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Donna Fletcher Crow

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Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

Fay Sampson

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Fay Sampson (UK) is a writer of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including A MALIGNANT HOUSE, #2 in the Susie Fewings series, a British Crime Club Pick. http://www.faysampson.co.uk

Jane Austen Meeting: An Intellectual Feast

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ October 13, 2014

 Well, yes, certainly there is the fun of dressing up in charming Regency gowns, and the English Country Dancing lessons and the ball— this year a ball at Mansfield Park to introduce Fanny  Price to society. All are a delightful part of the Jane Austen Society of North America's annual gathering of Janeites from the US and Canada, and, indeed, from all over the world. But it's far more than just bonnets and dancing.                                                              

 
The excellent plenary speakers and rich choices of breakout sessions offer a veritable intellectual feast. With often as many as 9 workshops to choose from for each session, all given by presenters with qualifications a yard long, deciding which to attend was often a frustrating challenge.
 
This year, the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mansfield Park, my interest in the Church of England and Fanny and Edmund's future as a clergy couple directed most of my choices. One of the best I attended was given by Kathleen Anderson from Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. I will never read the novel the same again after hearing her "The 'ordination' of Fanny Price: Female Monasticism in Mansfield Park."
 
Fanny's formation include poverty, chastity and obedience. Anderson suggested that when Jane Austen wrote that the subject of her new novel was ordination, that it was actually Fanny's ordination and that when she takes her place in Mansfield Park she will be in the place of an abbess. Anderson even suggested that Fanny and Edmund's marriage could be seen as symbolic of the mystical union of Christ and the Church— with Fanny as the Christ figure.
 
North American Scholar Lynn Festa presented a thought-provoking lecture on "The Noise in Mansfield Park." "Noise and silence both demand a hearing. Noise is what we would rather not hear, but Jane Austen asks us to listen to the noise. And we need to listen to what the noise is drowning out.
 
Festa says, "Fanny is both the quietest and noisiest of Jane Austen's heroines because of the amount of internal dialogue in the novel.
 
And the background of the speakers was as varied as their topics. Brother Paul Byrd, a Dominican Friar, who teaches English literature in Chicago, compared Mansfield Park and Margaret Oliphant's The Perpetual Curate. While Sara Bowen, a lawyer, also from Chicago, spoke on  "Fanny's Future and Mary's Nightmare, Jane Austen and the Clergyman's Wife."
 
Then, once more back to the lighter side of learning about the Regency as Syrie James and I wait for the Etiquette class to begin.
 
And Stan and I join the Grand Promenade before the ball.
 
 
 

Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

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