You’re going to get lots of letters!
Hello, it’s nice to meet you here at The Austen Connection.
This is a perfect time for new beginnings.
But to talk about this new project, I need to go back a bit.
In the dead of winter 2020, in a very cold part of the world and isolated from friends and family, I hit on a wonderful idea: Reading and re-reading Jane Austen’s six major novels, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion.
What I discovered, or rediscovered, was the power of great books to keep us company, to lift us out of our surroundings, and to empower us to transcend our circumstances to become better people and live better lives.
Jane Austen does all this, and more.
Plus, she’s funny.
And she paints a setting and characters that fire up the imagination for all kinds of things - taste, touch, sensation, novelty. Oppressions get conquered. Quiet reticence dominates. Intimidation becomes assertion. Unrequited love gets an enthusiastic response. Tables get turned.
In the process, we transcend, we are transformed, and we connect across time, place, gender, race, and all the boundaries.
I’m still only half-way through the re-reads. I’ve taken some time to read the back of the Norton Critical Editions. To engage with Jane Austen & Co.’s wonderful “Race and the Regency” series. To sit back and get a kick - and learn an awful lot - at Bianca Hernandez-Knight’s wonderful virtual Jane Con. To watch Devoney Looser’s series of lectures on Austen and her world with Great Courses.
And to talk with some amazing women guests (it just so happen that so far they are women) for my Austen Connection podcast, coming soon - including Unmarriageable author Soniah Kamal, author and scholar Gretchen Gerzina, Ripped Bodice bookstore co-owners Leah and Bea Koch, and Jane Austen & Co. co-host Professor Danielle Christmas (upcoming), and - just booked! - Austen biographer Claire Tomalin. The podcast drops soon - if you sign up for this newsletter, it’ll arrive in your inbox.
What happens next?
I’m going to write you lots of letters. This is the first of many, and starting this Thursday, they’ll arrive every week. Between now and Thursday, I’ll send one per day.
Tomorrow, our letter will list Five Things to start with that are some of my favorite Jane Austen attributes and themes, and that will be tackled in this newsletter. These are themes from Jane Austen herself, screaming from the page, that I have been having a lot of fun discovering and that I’ll be enthusiastically sharing with you. I hope you’ll share back!
Please let me know - what are your favorite themes in Jane Austen?
What are your favorite tropes?
Did anyone else out there get through the pandemic by reading and being transported to another world through books, Jane Austen or other?
Let me know - you can comment below and there are many other ways to connect.
And meanwhile, please keep in mind that your Epistolary Plain Jane is not at all an expert - I’m an enthusiastic reader, learning a lot from the above groups and many more. But as a journalist and producer in my day-job, my instinct is to explore, follow curiosity, converse. And as a producer and professor working alongside students in a classroom and newsroom, I often get students looking at me aghast at an assignment and saying, “but I don’t know anything about this!” I always advise, “You don’t have to be the expert. Your sources will appreciate seeing you learning, seeing you trying to understand what’s going on in this story.”
That’s me. I’m trying to understand what’s going on in these stories.
Hopefully you won’t find me as Clueless as Alicia Silverstone or Emma. But you will definitely see me learning along the way.
Let me know what you’ve been reading, what you love about Jane, your favorite themes, characters - and most importantly, what would you like to talk about in these letters?
I want to hear it all! Let me know:
You can comment below, connect on Twitter at @AustenConnect, and/or email me AustenConnection@gmail.com
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