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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My presentation to JASNA-NYC yesterday

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.



Jennythenipper said...

This is great news. I'm glad it went well.

Vic said...

Glad your talk was received with an open mind. Congrats.

Deb said...

Hello Arnie,

So glad to hear that your thoughts had such an enthusiastic and polite reception! As I could not get down to NYC for this talk, I look forward to hearing you in Portland. Any thoughts of coming to Vermont? - would be happy to have you speak to us.
Deb [JASNA-Vermont]

Arnie Perlstein said...

Jenny and Vic, thanks!!!!

Deb, thanks, and also, even though I am not likely to be coming up to beautiful Vermont anytime soon, perhaps we might think about a video chat? I am assuming your group is not a large one, perhaps that would work...

Deb said...

Aah! Arnie! - you make the asusmption we are a little group - but alas! we usually have at least 60+ people at any of our meetings! who knew that so many Austen fanatics live in these lovely green mountains [which are too often white!] - will think on the video chat idea, but in the meantime keep Vermont on your radar for a vacation spot - you can then head up to Montreal to the Canda group and give a talk there [just 2 hrs north]...

Arnie Perlstein said...


I am astonished (in a GOOD way) at your getting such a turnout in mostly rural Vermont, it must be a tribute to shrewd programming on your part, although it does make sense that you quirkily independent and opinionated Vermonters would be drawn to JA's quirkily independent genius! ;)

If ever the opportunity arises for me to journey up your way (perhaps for a reunion at Williams, which I attended, just across the border, as you know), I will certainly take you up on your kind invitation!

Cheers, ARNIE

Allie Jane Bruce said...

Hi Arnie,
I was at this talk and really enjoyed it, but I had to leave early so couldn't tell you so. I think your whole thesis is fascinating. I will never again view Jane Fairfax in the same way! Can't wait to see your book. Good luck to you!
Allie Bruce

Arnie Perlstein said...


Thanks for the positive feedback!

I started a discussion thread at the JASNA NYC Facebook page, for followup conversation about Jane Austen's shadow stories, please feel free to participate there, and to also encourage any of your fellow JASNA NYC members to do likewise.

Cheers, ARNIE