Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy Austenmas!

First, a very happy "Austenmas" (as Lisa Brown calls Jane Austen's birthday, December 16) to you all! And a very happy birthday to Our Authoress, who at age 238 is riding higher than ever in our and the world's esteem. (Above, a photo of a quilt Jane Austen and other family members made.)

Second, here's the link to the national JASNA organization's Austenmas gift to the world: Volume 34.1 of Persuasions On-Line, JASNA's electronic journal.  This link always goes “live” at midnight on Dec. 16. The issue includes papers on Pride and Prejudice from JASNA's 2013 Annual General Meeting in Minneapolis, as well as a very lively "Miscellany" section (which even includes a paper on the YouTube sensation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries)!

Third, here's a supplement to a recent communication: In addition to the two English Country Dance events already held in our Region this month, the Syracuse Country Dancers will be hosting an English Country Dance at the United Church of Fayetteville (310 E. Genesee St., Fayetteville) on Saturday, Dec. 21, 8-11 pm. Carmen Giunta will be calling. Music by Baa and the Shepherds: Barbara Seppeler, piano, Lee and Julian Shepherd, violin and cello, with a guest appearance by Ruth Thomson, Celtic harp. Thanks to Lee Shepherd for the information. (Note, by the way, that information about events hosted by ECD groups in three Upstate cities--Syracuse, Rochester, and Binghamton--can always be obtained by clicking on the appropriate links in the “Links” column on the right side of this blog.)

Finally, JASNA Syracuse’s first meeting of 2014 will be the Candlemas meeting, held in the Sargent Room of the Liverpool Public Library (310 Tulip St., Liverpool) on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 2 pm. Taking our lead from the old Monty Python sketch called “The Argument Clinic,” we’re going to hold an “Argument Clinic” on Mansfield Park, JA’s most controversial novel (which is celebrating its bicentennial in 2014). Love Fanny Price or hate her? Want to take Mary Crawford out to dinner or hang her out to dry?  We’ll shake off the midwinter blahs even further by having a book swap. Details about the swap, and about subsequent 2014 meetings, will be given in the new year.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Holiday Gatherings for JASNA Syracuse and JASNA Rochester

“Action Jane” is making her holiday preparations, and so are the Syracuse and Rochester Regions of JASNA! On consecutive Saturdays--December 7 and 14--each region will be hearing a presentation by a distinguished local JASNA member, and celebrating the Winter Solstice holidays and Jane Austen’s 238th birthday (on December 16).


First, on Saturday, December 7, at 2:00 pm, the JASNA Syracuse Region and the Jane Austen Book Club-CNY will join forces on the third floor of the Colgate Bookstore (3 Utica St., Hamilton) to hear Deborah Knuth Klenck’s presentation “Performing to Strangers: Being, Seeming, and Courting in Pride and Prejudice.” Deborah is Professor of English at Colgate University and has taught there since 1978, providing an array of courses from Shakespeare to Restoration and Eighteenth Century to Survey of British Fiction and seminars on Jane Austen, Samuel Johnson, and other authors. She has also taught in the Women's Studies Program and the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum, and has directed the honors program in English. And she has published numerous papers in JASNA’s Persuasions and other journals, and has given presentations at JASNA’s Annual General Meeting, the Modern Language Association Convention, and other scholarly gatherings. Her December 7 presentation, in fact, will be the breakout session she was unable to give at this year’s JASNA AGM in Minneapolis because of injury--so she and we are eagerly looking forward to this!

For refreshments at the December 7 gathering, as reported earlier, we’re planning a cookie potluck: Each attendee is asked to bring a dozen or so cookies to share. If you haven’t got time to bake cookies personally, that’s OK--we’re not expecting either Lady Catherine de Bourgh or Martha Stewart to barge in and provide a critique. But if you come to “have your share of the conversation,” do bring a share of the cookies! Tea and lemonade will be provided for an early birthday toast to Jane Austen.


The following Saturday, December 14, at 11:00 am, the JASNA Rochester Region will host its annual Jane Austen Birthday Lunch at the Chatterbox Club, 25 N. Goodman St., Rochester. The program will be a presentation by Nicola Minott-Ahl titled “Game Theorist or Gamester--Is Lydia Bennet the Real Heroine of Pride and Prejudice?” Nicola resides at the western end of the Syracuse Region but works in the Rochester Region: She is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, and is on the Steering Committee of the Media and Society Program, at Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva. She teaches and writes on Nineteenth Century British Literature, and her interests include the Gothic, historical fiction, architecture and novels, and film adaptation of Nineteenth Century novels. She has published articles on William Thackeray, on the architectural novel in France and England, and in the fields of Film and Adaptation Studies; she also has a book forthcoming from Sussex Academic Press.

The birthday festivities will include lunch (featuring the Chatterbox Club’s traditional popovers), dessert, and the beloved toast to Jane Austen from Rudyard Kipling’s “The Janeites.” The cost for the program is $27 per person, and advance registration is required. More information and a registration form are available on the JASNA Rochester blog, at this link.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Now that the World Series is over, are you or your partner missing baseball already? Do you still believe baseball was invented just down the road in Cooperstown? Did you ever wonder how a cricket match can take five days to complete? Even a casual baseball or sports fan is sure to love our co-coordinator Lisa Brown's presentation of "Did Jane Austen Invent Baseball: The Early History of Bat and Ball Games in the U.S. and England." Lisa will talk about the origins of baseball, cricket and what Jane's got to do with it on Saturday, November 16th at 1:00 pm in the Barnes & Noble in Pittsford, a suburb of Rochester.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Upcoming JASNA Syracuse Meetings

Here’s a reminder of our All Hallows meeting on Nov. 2, and an announcement of plans for our Christmas/JA’s birthday meeting on Dec. 7. The time for both meetings will be 2 pm.

On Saturday, November 2, at RiverRead Books (5 Court St., Binghamton), we’ll discuss “Slavery and Servitude in Mansfield Park.” Until the Patricia Rozema film version of MP appeared in 1999, few readers paid much attention to the references to Sir Thomas Bertram’s plantation in Antigua--but the Rozema film, though it exaggerated these, at least made many of us notice them. How does the fact that Sir Thomas’s fortunes are partly founded on slavery affect our views of him, of Fanny Price’s situation, and of Mansfield Park in general? We’ll start our observance of MP’s bicentennial in 2014 by considering these issues--as well as how the Rozema film relates to the novel generally.

On Saturday, December 7, we’ll gather for a joint meeting with the Jane Austen Book Club-CNY of Hamilton. Please note a change of venue for this meeting since our August 18 blog post: We’ll assemble on the third floor of the Colgate Bookstore (3 Utica St., Hamilton) to hear Deborah Knuth Klenck, JASNA Syracuse member and Professor of English at Colgate University, present a talk titled “Performing to Strangers: Being, Seeming, and Courting in Pride and Prejudice.” Deborah was unfortunately unable to give this talk at the 2013 JASNA Annual General Meeting in Minneapolis, so both she and we are eagerly looking forward to it in Hamilton!

And for refreshments at the Dec. 7 meeting, we’re going to Plan C--for Cookies! We propose a cookie potluck: Each attendee is asked to bring a dozen or so cookies to share. If you haven’t got time to bake, that’s OK--we’re not expecting Martha Stewart to come. But if you come to “have your share of the conversation,” do bring a share of the cookies! Tea and lemonade will be provided.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The 2013 AGM: Pleasant Moments and Memorable People

Here's a photo essay from this year's JASNA Annual General Meeting in Minneapolis, "Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice...Timeless."(All photos are by your Regional Coordinator, A. Marie Sprayberry. Remember that you can click on any photo to enlarge it.)

In Minneapolis, fictional home to The Mary Tyler Moore Show...

...we celebrated the 200th anniversary of another spunky heroine, Elizabeth Bennet! Nicely illustrating the mingling of the Regency era with the 21st century, here's NY Metro Co-Regional Coordinator (and my roommate) Meg Levin against the Minneapolis skyline.

The "Meryton Market" Emporium was of course a beehive of activity throughout the AGM. Here, the hard-working staff of Jane Austen Books rings up an early transaction. 

An outstanding feature of this AGM was the "Regency Room," containing an exhibition of costumes from the Guthrie Theater's recent production of P&P plus a dazzling array of items from author and Minnesota Region member Candice Hern's collection of Regency-era magazines, fashion prints, and other artifacts. Below, a few of Hern's reticules, purses, and other "beautiful ornaments" that would have made Lydia Bennet "quite wild"!

Two of the Guthrie's costumes, along with a display of items from Hern's collection relating to the 1817 death and funeral of the Prince Regent's only daughter, Princess Charlotte. (For more information about Charlotte, go here for your RC's Persuasions On-Line paper about the Prince Regent, "Sex, Power, and Other People's Money.")

The author signing on Friday evening was another highlight. Plenary speaker John Mullan could hardly keep up with the demand for his book What Matters in Jane Austen?.
Good friends at the authors' tables included Susan Allen Ford, editor of Persuasions and Persuasions On-Line, who wrote the introduction to Chawton House Library's republication of Dr. James Fordyce's Sermons to Young Women...

...and Kathleen Anderson (left) and Susan Jones, Co-RCs for the South Florida Region and authors of Jane Austen's Guide to Thrift.

The banquet and ball on Saturday night included a number of celebrities! While your RC had a chat with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II...

...we were also honored with the presence of "Dr. and Mrs. James Fordyce"...

...and the Regency-era traveler "Lady Hester Stanhope" (who had obviously just returned from the Middle East)!

Two Janeites who would be celebrities at any AGM: Former Syracuse Region member and present NY Capital Region member Diane Levine greets the one and only Baronda Bradley of North Texas. Baronda's ball costume--a show-stopper as usual--harks back to 1775, the year of Jane Austen's birth.

The AGM closed with a panel presentation at Sunday brunch highlighting another meeting between the Regency era and the 21st century: the YouTube sensation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Your RC was unfortunately too far from the dais to get a good photo of the panelists, Bernie Su, Kate Rorick, and Jenni Powell, but here's a slide from the presentation.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A JASNA Syracuse "Mantua-Maker"

Your Regional Coordinator writes:

The 2013 JASNA Annual General Meeting in Minneapolis, “Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice...Timeless,” is now only a few days away--and I decided this year that I would commission a new gown for the occasion. “Old Gold” (the Indian-made frock that I purchased many years ago at the Erie Boulevard Salvation Army in Syracuse, because of its vague resemblance to a Regency ball gown) is finally ready for retirement.

But where, you might ask, would I find a "mantua-maker" (the Regency term for a dressmaker) for a bespoke ball gown in the Syracuse Region? The JASNA New York Metropolitan Region, of course, has its own talented mantua-maker: Maureen O'Connor, whose work has recently received much-deserved praise in Deborah Yaffe's book Among the Janeites. But is such another seamstress to be found here in the wilds of Upstate?

The answer is yes! JASNA Syracuse member Sandra Stevens draws inspiration from fashion plates of the period, chooses exquisite materials, does meticulous work, and consults her clients’ preferences throughout the process of creating a gown. And Sandra does millinery as well. Here, her daughter Mimi wears a complete Stevens ensemble at the fashion show conducted by Lisa Brown at the Colgate Bookstore in March 2012.

Below, your RC and her mantua-maker proudly show off the new gown. Although I’m memorizing a few of Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s lines in readiness for the banquet and ball in Minneapolis--since I suppose Lady Catherine is the Pride and Prejudice character I most resemble in this costume--I am certainly the opposite of “most seriously displeased.” In fact, I’m “most seriously pleased”!

Sandra can be contacted at sndrstvns at

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Reminder: JASNA Syracuse Michaelmas Meeting at Liverpool, Sat., Sept. 14

On Saturday, September 14, at 2 pm,  in the Sargent Room of the Liverpool Public Library (310 Tulip St., Liverpool), our Michaelmas meeting topic will be “Jane Austen and the 10-Pound Note.”

The Bank of England has recently announced its plan to feature Jane Austen on its 10-pound note as of the year 2017--so, using this as our inspiration, let’s talk about money in the novels and in JA’s own life. What were different characters’ incomes or dowries? What kinds of lives were they able to afford on these sums, and how did their money (or the lack of it) affect the decisions they made? What did different consumer goods and services cost? How did JA’s limited income during her lifetime affect her perceptions and her writing? All these topics and more are fair game!

The following two articles (published in JASNA’s journals and available online) provide helpful background information for this discussion. They certainly aren’t “required reading” for attending the meeting, but they are both instructive and enjoyable. Handouts based on these articles will be provided at the meeting.

James Heldman, “How Wealthy Was Mr. Darcy--Really?”

Marilyn Francus, “Jane Austen, Pound for Pound.”

And before we start the discussion, two door prizes will be awarded for the first correct answers to two (fairly easy) questions about incomes. So come and "have your share of the conversation"--as well as a chance at one of the prizes!

P.S. Some members have expressed interest in whether the new film Austenland will be showing in the Syracuse area. At the moment, your RCs know of only two Upstate openings for the film: on Friday, September 13, at Pittsford Cinema 9 on Rt. 31 in Pittsford (near the Barnes and Noble where JASNA Rochester meets); and on Friday, September 20, at Cinemapolis on 120 E. Green St. in Ithaca. If we have any more information by meeting time, we'll certainly pass it along.

Monday, August 26, 2013

George IV Phaeton

Your co-coordinator, Lisa and a few Janeiacs from Rochester recently attended the Walnut Hill Farm Driving Competition in Pittsford. One highlights of this year's event was seeing a beautiful, stylish and sleek  George IV Phaeton.

The design of this wicker phaeton was copied from a carriage made for George IV in 1824. The king liked to drive his own carriage but by 1824 he was in his 60s and quite portly. He asked for a carriage to built without sides and low to the ground so he could easily get in and out. 

Later in the 19th century this design became popular with ladies, who because of the hoops, bustles and corsets, needed a carriage that provided easy access. 

At Walnut Hill, this carriage took part in the Ladies Wicker Phaeton - Picnic Turnout competition. In addition to driving skills, the human competitors must make and carry with them in the carriage, a fancy picnic lunch. As soon as the driving part of the competition is over, the ladies must unharness their horses and set up their lunch on provided tables. Judges come around to each picnic and taste the food.

 Here are the judges sampling the picnics.

  The lady driving the George IV phaeton provided this lunch. 

There were even wicker glass-holders!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

JASNA Syracuse Fall Schedule and Membership Reminder

Here are JASNA Syracuse’s scheduled meetings for fall 2013; please mark your calendars! All meetings will take place at 2:00 pm.

  • On Saturday, September 14, at the Liverpool Public Library (310 Tulip St., Liverpool), our Michaelmas meeting topic will be “Jane Austen and the 10-Pound Note.” The Bank of England has recently announced its plan to feature JA on its 10-pound note as of the year 2017--so, using this as our inspiration, let’s talk about money in the novels and in JA’s own life. 
  • On Saturday, November 2, at RiverRead Books (5 Court St., Binghamton), we’ll begin our observance of Mansfield Park's bicentennial in 2014 by discussing “Slavery and Servitude in Mansfield Park” at our All Hallows meeting. 
  • And on Saturday, December 7, we’ll gather for a joint Christmas/JA’s birthday meeting with the Jane Austen Book Club-CNY of Hamilton (which otherwise, alas, is on hiatus this fall) over dessert at the Colgate Inn, 1 Payne Street, Hamilton. We’ll hear Deborah Knuth Klenck, JASNA Syracuse member and Professor of English at Colgate University, present a talk titled “Performing to Strangers: Being, Seeming, and Courting in Pride and Prejudice.” 

Finally, we encourage those of you who are already JASNA members to renew your memberships (the renewal letters just went out from JASNA national by U.S. mail). And we urge those of you who are not presently members to join or rejoin JASNA (go to this link). There’s still time to take advantage of the special offer: Join before August 31, and you’ll get the summer issue of JASNA News, the Society’s newsletter. (And if this is any particular inducement, your Regional Coordinator's book review of the recent republication of Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women appears in this issue. Never fear; several readers have asserted that the review is more fun than it sounds!)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

An Adirondacks Youth Musical Version of Pride and Prejudice

Upstate New York can now lay claim to being the birthplace of not one but two musical versions of Pride and Prejudice! The "Bake and Jake" version--Pride and Prejudice: A Musical, by Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs of Rochester--has distinguished itself in New York City and is well known to many Upstate Janeites. But here now is a second one, which will receive its world premiere in the Adirondacks next month. North Country residents and vacationers, mark your calendars for August 10-11! 

Here is the press release about this version as we received it from director and librettist Kathleen Recchia: 

KEENE VALLEY, NY—This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice” so what could be more appropriate than the production of a new musical adapted from her classic novel.

Kathleen Recchia of Jay (who has portrayed poet Emily Dickinson throughout the North Country) has been working on this musical for about six years but it wasn’t until the subject matter captured the interest of her musician-son Sam that the project zoomed into high gear and became a reality. Ms. Recchia has written all the lyrics and some of the melodies, but, as she says, “I’m just a plunker. I’ve never taken any music theory course and don’t follow any musical rules. So I needed someone (in this case, my son) to make music out of all this.”

Other musicians have offered guidance, tips and some sort of framework along the way, but it is recent Keene Central School graduate, Sam Balzac, who has put it all together including overture, scene change music, and orchestration.
The play will be produced through the Book & Blanket Players Youth Theatre sponsored by East Branch Friends of the Arts. It will be performed on Sat., August 10 at 7 PM and Sun., August 11 at 3 PM, following a week-long intensive theatre workshop at Keene Central School in Keene Valley.
Recchia has directed these Iron-Man (put-it-together-in-a-week) musicals with the kids before including an original musical that she and her son wrote called “Road to Dannemora.” But she is concerned that this year will be even more challenging. She says, “I’ve left much of Jane Austen’s language intact because I love it so. But it will be like teaching the kids Shakespeare. ”
Can it be done in just a week? She answers, “Folks will have to come and see for themselves. I’m optimistic that the kids will pull it off. Many of them are Jane Austen devotees, including our 10-year-old Mr. Bennet who has seen every screen adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” that has been produced and who has very strong feelings about his likes and dislikes.”
The cast of this original musical production of “Pride and Prejudice” consists of 27 students ranging in age from 8 to 18. Recchia’s son, composer Sam Balzac (who is also assistant directing) will take on the role of Mr. Darcy. Jessica Kemp of Saranac Lake is Elizabeth Bennet. The kids are primarily from the North Country but there are even students from the Catskills, Long Island, and Massachusetts, coming to join the North Country cast.
The performances are free but donations will be accepted to help defray costs.
For reservations or to learn more about the musical “Pride and Prejudice,” call 518-946-8323 and check out the Facebook page: Book & Blanket Players.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Now's a Great Time to Join JASNA!

If you’re a "friend of Jane Austen" but are not presently a member of JASNA at the national level, here’s a reminder that now is a great time to join (or rejoin) JASNA! The JASNA membership year officially runs from September 1 to August 31--but if you join between July 1 and August 31, you'll receive an extra issue of JASNA News (the Society's thrice-annual newsletter) and otherwise be enrolled through September 1, 2014. The benefits of national membership include not only JASNA News, but Persuasions (JASNA's annual hard-copy journal); the opportunity to attend JASNA's Annual General Meeting (AGM), possibly the best Jane Austen party on Planet Earth, in a different North American city each year; the chance to go on JASNA's annual tour of England, with access to JA-related sites and artifacts (such as the British Library's entire holding of JA manuscripts) that ordinary Austen-oriented tours don't offer; and the fellowship of almost 5,000 JASNA members in 70 regional chapters across the U.S. and Canada.

To join JASNA, or to find out more about joining, you can go to the JASNA national website's "Membership" section.  Remember that joining JASNA at the national level automatically makes you a member of the JASNA Syracuse Region--this is our one and only regional membership requirement at present.  So join JASNA today and let the world know you're a Janeite!

(NB: Current JASNA members in good standing will receive a reminder note from JASNA national about renewing their memberships, on or about September 1.)

A New Jane Austen Book Club in Ithaca

The response to our JASNA Syracuse meeting at Buffalo Street Books (BSB) in Ithaca in March was so positive that some of the attendees are organizing a Jane Austen Book Club of Ithaca, which will also meet at BSB (located in the DeWitt Mall just north of the Commons). JASNA Syracuse will have the same friendly relationship with the JABC of Ithaca as it has had with the JABC at the Colgate Bookstore in Hamilton: Membership in both groups is encouraged, and there will be at least one JASNA-JABC joint meeting (probably in March 2014). The first JABC-Ithaca meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 17, at 6:30 pm at BSB, with Sense and Sensibility as the topic. (An especially intriguing note: Costume is optional!)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Photos from the War of 1812 Bicentennial and Jane Austen Weekend

Your Regional Coordinator and her Regency Beau were present at the Genesee Country Village and Museum in Mumford for the first day of the War of 1812 Bicentennial and Jane Austen Weekend. Saturday's events proved most enjoyable, though the weather was uncomfortably warm. But if we were warm, this young man working the bellows in the village blacksmith shop was even warmer. (All photos in this post are by the Regency Beau, Edward R. Voytovich.)

However, this fine cockerel not only was undeterred by heat, but believed himself to be the equal of any uniformed human male in the village!

"What dreadful Hot weather we have! It keeps one in a continual state of Inelegance." (JA to Cassandra, 18 September 1796.) Nevertheless, the three JASNA readers in the attempted "mini-marathon" reading of Pride and Prejudice did their best to combat it. From left, A. Marie Sprayberry of the Syracuse Region, and Chris and Sharon Cassidy of the Rochester Region, practice the not-so-subtle art of the fan.

The three JASNA representatives were joined in the reading by one audience volunteer, Angela of Binghamton.

Believe it or not, this redcoated military band represented an American rather than a British regiment. (One can't help wondering whether this led to some confusion on the field of battle.)

Captain Eric Borresen and friend, however, were unambiguously American officers.

Syracuse/Rochester Co-RC Lisa Brown--who is also an enthusiastic English Country Dancer and caller, as we know--introduced the Country Dancers of Rochester demonstration team.

And the dancers delighted the audience with "The Duke of Kent's Waltz," "Shrewsbury Lasses," and other ECD favorites. ("Shrewsbury Lasses" is familiar to viewers of the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice as the dance where Elizabeth is forced to shout, "Other way, Mr. Collins!"--but there was no need for that here!)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

More June News and Announcements

First, it may have been a dreary day in Central New York yesterday, but those of us present at the Colgate Bookstore for Jack Wang's presentation on the Cozy Classics series of children's books had a delightful time! Jack gave us an engaging description of how the series came to be; how he and his twin brother, Holman, go about selecting the best twelve words for each book for very young readers; and how the brothers painstakingly construct the wonderful felted figures for illustrations. (Unfortunately for all those of us who are in love with the muddy Elizabeth Bennet on the cover of the Cozy Classics Pride and Prejudice, mass reproductions are simply not feasible!) Here, Jack gives us a sneak peek at one of the images from the Cozy Classics Emma, to be published late this year (following Jane Eyre and Oliver Twist). Click on the photo for a better view of Emma yanking Harriet Smith away (none too gently) from Robert Martin. If you're intrigued, go posthaste to the Cozy Classics website to learn more!

Second, Volume 34 of Persuasions--JASNA's annual peer-reviewed, hard-copy journal--has been sent out to members. This volume contains transcripts of Anna Quindlen's and Cornel West's plenary lectures at the 2012 AGM in Brooklyn; several papers based on Brooklyn breakout sessions; and a most interesting Miscellany section, including another paper on Pride and Prejudice by Rochester's Leo Rockas, plus a review by Deborah Kaplan of the controversy surrounding the portrait owned by Paula Byrne that may--or may not--depict JA. If you're a JASNA national member and have not yet received your copy, please contact A. Marie Sprayberry (see "Contact Us" at right).

Third, don't forget about the War of 1812 Bicentennial and Jane Austen Weekend, coming up on June 22-23 at the Genesee Country Village and Museum in Mumford (west of Rochester). See the May 26 post for details.

Last but by no means least, another exciting weekend event is in store: Our sister Region to the east, the New York Capital Region (serving Albany, Saratoga Springs, and environs), is hosting its Second Annual Retreat at the Wiawaka Holiday House in Lake George on Sunday-Monday, June 30-July 1. This year's topic will be Persuasion--and our own Co-RC Lisa Brown, Royal Navy expert extraordinaire, will be giving two of the three formal presentations! Also on the schedule are a viewing of the 1995 film version of Persuasion, as well as informal discussions and a concluding picnic tea. The registration fee is $15 for JASNA members and $25 for non-members; this does not include lodging and meals (go to the Wiawaka website for information about reservations and costs). For more information about the Retreat, please contact the Capital Region's RC, Pat Friesen, at mcfriesen2 at

P.S. And this just in: The JASNA Minnesota Region has just announced that electronic registration for this year's Annual General Meeting--"Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice...Timeless," to be held at the Hilton Minneapolis on September 27-29--will open on Wednesday, June 12, at noon CDT (1 pm EDT). Go to this link for details. Hard-copy registration materials have already been mailed to all JASNA members who have not waived receiving a printed brochure. AGMs always fill up quickly, so if you intend to go, do not dawdle on Wednesday (or whenever you receive the hard copy)!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

"Box Hill East" and "Box Hill West": Upstate Janeite Events in June

Two delightful events await Upstate NY Janeites in June! 

First, the Colgate Bookstore, the Jane Austen Book Club-CNY that meets at the Bookstore, and the JASNA Syracuse Region will co-host a presentation called "Pride, Prejudice, and Picture Books: Adapting Classic Novels for a Young Audience" on Saturday, June 8, at 2 pm at the Bookstore (3 Utica Street, Hamilton). Author Jack Wang will talk about the Cozy Classics book series he has developed with his brother, Holman, to present well-loved stories to young children in 12 words or less. (Jack has even promised us a "sneak preview" of the Cozy Classics Emma, to be published this fall!) The event is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be provided. More details about Jack and the books are available at the Bookstore's webpage for the event. We do hope you can join us for this very special presentation! If you can attend, please drop an RSVP email to Regional Coordinator A. Marie Sprayberry (see "Contact Us" at right) by June 4; no need to email with regrets.

By way of making the day in Hamilton even more of a "Box Hill East" than it already is, Marie also proposes that anyone who wishes to get together for an entirely informal and optional lunch should meet her by the gazebo in the Hamilton Village Green (which is the briefest of walks from the Bookstore) at noon. (Free parking is available at the village lot east of the Green, next to the police station.) If the weather is fine, we can either bring our own lunches or purchase them from vendors at the Hamilton Farmers' Market, and eat on the Green. If wet weather threatens or prevails, we can adjourn to a nearby restaurant (options include the Colgate Inn, Hamilton Whole Foods, La Iguana [Mexican], the Royal Indian Grill, Nichols and Beal, etc.). And even if you can't make the lunch, rest assured that we will all have a chance to meet and mingle after Jack's presentation. 


Now for "Box Hill West": Members of JASNA Rochester are preparing for the War of 1812 Bicentennial and Jane Austen Weekend, to be held at the Genesee Country Village and Museum in Mumford (west of Rochester) on Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23, from 10 am to 4 pm. The usual GCV&M admission charges apply for this event (see the museum's webpage for the weekend for details). 
 Space doesn't permit a detailed listing of the various drills, demonstrations, and other military events, but rest assured that both soldiers and sailors will be present (both Lydia Bennet and Louisa Musgrove would be in seventh heaven!). JA-specific events include the following (on both days; times are subject to change):
  • Noon-4 pm: A marathon reading of Pride and Prejudice
  • 12:30 pm: Jane Austen Era Fashion Show.
  • 3 pm: Jane Austen Era Dance Demonstration by the Country Dancers of Rochester.
    Demonstration of  English Country Dancing at last year's event.
 And on Saturday night from 6 to 9 pm, the "Netherfield Ball of 1813" will take place in the GCV&M's John L. Wehle Gallery. The Ball has been specially planned for beginning dancers (so don't be shy!), and the Ball admission charge of $25 includes refreshments. Advance registration is required for this by May 31, but places are still available (go here for the details). 

So get out your "summer finery" for these "summer engagements," and we hope to see you at one or the other!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

JASNA Syracuse May Day Meeting in Binghamton, Sat., May 11, 2 pm

Our JASNA Syracuse May Day meeting (a trifle delayed to avoid a conflict with the Rochester Jane Austen Ball) will be held at RiverRead Books, 5 Court Street, Binghamton, on Saturday, May 11, at 2 pm.

 Our topic at RiverRead will be "Pride and Prejudice: Free for All." In this, our final meeting about P&P during its 200th-anniversary year, you're invited to bring topics of your own choice for discussion. Certainly there exist as many opinions about this novel as there are editions and covers of it! (A small sampling of these is depicted above, and Austen scholar Janine Barchas has presented a fascinating slideshow of covers and comments on The New York Times online.)

Issues such as the comparative merits of Mr. versus Mrs. Bennet; the pros and cons of the Collins-Lucas marriage; the various financial questions raised in the novel; and the possible future turns in the Darcy-Bennet marriage have been known to occupy Janeites for hours--and the RiverRead attendees are no slouches when it comes to lively discussion! So, once more, we encourage you to come "have [your] share of the conversation" about the novel Jane Austen called her "own darling Child."

Friday, April 19, 2013

More Spring Events

We have received news of more spring Austen-related events--some of which are coming up in the next few days. Our first news reporter is JASNA Syracuse/JABC-CNY member Deborah Knuth Klenck, Professor of English at Colgate University, who writes:

On Tuesday,  I'll be giving a Humanities Colloquium, "Jane Austen's School of Rhetoric: Style, Substance, and 'Delicacy of Mind.'"

April 23, 2013, 4:30 pm, Robert Ho Lecture Room, Lawrence Hall, Colgate University.

Free and open to the public.

In 2010, British textual scholar Kathryn Sutherland stirred up controversy about how much "help" Jane Austen received from her editor(s).  The BBC News website called its leading article "Jane Austen's Elegant Style may not be Hers," and the "story" was similarly exaggerated in the North American media. This talk shows that, despite some irregularities in punctuation and spelling common to her contemporaries, Austen's style is not only HER OWN and carefully honed: her novels teach good style through bad style. The dialogue of (usually minor) characters who combine ignorance with hypocrisy and blatant self-promotion with fulsome flattery shows forcibly "how not to do it," as examples will demonstrate.

And, by the way, congratulations to Deborah on her upcoming breakout session at the 2013 JASNA Annual General Meeting in Minneapolis in September! Her topic there will be "Performing to Strangers: Authenticity in Courtship in Pride and Prejudice."


Our second reporter is Jim Reicker of the JASNA Ottawa Region, with news of two Canadian events--which may be within reach for our members living near the Canadian border:

JASNA Ottawa's upcoming activities include a Pride and Prejudice read-a-thon to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its publication. This will take place on Saturday, May 4, in the Councillors' Lounge of the Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave. West, Ottawa, Ontario, from 9 am to 9 pm.

Come, read, listen and meet other Janeites. You may read in the language of your choice. All are welcome. Light refreshments will be available.

FYI: Here's an event, not sponsored by the Ottawa Chapter, but in Prescott, a nearby town in the region.  On April 20 and 21, a one-woman show, "Yours Ever, Jane" starring Sarah Finch. More information at this link.

For more information about the Ottawa read-a-thon, including an approximate schedule, contact Jim (jreicker at


Friday, April 5, 2013

In Memoriam: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

The Official Spokescat of JASNA Syracuse has left us. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu died this morning after a brief illness, in the arms of your Regional Coordinator and her Regency Beau, the humans she owned for thirteen happy years. In medical attendance were Dr. Eric Davis and the devoted staff of Lyndon Veterinary Clinic in Fayetteville--her friends and admirers, as well as health care providers.

Although Lady Mary certainly never let her humans forget who the real head of the household was (in her heyday, her 5 a.m. breakfast call rivaled General Tilney’s “Dinner to be on table directly!”), she gave as little trouble and as much enjoyment as any of us--human or feline--can expect to do in this life. She also took her duties as Official Spokescat seriously, serving as muse for several blog posts and always posing cooperatively for photographs. Noblesse oblige, worthy of the lovely “aristocat” she was.

It is a long-standing tradition in Austenworld that Jane Austen did not care for cats. This seems to be based on the fact that no cats are mentioned in any of the major works, whereas dogs play supporting roles in Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey. However, your RC would like to point out two appreciative mentions of felines in the Letters.

First, JA took a moment in a 1799 letter to Cassandra from vacation lodgings in Bath (the final move to Bath was not made until 1801) to note “a little black kitten runs about the Staircase” as a feature in the Austen family party’s being “exceedingly pleased with the House.” Second, and more significantly, JA actually compared herself to a cat in a later message to Cassandra: In an 1813 letter from brother Edward Knight’s grand estate at Godmersham, she made several inquiries about domestic economy at home in Chawton, and concluded with this observation: “My present Elegancies have not yet made me indifferent to such Matters. I am still a Cat if I see a Mouse.”

Bon voyage, Lady Mary.  And may the Mice be plentiful.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The "Promise of Spring"

Spring has come to New York State--although we're obviously cheating a little with this photo, given that many of us still have snow on the ground! (This glorious vine was photographed last Memorial Day weekend at the Cloisters in New York City.)

Nevertheless, the "promise of spring" is before us in many ways. First, this phrase is the title of a new English Country Dance CD by Charlene Thomson (who, with the late Suzanna Spiese, performed so beautifully for us at our first RiverRead Books meeting in Binghamton). Charlene's original compositions in the ECD tradition make delightful listening--and one of them, "Lisa's Maggot," is dedicated to our own Co-Coordinator Lisa Brown! (Lisa reminds us that a "maggot" in this context is a fanciful or whimsical dance.) The "Promise of Spring" CD can be ordered at this link.

Furthermore, we have a busy schedule of Austen-related events to look forward to in Upstate this spring and early summer. The "Events" column at right gives a complete listing, but here are some of the highlights:
  • The Rochester Jane Austen Ball--always a wonderful occasion for dancers and gallery spectators alike--will be held as usual at a country club in the Rochester area on Sunday, May 5, at 2 pm. (The club's regulations forbid disclosing the name of the venue except to registered attendees, but think leaves and acorns.) A raffle/silent auction and a tea will also be among the activities. There is an admission charge for dancers, and a half-price admission for spectators. Go here for a downloadable registration form. 
  • The JASNA Syracuse May Day meeting will be Saturday, May 11, at 2 pm, at RiverRead Books in Binghamton.  Our topic will be "Pride and Prejudice: Free for All." It's our last meeting on P&P in its 200th-anniversary year, so what angles would you like to explore? Bring your ideas to share!
  • The traditional end-of-season "Box Hill" event in the Syracuse Region this year will be a presentation at the Colgate Bookstore (co-sponsored by the Bookstore, the JABC-CNY, and JASNA Syracuse) on Saturday, June 8, by Dr. Jack Wang. With his brother Holman, Jack is the co-author of the new Cozy Classics series of board books for toddlers--and your Regional Coordinator guarantees that to see these books is to be utterly charmed by them. Jack will discuss how he and Holman have adapted Pride and Prejudice and other classics for very young readers, and (appropriately for a "Box Hill" event) will give us a sneak preview of the forthcoming Cozy Classics Emma
  • Finally, JASNA Rochester will be assisting the Genesee Country Village in Mumford with the "Jane Austen" portion of its "War of 1812 and Jane Austen Weekend" on Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23. With Redcoats on parade and a "Netherfield Ball" in store, Lydia Bennet would go distracted--and there will be a mini-marathon reading of Pride and Prejudice and other JA-related presentations as well. Details about the Ball, and preliminary details about the rest of the weekend, are available here.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

JASNA Syracuse Lady Day Meeting in Ithaca, Sat., March 23, 2 pm

JASNA Syracuse will hold its Lady Day meeting in Ithaca--our first-ever meeting there--on Saturday, March 23, at 2:00 pm. Our host venue on this occasion is Buffalo Street Books, 215 N. Cayuga St., Ithaca.

Buffalo Street Books is located in the DeWitt Mall, on Cayuga between Buffalo and Seneca Sts., a block or so north of the Ithaca Commons; the bookstore can be entered either from the mall or from Buffalo Street. Go here for a downloadable map of downtown Ithaca. The area is well provided with parking garages, and according to the Downtown Ithaca website, parking at these is free on weekends.

Our topic for this meeting will be "The Legacy of Pride and Prejudice." As we were all reminded this January during the 200th anniversary of its publication in 1813, P&P has generated an enormous "industry" all its own: film and TV adaptations; sequels, prequels, retellings from alternative points of view, and other recastings in book form--including even a "Cozy Classics" board book for tots (co-authored by Professor Jack Wang of Ithaca College); a YouTube series called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries that has raised tremendous interest; and mugs, T-shirts, and other artifacts galore (just go to the Etsy website, search Pride and Prejudice, and stand back!). But what are we to make of all this "love" for a single novel? Is it all or mostly good? Or is Jane Austen herself getting lost in the shuffle? Opinions vary widely--and, as you can see, your Regional Coordinator herself is not immune to the lure of sequels and artifacts. (Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the Official Spokescat of JASNA Syracuse, reserves judgment.)

So come and "have [your] share of the conversation" at Buffalo Street Books on the 23rd. We particularly look forward to meeting many JASNA members and other friends from the Ithaca area and the Eastern Finger Lakes!

1960s Musical Adaptation of Emma in Albany

"The Single Girls Guide," a musical adaptation of Emma set in the 1960s, will have its world premiere on Tuesday, March 5, at the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany. With music by Alabama-based composer Tommy Newman and a book by New York-based director Gordon Greenberg, it will play at the Capital Rep until March 30. According to an interview with Greenberg in the Troy Record, he has envisioned Emma Woodhouse as "sort of a Helen Gurley Brown figure"--an intriguing concept, to say the least! So Syracuse Region members (particularly those living toward the east) may well be inclined to join our Capital Region friends in taking a look at it. For more information about the show, go to the Capital Repertory Theatre's website.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rochester Janeiacs Invade Canandaigua!

The Rochester "Janeiacs"--the "Action Jane" members of JASNA Rochester--are at it again! This time, they've scheduled a number of activities to take place in the village of Canandaigua in honor of Pride and Prejudice's 200th anniversary. Canandaigua is southeast of Rochester (and an easy drive south from Exit 44 of the NY State Thruway, for many Syracuse Region members). Here's a list of what will be happening in the next few weeks. 

Unless otherwise noted, all activities will take place at the Granger Homestead, an historic landmark property at 295 N. Main St., Canandaigua (585-394-1472; go here for the website). The Granger's usual admission charge will be waived for these events.
  •  Guest speaker Kathi Nacca (from the Wood Library in Canandaigua) will lead a discussion of P&P at the Granger on Saturday, February 23, from 1 to 3 pm, with tea to follow.
  • Aniela Wolkonowski of JASNA Rochester will lead a discussion of JA sequels, focusing on Pamela Aidan's An Assembly Such as This (a retelling of part of P&P from Mr. Darcy's perspective), on Saturday, March 2 at the Granger, starting at 1 pm. An 1813-style tea will follow.
  • JASNA Syracuse/JASNA Rochester Co-Coordinator Lisa Brown will present her ever-popular Regency Fashion Show (featuring both ladies' and gentlemen's clothing styles) on Sunday, March 3, starting at 1 pm. Note: This event will take place at the Wood Library, 134 N. Main St., Canandaigua (585-394-1381). It too is free of charge and open to the public.
  • Finally, the Country Dancers of Rochester will give a demonstration of dances popular during JA's lifetime on Saturday, March 9 at the Granger, starting at 1 pm.

In Memoriam: Cheryl Suzanna Spiese

The Binghamton English Country Dancers have given us the sad news that Cheryl Suzanna Spiese died on February 12 at age 65, after a long and bravely borne illness. She was a Special Collections Librarian and a Translation Research & Instruction Program Faculty Associate at Binghamton University. In addition, she was actively involved with the Binghamton ECD group in many capacities--as dancer, caller, teacher, organizer, and musician. JASNA Syracuse will always remember Suzanna gratefully for performing with Charlene Thomson, her friend and fellow musician in the group "Greenwood," at the first Syracuse Region meeting at RiverRead Books in Binghamton--and thus getting the RiverRead meetings off to a delightful start. We send our sympathies to Suzanna's family in Lancaster, PA, and to her BU colleagues and ECD friends in Binghamton. This year's Binghamton ECD Ball, on Saturday, April 6, will be dedicated to her.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Happy 200th Anniversary, Pride and Prejudice!

Either today (the 200th anniversary of the day Jane Austen received her author's copy--her "own Darling Child") or tomorrow (the 200th anniversary of the first advertisement), depending on your point of view, is Pride and Prejudice's Really Big Day. Huzzah! Huzzah!! Huzzah!!!

Both mainstream and less traditional media outlets are falling all over themselves to celebrate as well. Even such dedicated "link hunters" as JASNA New York Metro's Kerri Spennicchia and our own Lisa Brown are hard pressed to keep up with the rush! Below, I'm passing on a mere fraction of the ones unearthed by Kerri and Lisa (with thanks to them both):

Several of the blogs in our "Links" list at right, such as Jane Austen in Vermont, Jane Austen's World, and Austenonly, have also put up celebratory posts. And if all this isn't enough, just Google "Pride and Prejudice 200th anniversary," "Jane Austen," or "Austen power"--and then stand back and watch the flood of links!

A very important link to pass on for JASNA members is the one with information about this year's JASNA tour of England--which of course this year focuses on P&P. In addition to the by now customary visits to Steventon, Chawton, and Winchester, this year's tour will include destinations in Derbyshire, as well as a stop in Brighton! Here's the link to the tour info on the national JASNA website.

And finally, don't forget our celebration of "Pride and Prejudice: The Novel and the Films" at the Liverpool Public Library this coming Saturday, February 2, at 2 pm! 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

JASNA Syracuse Candlemas Meeting in Liverpool, Sat., Feb. 2, 2 pm

On Saturday, February 2, at 2 pm, JASNA Syracuse will continue the worldwide celebrations of Pride and Prejudice's 200th anniversary (Jane Austen's "own Darling Child" was first offered for sale on January 28, 1813) by discussing "Pride and Prejudice: The Novel and the Films." The meeting will take place in the Sargent Room of the Liverpool Public Library. 

(In keeping with our custom of following the Regency calendar, this will be our Candlemas meeting--and, for once, the meeting lands on the feast day itself. To Jane Austen and her contemporaries, February 2 was the "cross-quarter day" of Candlemas, a/k/a the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin. Don't ask us how Groundhog Day got mixed up with this.) 

We hope to begin by showing clips of Mr. Darcy's first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet from at least the four film versions of P&P shown in the photo: the 1940 movie with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier; the late 1970s BBC version with Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul (shown in the U.S. on Masterpiece Theatre in 1980); the 1995 BBC miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth; and the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley and Matthew McFadyen. We'll use these as the jumping-off points for considering how each version relates to the novel. How much of the novel's own dialogue and language does each film use? What liberties does each one take with language, setting, and plot? Do the liberties enhance the viewer's experience or detract from it? 

(As you can see in the photo, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the Official Spokescat of JASNA Syracuse, is deeply loyal to the text. But certain scenes may have become so embedded in our thoughts about P&P that, for better or worse, they're part of the P&P "experience." What do you think? Come and have your "share in the conversation"!)

The Liverpool Public Library is located at 310 Tulip St., Liverpool, NY 13088. The Sargent Room is the smaller of the library's two meeting rooms (the Carman Community Room is the other). The library is easily reached from both I-81 North (if you're coming from the south) and the NY State Thruway:

From I-81, travel north from the junction with I-690, follow the signs for the Liverpool exits (near Carousel Center), and select the exit for NY Rt. 370 (Onondaga Lake Parkway). Take 370 along Onondaga Lake into the village of Liverpool, and stay on it as it angles slightly to the left and also becomes 2nd St. in the village. The library is on the corner of Tulip St. and 2nd St./370.

From the Thruway (from either direction), take Exit 38 (Liverpool/County Rt. 57). Travel south on 57 into the village, and take a right on Tulip St. (57 curves left at just about this point). Come down Tulip to 2nd St./370.

There is a small underground parking garage (entrance on Tulip), and ample free on-street parking is also available on Tulip and elsewhere. So we trust that your coachmen will be agreeably accommodated--and we hope you'll join us on the 2nd! 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Year's Greetings, and Events Far and Near

First, a very Happy New Year to all JASNA Syracuse Region members and other local friends of Jane Austen. As you can see, Action Jane holds the "key" to the New Year!

And today is January 6--Twelfth Night or the Feast of the Epiphany, which is the last of the official Twelve Days of Christmas (these are not the twelve days before Christmas, as Lisa Brown explained to us at the Colgate Inn on December 8!). Therefore, a very happy Twelfth Night to you as well.

We begin the New Year with several announcements of "coming attractions," both in JASNA regions elsewhere in the Northeast and here in Upstate New York. First, JASNA Pittsburgh will be holding its 2013 Jane Austen Festival, "CULT-ivating Jane," in Pittsburgh on March 15-16. Features will include a Friday night movie screening, speakers such as the authors Carrie Bebris and Kim Wilson, and a Regency ball! To learn more, go to this page of the JASNA Pittsburgh website.

Second, on July 26-28, JASNA Connecticut will be holding a weekend retreat called "Jane Austen Summer Camp" in Middletown, CT--"a full weekend of learning about Jane Austen's daily activities and pastimes." If you register by February 15, you will get the "early bird" registration rate. For more information, go to this website, which JASNA Connecticut has created for the event.

Finally, we're celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice (the publisher, Thomas Egerton, first advertised P&P for sale on January 28, 1813) in various ways here in Upstate. The JABC-CNY will be having a P&P afternoon, with a trivia game and door prizes, at the Colgate Bookstore this coming Saturday, January 12, at 2 pm. JASNA Rochester will be discussing the novel at its January meeting at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble on Saturday, January 19, at 1 pm. 

And here in the Syracuse area, we'll be discussing "Pride and Prejudice: The Novel and the Films" at our Candlemas meeting at the Liverpool Public Library, 310 Tulip Street, Liverpool, on Saturday, February 2, at 2 pm. Questions to consider: Which is your favorite movie or TV adaptation of P&P? How does each version differ from the novel, and how is it similar? Do the differences enhance your enjoyment or detract from it? Come prepared for a lively exchange! We'll give more details about this meeting in the next post.