Yesterday afternoon, I gave my presentation to JASNA-NYC on various aspects of the shadow story of Emma, primarily Jane Fairfax's concealed pregnancy, and I was very happy with every aspect of it.
Nili, Jerry, Joyce, Kerri and the rest of the JASNA-NYC team did such an excellent job in arranging everything, from the elegant venue at the Columbia Alumni House on Morningside Drive, to working with me in sending out, in advance, not one but TWO flyers of my own creation to the members (which advance publicity accounted for the turnout of 94 attendees!), to giving me a very flattering introduction. A true red carpet--I was so well taken care of.
Despite the concerns of some that I might be engulfed in a vast wave of indignation once people heard what I was actually claiming, the group showed itself to be extremely open minded and curious to hear my heresies, and the ingenuity and playful wit that many of the attendees showed in their responses to the various challenges I presented to them, to induce them to think outside the box about Emma, was fantastic! The consensus seemed to be that I had successfully passed the "grand jury" and had earned their curiosity to see my full argument in book form. That was all I sought.
It is a cliche that performing live for a receptive audience can energize you, but I certainly felt that way--I came up with some ad libs that surprised even me, and felt inspired to read a number of passages from Emma and others of JA's writing with particular animation, and it was really nice to hear the room laugh in response, as they heard, with fresh ears, the long-hidden humor of some of JA's most wicked and witty lines.
I had to cut out some of my planned presentation because (as in any meeting) there were unexpected delays, etc., but still and all, I finally had the time, without being under enormous time pressure, to make a case, and it was really gratifying to see all these intelligent folks really pay attention, and give me a fair shake.
At Chawton House last July, where I only had 20 minutes, the response was generally good, but it just wasn't enough time to work the room properly, to get people comfortable with a radical new paradigm. Having about 70 minutes to talk about the broader significance of JA's" charades" (both the ones in stanzas, and the novels themselves), and to provide some real context for Jane's concealed pregnancy, in terms of JA's covert feminism, was such a luxury!
There was, alas, no time for a formal q&a afterwards, but as people ate the ample spread of food for 40 minutes thereafter, there was plenty of time for shmoozing and followup questions and comments on an individual level, and I believe everyone who had a question got an answer, and everyone went away satisfied. I can't wait to hear from some of the attendees, who said they would take my suggestion that they reread Emma in light of my ideas, and see what THEY see, and then contact me.
Anyway, many thanks to those of you who gave me great encouragement, and also to Nancy, Anne, and Lisa for giving me the latitude in Janeites to express my ideas over the past years, and to gradually learn what worked and what didn't in terms of making my case.
Jane Austen and Duck Eggs
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