Abbrianna MacGregor

All Pride, No Prejudice at the Jane Austen Convention

Abbrianna MacGregor

Literary aficionados know the deal. You may tear your eyes away from the page, but you never fully exit a beloved fictional universe’s comforting grip. Caught up in a yearning to live an alternate reality, you wish you had a confidant to talk giddily with about this pressing matter.

Well, the opportunity to indulge one’s devotion with those equally passionate comes around annually for Jane Austen superfans, also known as “Janeites.”

The annual meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) takes place for three days in either the United States or Canada. Participants indulge their literary infatuation with crafting activities, a Regency Ball, lectures on Austen’s work and much more.

Jane Austen has managed to stay relevant over 200 years after her death, and pop culture continually reaffirms her legacy. The 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries featured the popular Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Other recent film adaptations featured big names—Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett in the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice and Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan in Love and Friendship in May of 2016.

Austen’s popularity is also strengthened by exhibits dedicated to her, such as “Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity” at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. The exhibit featured Austen paraphernalia such as Austen-silhouette cookie cutters and Austen volumes owned by celebrities, such as a copy of Mansfield Park that belonged to actor Stephen Fry.

The accessible themes in Austen’s literature also account for the author’s continued relevance. “It is a truth universally acknowledged” that her ability to engage the reader passed the test of time. Her stories also emphasize self-discovery and feature complex heroines the reader becomes attached to. Evidence suggests that Austen will continue to be cherished for years to come despite the fact that her novels take place in a long-ago era.

All things considered, it’s no wonder Austen celebrations such as JASNA exist. Janeites will unite once again in 2017 in Huntington Beach, California, for another group gathering centering on their beloved author.

Did You Know?
American Idol success story Kelly Clarkson bought a turquoise and gold ring that belonged to Jane Austen at a London auction. This prompted a series of events in which the UK government imposed a ban on the export of items considered national treasures, and the Jane Austen House Museum had to raise $250,000 to match Clarkson’s bid and reclaim the ring.

Photo credit: National Library NZ on The Commons

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