Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Trip to JASNA AGM 2016 : Pre-Conference Part III


A Trip to JASNA AGM 2016 : Pre-Conference Part III

Wednesday night I had the pleasure of attending two wonderful talks. The first was by playwright Ken Ludwig on Jane Austen's comic genius. Ken is a lively, funny guy himself and of course a big fan of Jane Austen. He traced her comic origins back through the literature she read. Novels at that time tended towards the gothic or melodramatic but plays provided the grounding for young Jane Austen to discover humor. The Austens performed amateur theatricals at home. Jane's particular favorite author was Samuel Richardson. She read and reread his play The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753-4) and the play influenced her early writing. Ken Ludwig noted that all great comic plots come from Shakespeare and Jane Austen's books were no exception. Pride and Prejudice is very similar to Much Ado About Nothing

Following Ken Ludwig's talk was a curator's talk on the Will & Jane exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare. Working at a museum and in archives, I was very interested to hear how this exhibit was put together. The curators, Janine Barchas (Professor of English at the University of Texas) and Kristina Straub (Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon University) are a dynamic duo themselves. It's quite obvious how much they adore Jane Austen and have a sense of humor about all the memorabilia her works have inspired. They found some really odd things browsing ebay and Etsy but also some really nice homages to a most beloved author and her time period. 

The crowning jewel of their collection is of course the shirt Colin Firth wore as Mr. Darcy. The ladies were extremely excited to get their hands on THE SHIRT! They pondered the possibility of keeping it wet but sadly realized that would be a bad curatorial decision. They talked about the emotions the shirt inspires in people- both women and men. Where women like to pose for "selfies" with the shirt and attempt to kiss the glass, men like to pose for "shirties" behind the shirt, if they're tall enough. Sir Derek Jacobi came to view the exhibit and when the curators told him of the trend for "shirties," he and his husband had to take their own "shirties." The shirt is part of a section on repetition. The curators found many many ceramic figurines of Shakespearean actors (the bobbleheads of the 19th century) in the Folger's vault. There were two poses of Richard III repeated over and over - with only the facial features of the actors changing. The image Mr. Darcy in his wet shirt has also been repeated numerous times.

Benedict Cumberbatch for a Vanity Fair photoshoot
All images for illustrative purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.
The curators undoubtedly had much more to say, but alas, I did not take notes. They were fabulous speakers and the exhibit was wonderful!

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