In Chapel Hill, NC last weekend the local Austen scholars held a gathering of Austenites for what was supposed to be combined academic/pop pursuits related to Pride and Prejudice, the first such meeting ever there but they want to make it an annual tradition. Mom was invited to sit on a roundtable/panel related to the movie adaptations(something she has blogged a lot about) and I accompanied her there for what amounted to three days of mostly academic Austen pursuits, with some dancing thrown in.
Unfortunately the panel was a wash; the woman running it who invited my mother, another older academic, and a grad student pretty much wanted their names and appearances and then to run the actual discussion and have all the ideas all by herself. She gave my mother and the other academic little chance to make use of their knowledge or preparation(she had in fact told them not to prepare anything, but they did anyway, since after all they expected to talk), and continually tried to redirect what they did say and make it all about her and what she was saying. Under circumstances designed to hinder them in every way, I think they both acquitted themselves quite well, and I am pleased to say there is little with which they may be reproached.
Indeed, the running of the convention attempted in many ways to thwart our enjoyment of it; there were a number of rookie errors, most notably in the running of the IT; a screening of the 2005 Joe Wright movie failed because the sound balance went awry and noone knew how to fix it. The personnel were sometimes imprudently chosen as well, including the opening night speaker, who was apparently a very prestigious person to have as opening night speaker but was incapable of giving a talk comprehensible to anybody(though to be fair, I had a splitting headache that night anyway), and the dancing master who ran two dance workshops for us before the Saturday night ball, and then insisted on running the ball in the same way, even banishing from the floor those whose dancing he deemed not worthy of his instruction, which is absolutely what one should not do, especially at the ball, where he drove a number of the guests away. Nonetheless at the ball I did enjoy two dances, and my mother enjoyed one, and we both danced more at the workshops, where I also got a chance to film her(at the front, dressed in black with the green lanyard) and others doing the three-couple set dance Upon a Summer’s Day, although please note the music starts roughly a minute and a half into this video and the volume is low for most of it:
A couple of the talks were better than the others: a lecture by costume expert Jade Bettin on the costumes of the 2005 movie, and how they were not entirely historically accurate but were very carefully designed to the movie’s characters, was probably the one I got the most out of. And while the movie screening failed, we were greatly entertained by a play put on by the grad students combing two of Austen’s Juvenilia, which included the high points of Love and Friendship, the title character of The Beautiful Cassandra, and the use of coconuts instead of horses a la Monty Python. But the best part of the weekend was probably our fellow Austenites on the ground with us. It seemed whenever we were seated next to someone, we two had little trouble carrying on with them about something or other Austen-related, and most of the people we thus ran into were very friendly. We were invited to dine by two different people we hope to remain in touch with, one of whom even showed us a popular restaurant called the Top of the Hill we would never have found on our own. If we ever were to go back, it would probably be to see them again.
But it may be some time before we do so, even if they do succeed in making the summer program an annual event. Certainly not next year, when we intend to attend the JASNA general meeting in Montreal.