comparative Literature, and guest author Soniah Kamal — will incorporate prompts and activities that correlate to adapting Austen to a modern audience. Participants do not need to bring any previous writing. No previous writing experience is required, and sharing is always optional. 

— Garland Rieman

The reticule and shoe roses Friday workshop

There are a handful of spaces left for Friday’s Reticule & Shoe Roses workshop in which participants will make their own shoe decorations and purse to go with their outfits for the Regency ball. What are shoe roses? In the 17th century, shoe roses were a popular form of ornamentation used to dress up, well, your shoes — usually considered the least exciting part of an ensemble. Typically, shoe roses were made of ribbons twisted into a rosette or gathered into a large blossom, and could be expensive, depending on the materials used to create them. A reticule is a small women’s handbag, originally netted and typically having a drawstring. Decorated with embroidery or beading, the reticule would match a woman’s shoe roses and dress. This workshop — Friday, June 21 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. — requires extra fees; sign up here. (Please note: There is a waitlist for our hair and shoe roses workshop on Saturday; join it here.)  

— Garland Rieman

Afternoon tea

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There are still spots available for our traditional English afternoon tea. Served for the second year in a row in the beautiful Old Well Room at the historic Carolina Inn, this year’s tea features four courses, including cucumber and watercress tea sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, chicken salad phyllo cups, scones with assorted jams and clotted cream, rose orange macaroons, pie bites, tarts, sponge cake, chocolate cake, as well as earl gray and breakfast tea.

The tea is Sunday, June 23, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. To register for the tea, click here. For directions to the Carolina Inn (where our group will also receive free valet parking),  click here.

— Ashley Oldham


Please note that this year’s self-guided Austen-themed tour at the Ackland Art Museum has been canceled. However, you can still view our rare-book exhibit at Wilson Library on Thursday, June 20, from 11 to 2:30 p.m. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information about our Wilson exhibit.

— Garland Rieman

Pub crawl

Pub Crawl (1).pngGet to know your fellow JASP-ers outside of the conference hotel during our pub crawl. Spots are still available for the event, set for Friday, June 21, beginning at 9 p.m. We’ll have special themed cocktails at three local bars, so make sure to sign up soon! One bar is $15; two, $20; three, $40.  

— Jennifer Abella

Theatrical update

Our theatrical is a highlight every year. This year, we’re presenting “Love and Friendship.” Here’s a note from writer Adam McCune: Like “Pride and Prejudice,” Austen’s “Love and Friendship” features a bold heroine who defies the older generation by pursuing a love match rather than following the conventions of rank and wealth — but unlike Lizzy, the heroine of “Love and Friendship” comes across as impractical and even unethical.

In this rollicking parody poking fun at the heroes and heroines of popular novels, young couples marry strangers, scorn the most reasonable requests of their families, go recklessly into debt (and debtor’s prison), meet with ludicrous tragedies, and faint upon the slightest provocation.

The theatrical is Friday, June 21, at 7:30 p.m. Don’t miss it!

— Jennifer Abella


Look back on your sure-to-be-awesome time at JASP with one of our souvenir T-shirts, which are locally silk-screened. They’re available for preorder ($20) on our registration page; they can be picked up on-site in June. Here’s a sneak peek at the shirts!

— Jennifer Abella

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Book giveaway winners

Congratulations to our registration giveaway winners! The following will receive the “The Jane Austen Diet” by Bryan Kozlowski: Ashley Honaker, Karen Field, Merrill Bell, Ruth Grant and Michele Beach. You’ll receive your books at JASP.

— Jennifer Abella

Guest speaker Q&A: Maria Biajoli on Jane Austen and fan fic

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“Pride and Prejudice” fan fiction has taken on a life of its own over the years — hence our upcoming panel on the topic featuring Dr. Maria Biajoli. A postdoc from the University of São Paulo in Brazil, Biajoli has a PhD in English literature and a passion for Austen. She recently answered a few of our burning questions.

Why does she love Jane Austen?

Traditional canon novels are not usually taught in Brazilian high schools, so Biajoli was introduced to Austen for the first time when she was taking a class for her history major — her first major before literature. Her professor wanted to discuss the political side of “Sense and Sensibility.” That’s how she got to know Austen — through true political debate.

Impressed by the novel, Biajoli immediately saw the 1995 movie adaptation and realized that she had “Pride and Prejudice” at home. She read it, and of course she loved it. Her interest in studying Austen began when she discovered that people like Austen because they see her novels as romantic, sugary, and girly. That was not Biajoli’s view, so it surprised her. That’s why almost 10 years later, she started her PhD — trying to understand just why people see Austen that way.

What makes Austen fan fiction so fascinating to her?

Biajoli first discovered Austen fan fiction — and fan fiction in general — in the United States. While she was completing an internship with a museum in 2008 in rural Massachusetts, she found herself locked inside her house and reading when she wasn’t working. She discovered Austen fan fiction in a local Barnes & Noble store. She then started digging and found a huge fictional universe. For her, fan fic is an opportunity for fans to interact with TV, novels, etc., in a new way. It’s a way for creators to assess what fans like, what they don’t like, their frustrations, or things they wish creators had explored more. It’s Biajoli’s way to understand more about how current fans perceive Austen and her novels, and of course, enjoy them.

Has she taught any courses on Austen, and what has been her favorite topic to teach?

Biajoli has taught one course for undergraduate history students, and tried to combine Austen with her context. She talked a little about each novel and how it affords approaches to Austen’s time. Her favorite thing was her class discussions on Austen’s unfinished work “Sanditon.” Biajoli had a lot of participation because people were interested in hypothesizing where the story was going. Now, she’s teaching a course for graduate students at her current university. She has 10 students in a class on Jane Austen, and “Northanger Abbey” has led to the best class participation with plenty of debates and students trying to defend Catherine. This class has also talked a lot about Austen’s view of fiction and novel writing.

Does she have any memorable experiences presenting her work at JASNA meetings and conferences around the world?

For Biajoli, it’s been a huge honor to speak at Jane Austen Society of North America events — and it’s also very scary. Coming from Brazil and speaking in front of a knowledgeable audience, she often feels the pressure. In the beginning she was very insecure, but now she feels more confident and has received awesome feedback. Her sessions on fan fiction are always full of people who are interested in that field of study. In the beginning, she was afraid that people would be uncertain of fan fiction as an academic subject, but she has found that people are very open to it.

So far, her best experience was at a Cambridge “Sanditon” conference in 2017. It was a smaller event, featuring many renowned Austen scholars, so the pressure was high. Biajoli found that the quality of the papers presented on the incomplete novel was top-notch.

What is her favorite Austen novel, and why?

Besides “Sanditon,” “Mansfield Park” is her favorite Austen novel. She thinks that it’s interesting that no one likes Fanny Price, and she doesn’t know if she likes Fanny either but she does like the novel. Biajoli likes Austen’s sharp critique of society. You don’t get a “perfect” love story, Biajoli says, but rather, Austen at her most ironic. When Biajoli reads “Mansfield Park,” she laughs out loud because of how awesome Austen’s sentences are. However, her favorite novel changes all the time!

If she were to write her own Austen fan fiction, what would it be about and why?

Biajoli is most interested in stories regarding a term called “angst” fan fiction. She doesn’t like when there’s too much drama, but she does like when the stories postpone the final happy ending the final understanding between hero and heroine. She enjoys when authors aren’t getting to that happy ending, and likes this more psychological conflict. Austen fan fiction is based mostly on “Pride and Prejudice.”  While there are examples based on other novels, she would estimate that most fan fiction is about 90 percent based on “Pride and Prejudice.” If she were to write her own fan fiction, Biajoli says she would develop the period between Darcy’s first proposal and Darcy and Elizabeth’s meeting again at Pemberley.

Maria Biajoli is scheduled to speak at Panel 1 from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Friday, June 21. For the full JASP schedule, click here.


‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’ 101: Everything You Need To Know Before Watching This ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Web Adaptation

True or false? Elizabeth Bennet is a communications graduate student living with her family in California. The answer is: True! Well, at least in “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” a modern-day web adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

The series began its run on YouTube in 2012 in the form of 100 short videos. This adaptation (produced by the aptly named Pemberley Digital production company) is exciting, witty, and so lovable that it’ll leave you wanting to watch the entire series in one sitting — which I may or may not have done myself.

If you’re in the market for a new series to enjoy, here’s everything you need to know before watching “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.” Consider this your “LBD 101.”

The Plot

lizzie bennet diariesIn this series, Lizzie Bennet gives viewers a peek into her family life through her video blog (vlog) as a grad-school project. She’s aided by her best friend, Charlotte; her sweet older sister, Jane; and her extremely enthusiastic younger sister, Lydia.

In true Austen fashion, Mrs. Bennet constantly pushes Lizzie and her two sisters to marry rich men — especially when medical student Bing Lee moves in down the street. With Bing Lee comes his sister, Caroline, and of course his best friend, William Darcy.

There’s also a slew of other notable characters, such as Ricky Collins (creator of the media company Collins and Collins) and his patron, Ms. Catherine De Bourgh. Swim coach George Wickham also makes an appearance — first wooing Lizzie, then later Lydia.

LBD is fun and hilarious, and this is just a taste of the slew of shenanigans that ensue throughout the web series. Though the main ideas of “Pride and Prejudice” remain, the way it’s re-created allows for new adventures for these classic characters.

The Format

Though there are a few outliers, the episodes are generally around two to five minutes and were originally released twice a week or so. They usually involve Lizzie talking directly to the camera (with Charlotte assumed to be behind it), taking viewers through her most recent life updates.

Other characters will sometimes insert themselves into the videos. Other times, Lizzie will reenact her encounters with them using props (and Charlotte). Though most videos find Lizzie in her room, sometimes she’ll be at Bing Lee’s, a company office, or even a web video convention.

The Modern-Day Differences

Although this adaptation sticks closely to the heart and soul of the original novel, there are, of course, a few notable differences.

For starters, all the main characters have jobs or backgrounds that fit perfectly with their character traits. Lizzie is in grad school studying mass communications, Jane is a fashionista, Lydia is a seemingly flighty party girl, Bing Lee is a medical student, and Darcy runs his own company.

These characters also find themselves in all sorts of different situations, such as Ricky Collins attempting to make Lizzie his new business partner.

If you’re wondering about Mary and Kitty, then ponder no more. In this version, Mary is the Bennet sisters’ emo cousin and Kitty is — well, you’ll have to watch to find out.

All of this is to say that the vlog style gave the series producers more creative freedom.

Why It’s So Lovable

lizzieFor me, part of the appeal of LBD is its modern-day modifications to the original storyline of “Pride and Prejudice.” It stays true to the novel, but in doing so, crafts something special all its own. It’s charming, it’s funny, and it has heart. The plot is lovable, the format is new and innovative, and the characters are everything I could have ever wanted them to be.

Pemberley Digital aims to tell “timeless stories in innovative ways,” and that’s exactly what it does with the “Lizzie Bennet Diaries.” It breathes new life into this classic novel — and I really just can’t get enough of it.

So, if you’re looking for something to binge-watch, then look no further. “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” is sure to be one of your new favorite Austen adaptations.