“I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,” Jane Austen discussing her book “Emma.”
On Saturday, October 24th, I attended my very first Austen event, which was hosted at The New School in NYC, to celebrate the 200th birthday of Jane Austen’s book, Emma. This all-day event featured prominent Austen scholars from around the country, who shared their particular fields of study in regards to Austen’s work.
I was in awe regarding so many of the details regarding this event. To have this many brilliant and dedicated women in one room, who have devoted their academic careers to Austen, was both humbling and inspiring. Here, I found myself surrounded by these thoughtful and devoted Austen scholars, who have methodically scoured her work, in search of ideas and insights that most people would never discover for themselves. Topics discussed throughout the day included the art of book-making, the roles of fashion and feminism throughout the themes in Emma, along with insights regarding Austen and her writing peers.
Juliette Wells, who is an Associate Professor and Chair of English at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD, was the first speaker at this event, and her presentation set the tone for the other presenters. She presented her latest research around the style of book-making that was used during the 1815 publication of “Emma” in England and the 1816 American publication of “Emma” in America. I found her presentation to be thorough and fascinating, as we learned about the issues surrounding the book-making process, along with the mysteries surrounding what happened to the hundreds of copies of the 1816 American edition of “Emma.” If you watch the video presentation of this event, at 33:33 into the first video at the bottom of the page shown in the link below, Juliette shared with our audience the only slide currently in existence that shows the six remaining copies of the American edition of the 1816 publication of Emma:
In a follow-up email, Juliette shared with me the following two links from her presentation that I thought our blog readers would enjoy. The first link is to Goucher’s “Emma in America” site, <http://www.emmainamerica.org>.
This presentation at Goucher College Library celebrates the bicentennial anniversary of Jane Austen’s novel “Emma.” The exhibit is titled “Emma in America: Jane Austen’s Novel through Two Centuries.” This exhibit spotlights a rare treasure of its world-class Jane Austen Collection: the very rare first American edition of Emma, published in Philadelphia in 1816. It tells the story of how and why this novel came to be printed in America — without Austen’s knowledge — only months after the first English edition was released. It was also the only Austen novel published in America during her lifetime. This online exhibit also includes several covers from around the world of Austen’s “Emma.”
You can find Jane Austen’s profit list in facsimile at the Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts digital edition, which is another terrific site:
Austen’s fiction manuscripts are the first significant body of holograph evidence surviving for any British novelist. They represent every stage of her writing career and a variety of physical states: working drafts, fair copies, and handwritten publications for private circulation. The page that Juliette showed us represents her profit list, which demonstrates the careful book keeping done by Austen, as she kept track of the profits from her writing.
The link below is also a nice compliment to Juliette’s presentation because it shares pictures of various first editions of Austen’s books and provides many details surrounding the publications of her books:
I recommend checking out the live streaming that was captured at The New School, to enjoy the various presentations and to get a broader understanding about the social issues and themes that are part of “Emma” and which are still being dissected by scholars around the world. As you watch each presentation, you really come away with an appreciation for why Jane Austen’s work resonates with so many people today and how Austen influenced her fellow writers during and after her lifetime. Juliette’s presentation starts at around eleven minutes into the first video stream at the bottom of this page at the link below:
I have to say a word of thanks to my sister-in-law, who is not an Austen fan, yet she spent the day in NYC with me at this event because she knew I was so excited to attend this event. She listened to six hours worth of presentations and research papers and was willing to discuss each one with me afterwards. It was such a pleasure to have her company!