Jane Austen truly lived in interesting times — for her and the world around her. As you read Austen’s letters and Claire Tomalin’s Austen biography for the 2020 Jane Austen Summer Program, keep these years in mind.
Fall is just on the horizon and it’s time to start thinking about the 2020 Jane Austen Summer Program. Next June — that’s June 18-21, if you want to mark your calendars now — we’ll explore the theme “Jane Austen’s World,” including war, fashion, letters and the literary debates of her time.
Each year since 2013, we’ve explored one of Austen’s novels at JASP. This year will be a bit different: We’ll be reading the fourth edition of “Jane Austen’s Letters,” edited by Deirdre Le Faye, and Claire Tomalin’s excellent biography, “Jane Austen: A Life.”
Why these books? JASP co-founder Inger Brodey says: “Often readers think that they get a feeling for Austen the author from the general tone of Austen the narrator in her various novels. Yet, for anyone interested in Austen the author and woman herself, the best access we have to her life is through the letters that she wrote and through excellent biographies, like Claire Tomalin’s.”
Brodey continues: “In our JASPs, we like to incorporate aspects of material history and culture, and this year’s topic is a natural culmination of that aspect of our programming. We will have several of our favorite historians back with us, including fashion historian Samantha Bullat and penmanship historian Benjamin Bartgis, as well as new faces, such as Robert Morrison, author of the new and exciting book “The Regency Years,” and Janine Barchas, the brilliant mind behind the “Will & Jane” exhibit at the Folger Theatre [in Washington, D.C., in 2016] and the [online exhibit] “What Jane Saw.” Brodey added that JASP is looking to build on last year’s successful creative writing workshop, which was hosted by Randall Kenan and “Unmarriageable” author Soniah Kamal.
We asked Brodey what JASP attendees should be thinking about as they read Austen’s letters and Tomalin’s biography. She underscored their connections to the novels and historical events. “I find it useful to print out and keep referencing a chronology of historical events and also the timeline for writing the novels,” she said. “Then when Austen is inquiring about hedgerows in a letter at the time she was writing ‘Mansfield Park,’ for example, it is more meaningful when you can think about why she wanted to know.”
Brodey had one last tip for readers: “Look for … her advice to other aspiring authors. That’s one of the few times we hear her talk (fairly) directly about her art.”
JASP is pleased to introduce two new writers to the blog:
Robin Floyd is an educator at Wake County Public Schools who makes various fiber arts and enjoys learning about history and literature. She lives in Raleigh with her husband and two children.
Zeina Makky is a newspaper designer turned web developer, living and working in the D.C. area. Besides Jane Austen, Zeina’s passions include calligraphy, pop culture and chocolate.