Register for the program. This should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway! Don’t worry — we’ll let you know when we open registration.
Spread the word: Share our blog posts on Facebook or Twitter (or Tumblr or Instagram or shout it from the rooftops) — or print them out and mail them to that friend of yours — the one who’s always on the fence about coming to Chapel Hill with you? Now might be a good time to start talking her into finally coming.
Repeat steps 4 through 7 as necessary.
Optional: Got an idea for the blog? Let us know in the comments!
Before you check into the Jane Austen Summer Program on June 18, make sure to stop by the UNC campus to see “Emma, at Home and at Play,” a special rare-book exhibit curated by Rachael Isom and Ted Scheinman. Sponsored by JASP and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, the exhibit — including a first-edition copy of “Emma”(First. Edition. Copy!!!) — is on display Thursday, June 18, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library Grand Reading Room on campus. Isom tells us more:
What was the inspiration behind it?
Professors Inger Brodey and James Thompson presented the idea of a rare-book exhibit for this year’s Jane Austen Summer Program, and Ted and I volunteered for the project. The Rare Book Collection at Wilson Library boasts some remarkable materials, and the exhibit was designed to showcase the University’s holdings in such a way that will be interesting for our JASP participants as they begin the weekend-long discussion of “Emma.” In gathering items, we wanted to pursue three different thematic categories: texts and after-lives of “Emma,” contemporary texts alluded to within “Emma,” and items indicative of the cultural moment in which “Emma” was composed and read. In short, we began with the novel and worked outward to develop a context that will be meaningful for our JASP attendees.
Can you tell me a little about one of the items on the list?
One special item that we will display in this exhibit is a first-edition copy of “Emma.” This novel represents Austen’s first interaction with the prolific publisher John Murray, and it helps viewers to get a sense of the material object in addition to the text of Austen’s novel. A fun fact about this particular copy is that a previous owner decided to add, in pencil, “Miss Austin” on the title page to clarify exactly who was “the Author of ‘Pride and Prejudice.'”
WOW. It must’ve been pretty special when you first got a closer look at that “Emma.” How did you feel in that moment?
Well, they tend to frown on squealing in the reading room, so I tried to maintain a rather professional demeanor despite the thrill of being able to see, much less touch, a first-edition copy. Then the first thing I did after leaving was text my mother, who’s quite the Janeite herself, to tell her what I’d just seen. Needless to say she shared my excitement.
How long did the exhibit take to organize?
We initially made contact with the Claudia Funke and the Wilson Library staff in early February and soon thereafter began searching the catalogue for items related to “Emma” and its cultural context. Throughout the semester we met with Liz Ott and various other members of the staff to refine that list, and we then began examining each item individually in the Rare Book Collection reading room. As we finalized the list, we began, with Liz and Claudia’s guidance, to write exhibition labels to accompany the items and explain their literary or cultural import. Recently we’ve been working on publicity materials and are finalizing the arrangements for the exhibit presentation. Overall, then, this exhibit project has been the labor of about four months and has involved many minds and hands in its production.
Where do the books come from (just Wilson or other resources)?
All items in the exhibit belong to the Rare Book Collection of UNC’s Wilson Library, with the exception of the J. B. Cramer sheet music, which belongs to the Music Library. The Wilson Library staff has been incredibly helpful throughout this process. We would like to especially note the hard work of Liz Ott, who has been our main point of contact, as well as Claudia Funke, Emily Kader, and Susan Bales.
About Isom and Scheinman:
Rachael Isom is a Ph.D. student in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC. She works in British literature of the long nineteenth century, and her research focuses particularly on the intersections of religion and literature in women’s poetry of the Romantic and early Victorian periods. She also serves as Assistant Editor of the Keats-Shelley Journal and works as a Project Assistant for the William Blake Archive. Ted Scheinman is a Ph.D. candidate in English at UNC. His dissertation analyzes experiments with voice in early 18th-century satire, and demonstrates how those voices reemerged to shape the popular novel. His essays and reporting have appeared in the New York Times, Playboy and the Paris Review. By day, he works as senior editor at Pacific Standard magazine. He lives in Santa Barbara and misses his mother, Dr. Deborah Knuth-Klenck, who will attend her second JASP this summer.
The days are zooming by, and before you know we’ll be in Chapel Hill. While participants are reading “Emma,” organizers are busy tying up loose ends. What exactly goes into planning such an event as the Jane Austen Summer Program? We caught up with UNC professors James Thompson and Inger Brodey to find out:
What inspired you and your colleagues to start the Jane Austen Summer Program? Thompson and Brodey: James read a New Yorker article by the historian Jill Lepore, about the Dickens summer camp, and thought immediately that what the world needs is an Austen summer camp. We both attended the Dickens Universe at Santa Cruz for their 30th summer and were inspired by a conference that is equally welcoming to regular readers of Dickens and to scholars. The presentations and conversations were both smart, accessible and inspiring and so seemed to us a model for the humanities: James thought, If Dickens lovers and Dickens scholars can talk to one another, so can Janeites of all stripes. Inger has also had separate experience running conferences for a mix of academics and non-academics, and loves this kind of format.
How far in advance do you start planning? Thompson and Brodey: We begin roughing out a list of presenters and themes in late summer or the early fall, but really we are working on it all year round. We already know the dates and theme of the 2016 and 2017 JASPs!
How do you choose ideas — and presenters — for discussions/lectures? Brodey: That is dictated by the novel we’re going to focus on — food and travel are more prominent in “Emma” than they are in “Sense and Sensibility.” We draw on Austen scholars whose work we admire and we know can be counted on to give a presentation that is at once clear, accessible and original. Our committee of helpers, including Ruth Verbunt, Gisele Rankin, Virginia-Claire Tharrington, Terri O’Quinn and Ronnie Jackson, are also great at coming up with ideas for panels and special events.
“Every year we have far more ideas than we can fit into the program, but that just means there will be many new approaches and speakers that we can feature in future years.” — Inger Brodey
What’s the hardest part of organizing the program?
Thompson: Fitting everything in that we want to offer. We don’t like to have concurrent sessions for which folks have to decide between one topic or another, and so we inevitably have more ideas and more speakers than we can reasonably fit in. Brodey: The fact that it is a year-long commitment, but I am so grateful that I now have the help of the individuals I named above. It is starting to become more and more of a community event, for which I am exceedingly grateful. And I think the effort that all of us put in will show in the product and the overall experience for the participants. It is true that every year we have far more ideas than we can fit into the program, but that just means there will be many new approaches and speakers that we can feature in future years.
This is the program’s third year: What has surprised you most about it?
Thompson: I think that I have been most surprised about how much the fun the meeting is from session to session and hour to hour. Our colleagues and graduate students and registrants have broad smiles on their faces as if all our deep love of Austen is, at least for the moment, satiated. There is a richly satisfying sense of community among those of us who share this passion and get to indulge in it with others. Brodey: I have been similarly surprised by the dedication of our wonderful participants: I would say the majority of our participants come year after year. The growing pool of teacher scholarships for middle and high school teachers has also been surprising and delightful. It is a joy to encourage others to teach Jane Austen in schools.
What are you personally looking forward to the most this year? Brodey and Thompson: We both feel that “Emma” is Austen’s masterpiece, so there is a special pleasure in getting to work with a text so perfect with other Austen lovers. We have our first outing this year, so our “Box Hill” experience will be a highlight. We also have our first pedagogy session for middle and high school teachers. But every year what we both most look forward to are the conversations with so many different sorts of people who share the same passion.
What’s one thing you’ve learned over the years, in terms of planning a large event? Thompson: The earlier you start planning the better, and the more people that you draw in makes a huge difference. Securing funding early helps. But we have always been blessed with the support and goodwill of our colleagues in the Department of English and Comparative Literature — it turns out (no surprise) that everyone who loves books loves Austen. Brodey: The devil is in the details, as they say.… And those to whom I can delegate are the angels.
“Our colleagues and graduate students and registrants have broad smiles on their faces as if all our deep love of Austen is, at least for the moment, satiated.” — James Thompson
We still have a few years’ worth of Austen material to explore, of course. But any hopes to expand the program to include other authors? Thompson: Well, this might be blasphemous, and I speak only for myself here, but I would like to see and Austen and Charlotte Bronte summer, and I would be happy with an Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell program. We could also pair Austen with Ann Radcliffe. But I also want us to focus on the early works, the juvenilia and her letters. Brodey: I’m open to that, but I also think that at seven- or eight-year intervals, one can easily find new themes and topics for the major novels.… We will be interested to hear what our participants think in a few years, as we finish our first cycle of the books. We are also trying to find the ideal length for the program. This year, our program is half a day longer than last year’s. The Dickens Universe is a full week, but we aren’t sure that people will be able to spare that much time away from work.