Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Trip to JASNA AGM 2016 : Day One


A Trip to JASNA AGM 2016 : Day 1

Friday Oct. 21 - Breakout Sessions

I didn't make it back to the hotel from the DAR in time for the opening or keynote speaker. I squeaked in just before the breakout sessions began. 

Breakout Session A5: What Emma Knew: Modes of Education in Emma

Jessica Richard, Wake Forest University
This session will illuminate theories and models of women’s education in early 19th-century England and in Emma.  In this context, rather than teaching her lessons, the novel vindicates Emma’s independent intuition and knowledge, aligning her—and Austen—with radical theorists of women’s education.

This one went over my head. The only thing I really remember is whether Jane Austen was making a statement on the belief that the dumber a woman is, the more a man will want her. (Citing Northanger Abbey's Catherine Morland and Emma's Harriet Smith).

Breakout Session B4: Dependence or Independence? 
Sheryl Craig, University of Central Missouri
Emma contains 16 female characters who are gainfully employed and who have the ability to conduct business, to manage their own money, and to behave as rational creatures.  Thus, in this novel Jane Austen is making the same argument Mary Wollstonecraft made in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

This talk was really interesting. How many working women are mentioned in Emma? Sheryl Craig counted at least 16- depending on how you count working women. Do you count Miss Weston/Mrs. Taylor? The book opens with her wedding, so probably not. Do you count Jane Fairfax who is not yet working? Maybe. There are women who are mentioned by name like Mrs. Goddard, and other working women who have no names like Emma's maid. I had forgotten about Emma's maid. A comprehensive list would include other forgotten characters like Miss Nash, head teacher at Mrs. Goddard's school; Mrs. Ford, shopkeeper; Mrs. Hodges, housekeeper at Donwell Abbey; Wright, housekeeper at the vicarage; Hannah, servant at Randall's; Patty, servant to the Bates women; Mrs. Stokes, owner of the Crown Inn at Highbury; other teachers, Miss Price and Miss Richardson; Serle, cook at Hartfield.

(list from Strange Blog)

How did these women get their jobs? Is their basis in historic facts for these occupations? Cooks, housekeepers and maids are common occupations for women, as was teaching; but what about innkeeper or shop owner? Dr. Sheryl Craig has researched the Hampshire Chronicle (Winchester, England) from the period 1815-1816 and come up with a list of help wanted ads by and for women. The advertisements ask for teachers/governess, nurse, upper servant, cook. The more unusual ads give credence to the unseen/forgotten working women in Emma. 

ELIZABETH GLENCROSS... Linen-Draper, Hawker, &c. 

Mrs. Hardwell, Watchmaker

TO MILERS, WANTED ... A sober, steady, MAN (does this imply women had applied for the position?)

Other fabulous ads include:

To be LEFT.... PUBLIC-HOUSE.... £200 to £300-Imediate posession given. (Perhaps this is how Mrs. Ford acquired her inn?)

DINAH POINTER, Widow of the late John Pointer, Maltster, of the Soke, Winchester, ..... [thanks her husband's friends] and begs leave to inform them the business will be carried on as usual, under the direction of his Executors, for the maintenance of herself and children...

Mrs. Bradfield, Plumber and Glazier

For many women in England (and anywhere else) at that time, working wasn't a choice, it was a necessity. What we can learn from these ads is that women could and did hold occupations in early 19th century England. Widowhood afforded women the money and freedom to pursue occupations outside of the home and domestic realm.

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


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

Thursday Oct. 20

Emma is Presented in Washington, DC

An evening of theater listening to the conversation of a group of elite Washington ladies in 1816. Louisa Adams, future First Lady, hosts a "Ladies of 1816 Book Club" for her friends Rosalie Stier Calvert (1778-1821), First Lady Dolley Madison  (1768-1849) and her friend Elizabeth Paterson Bonaparte, the scandalously divorced former wife of Napoleon's brother Jérôme.

Laura Rocklyn, the author, states they took  a few liberties with the timeline as Louisa Adams and Betsy Bonaparte were still in Europe at the time. While the book club is fictional, the events discussed by the ladies are based on historical record. 

Louisa Catherine Adams
Louisa Catherine Adams

Rosie Stier Calvert

Dolley Payne Madison
Elizabeth Paterson Bonaparte

 The ladies sipped tea and gossiped about their family lives, fashion, modern marriage and the latest European fashions (scandalous!). Though Dolley Madison claimed she wasn't interested in other people's lives, she was an enthusiastic participant in the gossip fest. Louisa Adams, always a diplomat, tried to steer the topic towards the book they were supposed to discussing, Emma by the author of Sense & Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, etc. 

Betsy Bonaparte is upset because her ex-husband, Jerome, allowed his brother Napoleon to annul their marriage, leaving her alone and pregnant in Europe. She was forced to leave Paris and go to England to have her child safely and then return to Baltimore. Jérôme was hastily married off to a German princess. She misses her fashionable friends in Paris and their stylish clothes. Louisa and Rosalie secretly think Betsy's European style dresses are a bit too scandalous for their tastes. Betsy was the Kim Kardashian of her day. The gossips loved to malign her for her flimsy dresses and defiance of proper womanhood, but she took initiative to divorce her husband and control her own finances.  Betsy also thinks modern marriage should be based on wealth and admiration. The partners should also be close in age. This last statement upset Rosalie and Dolley, whose husbands were much older. 

There was also a barbed comment about husbands who have extramarital relationships behind their wives' backs. Mr. Calvert was known to have fathered a second family with one of his slaves. The ladies had much to say. They were all quite opinionated and intelligent. There was undoubtedly much more discussed but it was a long day and I didn't take notes. Hopefully someone else did! I also did not stay for the talkback, but I hope another blogger will share with the rest of us. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

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


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

Thursday Oct. 20: The Making of Cozy Classics

Another fun talk in the evening was by Jack Wang, creator of the Cozy Classics series of child-friendly classic novels.

The idea all started when Jack Wang's oldest daughter was a baby. He got tired of reading her the same stories over and over. They usually feature rhyming text, bright colors and animals. He wondered whether there were books adults could enjoy that will still teach children language skills and engage their interest. Not finding anything that suited his interest, Jack reached out to his twin brother Holman to bounce an idea off him. Holman liked the idea and suggested needle felted illustrations. His wife does needle felting and he thought it would be a good medium to work with. Holman does the needle felting and principal photography, so I wonder if he regrets his suggestion? (Ha ha) 

The first concept was to have 20 child-friendly words, however they soon realized that meant they needed 20 illustrations and that was too time-consuming and difficult. They reduced the number to 12 and brainstormed lists of words to use. Jack, an writing professor at Cornell, and dad, is well qualified to choose words that help a child develop and also words that adults will get a smile out of if they know the story. 

The books feature 12 illustrations of needle-felted characters. Needle felting is the processing of stabbing loose wool with a barbed needle. (This could be useful when designing the villainous characters). They wrap the felted wool around armature to allow their characters to be posed. Then they add faces and change the expressions to suit the story.

Holman had the idea to use pages from the original books as background. That didn't quite work out so they use the first page with the character standing on it. Many of the sets are made at Holman's house using dollhouse furniture.

 Other illustrations are photographed on location in and around Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

They had interest from a publisher right away, but the publisher wanted them to change the name of Pride and Prejudice! The publisher felt Prejudice wasn't an appropriate word for a children's book. The publisher clearly missed the concept so they passed. Fortunately they have had interest from other publishers and started with a Canadian publisher. They are now with Chronicle Books. The new publisher is releasing some of the backlist titles and a new title each year. The newest releases are War & Peace (with only 3 figures-how?) and Great Expectations. Upcoming books include Wizard of Oz and Little House on the Prairie

The Wangs also have a Star Wars Classic Yarns series.

More pictures can be seen in this album

I've purchased some of these for my nieces and nephews and/or have read almost all of them. I just love the adorable needle felted illustrations. I don't always agree with the word choices used to tell the story but as Jack explained, the fun for grown-ups is in the storytelling. We can throw in the lines we've memorized, do voices, etc. I have to say that Emma is by far my favorite in the series. Her facial expressions are priceless and I think it tells the story well. Naturally, I was loved hearing Jack speak about the creative process and get some books signed for my young cousins with whom I was staying. Everyone else seemed to agree with me because the line to purchase books and have them signed was very long! My cousin and her husband appreciate the gifts and her husband actually read a Jane Austen book for the first time! 

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


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

Thursday Oct. 20/Friday Oct. 21

An Agreeable Tyrant: Fashion After the American Revolution

In the afternoon, I attended another curator talk. Alden O'Brien, curator of the costume exhibit "An Agreeable Tyrant: Fashion After the American Revolution" at the Daughters of the American Revolution museum, spoke about the exhibit. Alden is a devoted Janeite and Mr. Darcy lover. She is a very funny speaker and told us how she got to fulfill a lifelong dream and put her hands in "Mr. Darcy's" breeches - the manikin that is. She also quipped that the mannequin representing Miss Bingley got a little fresh with Mr. Darcy as they were moving the manikin down the corridors to the rooms. This devoted Janite also put together a little booklet just for Janeites about the exhibit in the context of Jane Austen's novels. 

Back to the process of creating an exhibit- the majority of the pieces in the exhibit are authentic pieces from the museum collections. The challenge was getting human clothing onto inanimate manikins, some of which lacked legs, heads, arms and hair.  They even had to carve down and build up portions of the foam forms to make them look more historically accurate. They used foam to fill in spaces and create the illusion of hair. You can read more about the exhibit process and see the photos on the DAR blog. Some of the accessories, mostly jewelry, are reproductions. This exhibit is a must-see! It will make any textile lover's heart go pitter-patter. I'd love to get in the vault and see what else they have. 

Skipping ahead to Friday, here are my (poor) photos from the exhibit with special appearances by my traveling companions Susanna (in her colonial/Federal child's dress) and mini-Jane  Austen wearing her most fashionable Regency ballgown. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

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


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

Thursday Oct. 20

I made it to the hotel late morning for a workshop on no-sew turbans and bandeaus. 

"Anne Mitchell had tried to put on a turban like mine, as I wore it the week before at the concert, but made wretched work of it — it happened to become my odd face, I believe, at least Tilney told me so at the time, and said every eye was upon me; but he is the last man whose word I would take." ~Isabella Thorpe
Northanger Abbey Ch. 27
Isabella Thorpe Northanger Abbey 1986

Turbans and turban-like headdresses were popular with European women throughout Jane Austen's lifetime. Women always covered their head with either white linen or muslin caps which were embroidered and ornamented with lace; straw, velvet or silk; hair ornaments like ribbons, flowers and combs; turbans of silk or cotton or a decorative hair wrap.

"Tuesday, 8 January 1799: I am not to wear my white satin cap tonight, after all; I am to wear a mamalone [mameluke] cap instead, which Charles Fowle sent to Mary, and which she lends me. It is all the fashion now; worn at the opera, and by Lady Mildmays at Hackwood balls. I hate describing such things, and I dare say you will be able to guess what it is like." Jane Austen to Cassandra Tuesday, 8 January 1799

Turbans were inspired by Turkish fashion but in Europe, they did not have a religious connotation. Fashion magazines began showing turban-like wraps in the 1780s. They were originally made from a silk scarf with fringed ends and also of crepe and silk. Toques (a small hat without a brim or with a narrow brim) of muslin, gauze or tulle fashioned over a wire frame were also popular. Women decorated their turbans with ribbons, feathers and jewels. 

By the 1790s, turbans were made in a wrap style. Since these were not religious turbans, it was fashionable to show some hair peeking out and down below the turban. Some ladies wrapped their turbans leaving an end hanging over the shoulder, while others added an additional bandeau. The top could be covered and women would attach ostrich plumes or brightly colored feathers with a hat pin. At this time the fashion was for the feather to stick straight up. 

The popular cartoonist Gillray lampooned the fashion.

In the early 19th century, the fashion for headdresses became more diverse. The Oriental style was in as was the pillbox style, which was a little more hat-like than a turban. The saque style was inspired by caps worn by French Revolutionaries. The fashion for decorations changed frequently from ostrich plumes to brightly colored feathers to egret feathers. Turbans of this period were ornamented with fringe, pearls, pins and tassels. It was not unheard of to wear pearls with a turban! Fixed turbans also became popular in this period.

We saw an example of a homemade 19th century fixed turban one of the presenters made. 

Fashions became more extreme after Jane Austen's death. In the 1820s exaggerated hairstyles, hats and turbans were all the rage. 

The presenter also gave us a tutorial on how to get the Regency turban look cheaply. She purchased several gauze scarves at the local hardware store in various colors for only a few dollars. She also went shopping at Macy's after-Christmas sale and picked up an infinity scarf. She demonstrated various ways to tie a turban and we each chose a scarf, a feather and some hat pins. We spent some time practicing in front of a mirror. 

The woman in front of me had long, straight hair wore loose under her turban. That reminded me a little too much of Captain Jack Sparrow so I resolved to curl my straight hair or hide it all under a turban. I tied a turban with my hair tucked under and thought that made me look too much like Professor Quirrell. Scary! Then I decided I really would curl my hair! A couple more tries with more hair sticking out made me look a little more Regency than Hogwarts. I went with long curls peeking partially out of a wrap style turban that had tails hanging down.
My turban after the ball... you get the general idea. 

Learn more about Regency turbans :

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!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

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


Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth: A History of Sugar and Dessert

I was lucky enough to get a spot in this talk by food historian and historic foodways consultant Joyce White. Sugar and sweet desserts evolved over time from Medieval England to the Victorian era when desserts became closer to the modern sweets we enjoy today. In Medieval times, sweets were incorporated into the meal. Sugar came from sugar cane and was expensive so honey was more widely used. In the 14th and 15th century sugar-coated seeds and flowers, known as dragées or comfits, were common eaten. We had the opportunity to try candied violets, which taste very floral. Too much for me. 

Sugar was also used for medicinal purposes. It balanced the humors, especially when combined with vinegar. Sugar and spices were blended with sugar and eaten at the end of a meal to aid digestion. Crystallized ginger was also eaten as a digestive aid. I tried a nibble and it wasn't bad. A larger bite packed a real punch. Eater beware! Sugar coated fennel seeds were eaten 
We also tried sugar coated fennel seeds. Those were actually good. They taste just like crunchy Good and Plenty candies. They must be the forerunners of that type of candy.

Gingerbread was another popular sweet beginning in the medieval period. It was literally ginger bread-made with boiled honey, breadcrumbs and sometimes ground sandalwood chips added for color. This is not the rich molasses gingerbread we know today and it doesn't taste like it. Joyce White's recipe is a transliteration of a medieval recipe. By the 16th century, the honey was replaced by molasses and breadcrumbs with flour. In the 18th century, chemical leavening agents were used in baking.

Before marmalade became common in the 19th century, quince paste was the equivalent in the 16th century. Read more on A Taste of History. I did not like this at all. It smelled strange and tasted as bad as it smelled. It wiggles like Jell-O. I don't eat wiggly foods so after a tiny bite, I passed this one on to my relatives.

Starting in the medieval period, no banquet or dinner party was complete without a fashionable sugar sculpture, known as sotiltees (or subtleties).. Like ice sculptures today, but significantly more ornate, these served as centerpieces on the table. They were 3D objects or scenes made to be admired while food was served around them. Food historian Ivan Day has some magnificent photos of his creations on his blog. These remained popular into the Victorian period.

In Jane Austen's time, small cookies made with currents and flavored with wine, rosewater and/or orange water were popular. Joyce White chose to make Barnet cakes

Ices and creams of all kinds were popular with Georgian and Victorian diners. Ice cream was a rare and expensive treat until the Georgian era. 

Regency era people enjoyed eating ice at a confectionery shop. 

You wouldn't find ice cream like in a modern ice cream parlor but something more like Italian ice or gelato in flavors that seem unusual and exotic to us, like parmasean cheese, alongside normal flavors like lemon. Ice could be molded into fancy shapes for a dinner or ball. The ice cream making device, known as a sabotiere, differed from a Victorian ice cream maker in that it lacked a crank. The sabotiere was placed in a bucket surrounded by ice and salt and then the cream was hand-turned. 

The ice cream was flavored with natural flavors like berries, spices and rosewater.
Creams could be fancy molded confections or flavored whipped creams.
As technology advanced and sugar refining become easier, desserts evolved into the modern sweets we know today.

This was a great presentation with some unusual historic sweets to try. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Trip to JASNA AGM 2016 : Pre-Conference


I finally made it to an annual general meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America. This year's meeting was in Washington, DC, my favorite city in the world! I had a free place to stay so I could only just barely afford to go. I went away even though it meant taking a week off work without pay. I had a fabulous time among the Janeites (all 850 of them)!

I arrived on Tuesday. On Wednesday I visited the Folger Shakespeare Library with my traveling companion, mini Jane Austen (my own version of Jane Austen kitsch).

Mini Jane Austen accompanied me to the Jane Austen Society of North America's Annual General Meeting in Washington, DC. She visited the Folger Shakespeare Library where she discovered that in our time, it's the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death and approaching the 200th anniversary of the human Jane Austen's death. 

The Folger has put together an incredible exhibit chronicling 400 years of Will and 200 years of Jane's enduring legacies. 

Read about Will & Jane
Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity

Mini Jane's tour of the exhibit