Last Saturday in Brooklyn, Cornel West — a self-proclaimed “Jane Austen freak” — talked about how important it is to understand Austen in relation to Aristotle and Shakespeare, and said that she’s a Christian writer, even though that makes many of her secular critics uncomfortable. (As the author of Jane Austen’s Philosophy of the Virtues, I’m inclined to agree with him about the influence of classical and Christian thought on Austen’s novels.) Towards the end of his powerful lecture (The New York Times called it a “thunderous Saturday morning sermon”) on “Power and Freedom in Austen’s Novels,” he praised Austen’s greatness, saying, “This is not a compliment to a woman, but the truth about an artist.”
In a personal and very moving lecture called “Jane Austen is my Homegirl,” Anna Quindlen spoke about Austen showing how an ordinary girl could do something extraordinary with just pen and paper, and concluded by saying Jane Austen taught her that a woman could live forever. These two plenary sessions were definitely among the highlights for me at last weekend’s JASNA AGM in New York City.
There were so many intriguing talks on “Sex, Money and Power” to choose from that it was (as always) hard to decide which breakout sessions to attend. And yes, there were lots of people in Regency costume, especially on Saturday night at the Regency Ball.
Here’s the piece on the AGM in the New York Times, by Jennifer Schuessler: “Lots of Pride, a Little Prejudice.” Melissa Kort wrote about “Jane Austen in Brooklyn” for the Ms. Magazine blog. And here’s Sarah Picchi on “Jane Austen in the ‘Hood.”
If you attended the AGM, what were some of the highlights for you?