How I learned that sex, indeed, does sell at a JASNA AGM. No, not like that!!

by A Latter-day Bluestocking

“It’s a very select Society, an’ you’ve got to be a Janeite in your ’eart … You take it from me, there’s no one to touch Jane when you’re in a tight place.”
“The Janeites,” by Rudyard Kipling

The 2012 Jane Austen Society of North America AGM (annual general meeting) is over.  And on a cold and wet Sunday, having changed into my comfy new Jane Austen t-shirt, lying curled up in my bed, I took immense pleasure in my reminiscences of the past weekend, like Cinderella after the ball.

This was my first-ever AGM, an annual gathering of a like-minded mix of academic and non-academic followers of all things Jane.  I sit writing with my “Jane Austen’s Regency World” pen, sifting through the myriad postcards, flyers, refrigerator magnets, and bookmarks, while recollecting the lectures, banquet, Regency Ball, and all the wonderful people who I met.  I can’t help but feel sad that it’s over, the camaraderie, the vast amounts of information, the books for sale (that could possibly put me in a poor house), and the immeasurable satisfaction of being around so many who understand the obsession.  There was no eye-rolling (except perhaps when I chose to read from Fordyce’s Sermons aloud), no bored stares or incredulous looks, just others who wanted to gush about our favorite author, the ubiquitous Jane Austen.

I am still savoring the high of giving my first break-out lecture.  This is one of the highlights of my life.  I had been a bundle of nerves in the weeks leading up to this moment.  I am insecure when it comes to this kind of thing and even more so because I do not have an academic background in English Literature, therefore feel some inferiority and lots of fear that I will make a fool of myself in front of those who can claim extensive credentials.  I am a frustrated wannabe academic and I so yearn for acceptance and praise from those I consider to be “real” scholars.  This, compounded with the fear of suddenly forgetting my material, not being able to answer questions and looking like an idiot, and worrying that the sound of my voice (which I personally loathe) would be grating to others put me in a near state of panic.  It further did not help when I learned that I had one of the biggest groups (132) signed up for my lecture.  But I need not have worried.  My little talk “Fallen Women of the Regency:  Mistresses, Courtesans, and Prostitutes” was very well received (see sex does, indeed, sell even at Jane Austen themed events) , the questions asked were insightful and thought-provoking, and I was told that my presentation and handout were very interesting and that I had a very good speaking manner by no less an author whose books I admire.  High praise, indeed.  This wonderful experience has left me wanting more and I am already thinking of my next paper proposal for next year’s AGM celebrating the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice.

The Banquet and Regency Ball was so much fun!  For five hours I ate, drank, and danced the night away like I was at the Netherfield Ball.  There were so  many beautifully dressed people and the music was lively and fun.  I spent a good deal of the time admiring the general splendor of it all.  I did find myself having to loosen my stays if I wanted to keep up with the highly aerobic Regency-era dancing.  Thanks, mom, for my ballet training!

Another highpoint of the weekend was the author book signing.  Bleary-eyed and exhausted from the previous night’s exertions I lugged the books that I had carefully chosen, by the authors I was desperate to meet.  To speak with those who have written some of the most well-informed and wonderfully written books about Jane Austen was akin to meeting (for me) rock stars!

What a memorable weekend!!  I can’t wait for next year in Minneapolis, MN (and the year after that, Montreal, and the year after that, Louisville, KY).

Clearly the subject matter of my talk went to my head!

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