Jane Austen Society of North America, Southwest (JASNA-SW)

JASNA-SW Events & More

Coming Up
The 2017 AGM Jane Austen in Paradise will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach. We will need a lot of volunteers over the next three years to assist with AGM planning and hosting. Stay tuned for numerous volunteer opportunities!
Events Gone By
Many critics have dismissed Jane Austen as nothing more than the "mother goddess of chick lit." For our fall meeting, we have invited Robert Rodi, satirist and author of the Bitch in a Bonnet book series (and blog) to help us dispel this notion and showcase Austen's wit and sometimes scathing satire. Join us on Saturday, October 1st at the Pasadena Public Library for Beyond the Bonnet as we reclaim Austen's work from what Rodi calls "the stiffs, the snobs, the simps, and the saps." You are encouraged to wear a bonnet or hat in solidarity with our favorite author. Click on the title above to register.
2016 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Emma. At the JASNA Southwest Spring Meeting aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Juliet McMaster will speak about women on board ships and her latest book, Lynda Hall will examine Miss Bates with a sympathetic eye, and Bernie Su and Company will introduce us to their Web series Emma Approved. Click on the title above for more information and to register.
"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!" At our Winter Meeting, we explored books and reading in Jane Austen's time. Our own Claire Bellanti presented her talk on circulating libraries and we also learned about book binding and bibliotherapy.
On Saturday, September 26, we celebrated the 200th Anniversary of the glamour of the Duchess of Richmond's Ball and the following brutality of the Battle of Waterloo. Peter Graham gave us an illustrated lecture on the ball and it's literary representations (most famously in Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Thackeray's Vanity Fair). Fritz Bronner from the War Horse and Militaria Heritage Foundation shared his experience as part of the bicentennial re-enactments in Waterloo in June 2015. This year's Fall Meeting took place on the beautiful campus of Chapman University in Orange.
JASNA Southwest will again have a booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books to be held April 18-19, 2015 at USC. Stop by our booth to see some of the latest books, meet and greet with authors, and get your books signed. Consider volunteering to talk to visitors about your favorite writer - Jane Austen-- assist in the decorating the booth, help with sales, or assist with one of the other ways to spread Jane to the masses. To volunteer, email Emily Bergman. Indicate times you are available: Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon.
On April 11, join us at the Los Angeles Athletic Club as we consider Adaptation: Bringing Jane Austen's Novels to the Screen and Stage. JASNA Southwest is pleased to present a new 3-Act Show. In Act 1, Jane Austen Sings!, we see scenes from Pride and Prejudice, A Musical. In Act 2, a "surprise guest" discusses film and TV adaptation. In Act 3, we see scenes from The Elliots, A Play Based on Jane Austen's Persuasion and clips from other adaptations of the novel. Click on the title above for more information and to register.
On Saturday, Dec 6, we again celebrated the birthday of our favorite author at the elegant Town and Gown on the USC Campus, elected new Board members, and explored the theme of the theater in Mansfield Park. Dr. Susan Allen Ford considered to what degree Austen intended us to subscribe to Fanny and Edmund's condemnation of the mounting of Kotzebue's Lovers' Vows. Jennifer Howard explored eloquence, artfulness and actors in Mansfield Park in her award-winning essay. Diana Birchall, Syrie James, and a large cast of merry players, amused and delighted us with their wickedly witty look at the back stage antics at Mansfield Park.
On Saturday, Sept 20, we met at the Glendale Public Library for the JASNA Southwest Fall Meeting on Jane Austen, Re-imagined. The program included Syrie James detailing research for her latest book Jane Austen’s First Love and presentations by Pemberley Digital creator Jay Bushman and writer Kate Rorick, from the creative team who have brought us the Web series Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved.
135 people attended our Spring Meeting, In the Garden with Fanny Price, held at the UCLA Faculty Center on Saturday, May 31. On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mansfield Park, Kim Wilson introduced us to gardens in Jane Austen's time, Anne Mellor discussed slavery in Mansfield Park, Philip Rundel briefed us on Southern California botanical gardens, especially the UCLA Botanical Garden that attendees toured, Chapman University students gave papers on silence in Mansfield Park, Terry Ryan shared Dr. John Halperin's musings on Mansfield Park as autobiography, and Diana Birchall gave us her thoughts on symbols in Mansfield Park and an in-depth examination of Mrs. Norris.
On Saturday, Dec 7, at USC we considered the P & P characters we love to hate: Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, George Wickham, Lydia Bennett, the Bingley sisters, and even Charlotte Lucas (do we hate her, pity her, or admire her practical scheming?).
JASNA Southwest presented Dr. Michael Suk-Young Chwe, UCLA associate professor of political science and author of the recently released Jane Austen, Game Theorist, at our latest half-day Fall program. Dr. Chwe talked to us about Jane Austen's remarkable insights into strategic thinking, with examples taken from her novels, at the Pasadena Public Library, September 7, from 9:30 - 11:30am. Click on the title above for more information and photos.
For the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, we enjoyed a fabulous program in partnership with Chapman University. For Chapman, Andrew Davies hosted a two-night viewing of his iconic P & P mini-series that introduced all of us to Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy on Friday the 26th and Saturday the 27th to which we were all invited. Mr. Davies then spoke to us about the series at our Spring Meeting on April 27th along with presentations from Rand Boyd, Pamela Ezell, and four young scholars from Chapman's English Department. Click on the title above for more information and photos.
JASNA Southwest again hosted a booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books held April 20-21 at USC. Over 1000 people visited the booth during the two day event. JASNA Southwest thanks all of the hard working volunteers for making the booth a success, notably Emily Bergman for coordinating the event and Paula Dacker for managing the book sales. Click on the title above to see a photo of them in the booth.
Over 150 people laughed with Jane Austen at the JASNA Southwest Winter Meeting, featuring Audrey Bilger talking about Jane Austen's use of subversive comedy, Tim Erwin showing us the importance of the visual in Northanger Abbey through the works of humorous 18th century cartoonists, and Jane Austen Unscripted entertaining us with improvisational comedy. NOTE: Those who could not hear Tim Erwin's paper may read it through a link on the home page.
JASNA Southwest sponsored a half-day program at the Pasadena City Library on Jane Austen vs. The Victorians. This is the first in what we hope will be a series of smaller programs between our two major meetings each year. Click the title above for photos.
Click on the title above to see a full report and photos from our 2012 Spring Meeting, a seaside holiday with Jane Austen at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica.
JASNA Southwest's booth at the LA Times Festival of Books was a great hit! We had even more visitors, distributed even more JASNA-SW information, and sold even more books from Vroman's than we did last year. Click the title above for a photo montage.
On Saturday, 3 December 2011, we learned about Regency women's health issues at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Click on the title above to see a full report on the meeting, with photos.
Our first-ever super-regional weekend at the Huntington Gardens & Library and the Westin Pasadena was a spectacular success. Click on the title above for a photo recap.
Our first-ever JASNA-SW booth at the Festival was a resounding success. Please click on the title above for photos.
Please click on the title above for a recap and photos of this event.
Please click on the title above for a report of this exciting event!
Please click on the title above for a text-and-photo recap of this program.
Click on the title above for a recap and photos of this event.
Click on the title above for photos and a recap of this event.
"Silver Forks, Golden Memories, and Library Treasures." Featured talk: Ed Copeland on Silver Fork Novels.
Click on title above for photos of this exciting event.
If you missed out on this exciting event, you can click on the title above for a recap of our program.
Domestic Entertainments in Jane Austen's Time
Diana Birchall and People take us on a nostalgic journey.
In Memoriam

2011 Birthday Celebration and Winter Symposium

Do Not Physic Them : Medicine in Jane Austen's Time
Report by Jana Bickel. Photos by Jameson Yu, Claire Bellanti, and Terry Ryan.

Speakers Cheryl Kinney, Walter Young, and Arnie Perlstein.

Our lively Winter 2011 meeting was held at the Los Angeles Athletic Club on December 3. Over 150 attendees learned how fortunate women are to live in the 21st Century with all of benefits of modern medicine.

Cheryl Kinney "A Dangerous Indulgence: Women's Health in Jane Austen's Time

Dangerous indeed! In the nineteenth century women lived about half as long as we do today, 40 versus 81 years. Women’s medical care was not just bad it was “atrocious.” Apothecaries prescribed drugs, surgery was performed by barbers, and physicians were the diagnosticians. Let us not forget the quacks who “treated medicine as a cash cow” and didn’t mind if the potions they peddled were deadly.

Childbirth was a leading killer of women. Midwives, who had taken care of women for centuries, were pushed out by male physicians trying to expand their practices. Pregnant women received dubious benefits from the latest technology, the obstetrical forceps. While forceps saved some mothers it left others with lifelong pain. Royalty was not spared. Princess Charlotte, the heir apparent, died in childbirth due to multiple blood lettings and an overly conservative approach to intervention. The Royal Obstetrician shot himself in disgrace.

Women tried to limit their families, but birth control was primitive and dangerous. Most methods didn’t work. The condom, invented by a Colonel Cundrum in 1665 was available but, not surprising, was no more popular then than it is today. Abortions were clandestine, usually induced by potions that often killed the mother as well as the baby. The most common method was abstinence and it didn’t work either as exemplified in Jane Austen’s own family where three of her sisters-in-law gave birth multiple times and died in childbirth. No wonder Austen remained single. If a woman survived childbirth by age 44 most women had to cope with menopause, a condition widely misunderstood. Common treatments were daily purging, bleeding or sea bathing. Some women ended up in an insane asylum. As far as death, women died of the same diseases as they do today, breast cancer and cervical cancer.

Jane Austen comments on doctoring in her novels. Several of her characters get sick. In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Bennet gets sick and is confined to Netherfield. In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne Dashwood is seriously ill and almost dies. In both cases the apothecary is called in first and, when things take a turn for the worse, the physician is called in. In Persuasion Mrs. Smith is bedridden and treated by a nurse. In Emma, Mr. Woodhouse, who suffers constantly, sums up his aversion to London as “nobody can be healthy in London.“

What about Jane Austen’s own last illness? In January of 1816, while in London, Jane nursed her brother through a serious illness, most likely tuberculosis. That summer, at home, she felt okay but by December she was weak, by January nauseous, and by March her face was changing colors. In April she wrote her last will and testament. In July she finally succumbed most likely to Addison’s disease. Did exposure to her brothers tuberculosis (a disease implicated in 70-90% of cases of Addison’s disease), lead to her death? The jury is out.

It is common practice nowadays to complain about our medical care but having heard what the 18th and 19th century women had to suffer, we should feel blessed that rather than going insane at age 44, some of us still have almost half of our lives left to live.

Arnie Perlstein "Concealed Pregnancy in Jane Austen Novels"

Our second speaker was Arnie Perlstein, whose reputation preceded him. Having heard about his unusual theories about Austen’s work, I wondered what, if anything I would get out of his talk. But I decided to go keep an open mind hoping that, if I didn’t agree with him, at least I would be entertained. I wasn’t disappointed. His talk was anything but boring or mainstream. I was taken with his first theory that Jane Austen had a code or parallel fictional universe and that her stories contained “shadow stories” that were covert, indirect and possibly autobiographical. According to Perlstein, there are two stories, one leading to a happy ending and the other a shadow world of “offstage motives”, and “inconvenient family secrets” like concealed pregnancies. Early in the talk he cited an example of a possible covert meaning in Pride and Prejudice when Kitty coughs during one of her mother’s indiscreet comments. He claims the cough is ironic, showing Mrs. Bennet’s shallowness, and foreshadowing Mr. Collin’s proposal scene. Perlstein was also convincing in his statement that Jane intended the reader to understand the double meanings.

Perlstein went on to offer further examples of shadow stories. Emma, he said, is particularly fraught with double stories. Perhaps it is no mere coincidence that toward the end of the novel, the wealthy and needy Mrs. Churchill finally dies releasing Frank to marry Jane Fairfax. Did Jane need to tie up a loose end to finish the book or did she intend us to believe there was some foul play? Then there is Jane Fairfax. Was she a sympathetic gentlewoman in a delicate situation or did she have a past to hide? Hold that thought. What about Northanger Abbey? Did General Tilney invite Catherine Moreland to the Abbey for Henry’s sake or because he wanted Catherine and her money for himself? Hmm….Here’s another, Sense and Sensibility. Was Willoughby just a cad or in fact a stalker who had singled out Marianne and planned her seduction?

Now for the heart of the presentation, the concealed pregnancies. At first I was willing to concede there might be a few concealed pregnancies like Lydia Bennett, Maria Bertram, possibly Jane Fairfax. Well, having been secretly married to Frank Churchill it is possible that Jane Fairfax might have been pregnant and that might explain her illness and nervousness about Churchill’s interest in other women. But no, that isn’t what Perlstein means. He means that Jane is truly a fallen woman (a so much nicer phrase than the word that initially came to mind), with Colonel Campbell, Mr. Elton, and John Knightly and, to top it off, who leaves a baby for Mrs. Weston to raise.

Perlstein is on a roll now. More concealed pregnancies….like Marianne’s illness and poor Mrs. Tilney “murdered by childbirth.” More shameful secrets. Harriet a little schemer in bed with Frank Churchill and Mr Elton among others. But the worst is yet to come. What was the real reason Jane moved to close to Pemberly? Give up. So Jane could be close to Mr. Darcy.

I’ve come full circle now from thinking maybe Perlstein was on to something, to maybe he was overstretching himself to finally he’s lost his mind. Still, all in all, it was an entertaining lecture and now I have a few morsels to chew on.

Walter Nelson "Quackery, Snake Oil and Flim Flam Medicine"

Our third speaker was Walter Nelson who spoke on “Quackery, Snake Oil and Flim Flam Medicine.” Mr. Nelson extended the theme of medical care from Jane Austen’s time a few years into the Victorian era where mesmerism and phrenology captured the world’s attention.

Mesmerism was given its name by its “inventor” Franz Mesmer who presented introduced it to Paris in the 1770’s where everybody, including Benjamin Franklin, was talking about electricity. Mesmer built on this fascination with electricity by asserting that there was an invisible force or electricity, that he called animal magnetism, which flowed between two people. He postulated that “nerves cause the essence of life” and that nervous disorders could be cured through this invisible current. The world, especially the scientific community did not immediately take to Mesmerism and ultimately concluded there was no such thing as animal magnetism. When Mesmer died in 1815 it was hoped that mesmerism was on its way out. Instead, nineteenth century mediums and faith healers took up the cause. In the 1830’s hypnotism, an offshoot of mesmerism became popular with “relax, look into my eyes” becoming a popular mantra.

Phrenology started out as a theory cloaked in science. Fredrick Gall developed a map of the brain which he divided into regions or phrenological organs that he said controlled some aspect of yourself. If a certain part of the brain was used more it was bigger. The shape and size of a skull could predict personality. A receding forehead designated a brute, a person with lesser intellect. Measurements were taken to evaluate the brain patterns. It became fashionable to have parties and phrenology became a parlor game. Literature took up the cause. Mary Shelley used the concept in her book Frankenstein. By the 1840’s phrenology was dismissed by doctors but the theory hung on in popular culture into the twentieth century.

We in the twentieth century are no strangers to miracle cures, astrology and pop psychology. The flim flam man will always be with us. In Sanditon, her final novel, Jane Austen did her best to skewer medical fads. Oh, that she could have lived to finish it.

Rout Cakes Recipe

Lunch included delicious rout cakes baked by Jan Fahey and Nancy Gallagher. By popular demand, the recipe is listed below:

She was a little shocked at the want of two drawing rooms, at the poor attempt at rout cakes, and there being no ice in the Highbury card parties. [Emma]

  • 3 ½ cups flour (2 lb)
  • 1 lb sugar
  • 1 lb butter
  • 1 lb currants (1 ¾ cups)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp rose-flower water
  • 1 Tbsp orange-flower water
  • 1 Tbsp sweet dessert wine
  • 1 Tbsp brandy

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, orange-flower water, rose-flower water, wine and brandy and mix well. Stir in the flour just until evenly mixed, then stir in the currants until they too are evenly mixed. Grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicone baking liner. Take pieces of batter about a tablespoon at a time, roll them round (using flour on your hands if the mixture sticks), drop them on the baking sheet about an inch and a half apart, and flatten them slightly with the bottom of a glass or cup so they are about ½-inch thick. They will not spread appreciably in baking. Bake 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Book Signings
Attendees took advantage of the opportunity to buy books and have them signed by our visiting authors.

Laurie Viera Rigler, Syrie James, Laurel Ann Nattress, and Diana Birchall.

During lunch we were entertained by readings from the new Ballantine anthology "Jane Austen Made Me Do It" by contributing authors Diana Birchall, Syrie James, and Laurie Viera Rigler. We sold copies of the book on behalf of Vroman's and the editor, Laurel Ann Nattress, and four of the authors signed them (Diana, Syrie, Laurie, and Brenna Aubrey).

Sandy Lerner sold and signed "Second Impressions," her new sequel to Pride and Prejudice, and donated a copy to one lucky raffle winner.

Kay Young sold and signed her new book "Imagining Minds: The Neuro-Aesthetics of Austen, Eliot, and Hardy" and her first book, "Ordinary Pleasures," an exploration of narrative intimacy and happiness which features a piece on Pride and Prejudice.