Day Three: JASNA Conference 2010: Catherine Morland’s Imagination and the Ball Masqué!

Syrie and Bill James at the Masqued Ball

© Austenprose Another early morning after a full day of Janeness at JASNA, Jane Austen and the Abbey: Mystery, Mayhem and Muslin in Portland, for Deb (Jane Austen and Vermont) and me as we rush off to the continental breakfast followed by the second Plenary speaker, Juliet McMaster (JASNA North American Scholar) in the Grand Ballroom. Dr. McMaster is a world renowned scholar, Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta and prominent Janeite. Her presentation was “A Surmise of such Horror”: Catherine Morland’s Imagination. She spoke about Northanger Abbey’s heroine Catherine Morland and the quality of her mind. Austen describes Catherine at the opening of the novel as “cheerful, open” and with a “mind about as ignorant and uninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is” but by the novel’s end, through her experiences and Henry Tilney’s careful tutelages, she becomes “finely aware and richly responsible.” A wonderful speech which logically explained Catherine’s perspective and actions, rather a “defensive of a heroine” treatise.

My first Breakout session of the morning was with Gillian Dow of the University of Southampton and Chawton House Library. Dr. Dow’s passionate and compelling speech was entitled Northanger Abbey and the Horrors of the European Novel. It has been long assumed that Austen was heavily influenced by Ann Radcliffe’s 1794 Gothic novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho while writing Northanger Abbey, but there might have been other novels that she also parodied. Dr. Dow presented a fascinating comparison to similarities in French Gothic novelist Stéphanie de Genlis, ‘Histoire de la duchesse de C***’. There were amazing parallels and a new translation from the original French has been edited by Mary S. Trouille and available online for all those interested in this new discovery. I was entranced by Dr. Dow’s speech. It was by far my favorite of the conference.

Off to lunch at The Original, a ‘dinerant’, a 1970’s diner resplendent with Naugahyde booths and wood grain Formica tables that the Brady Bunch would have felt at home in with Maggie Sullivan (AustenBlog). It was nice to be outside and walk in beautiful Portland which was experiencing clement weather (only a mild mist instead of a downpour). While I ate my eggs Benedict (I love breakfast for lunch) we chatted about the conference, blogging, publishing and family. Such fun!

My two afternoon Breakout sessions were on Henry Tilney *swoon* and Assembly Room rules and etiquette, which seemed very apt together. I tried to choose a variety of topics during the conference so that I would not go to every talk about Henry they offered! Even passionate Janeites need their discipline. ;-) Peter Graham of Virginia Tech gave a humorous and engaging speech on Henry Tilney: Portrait of the Hero Beta Male. How is Henry different than Austen’s other heroes? Often accused of being too effeminate because he knows his muslin’s, how to talk to ladies and reads novels, Graham explored passages from Northanger Abbey read by two actors portraying Henry and Catherine, which exemplified his point that Henry’s position as a second son and close sibling to his motherless and basically fatherless sister Elinor, significantly shaped his personality. Perfectly plausible to me, there will always be some who think he was too metro-sexual for their taste. “Oh what a Henry!” My last Breakout session of the conference L was on etiquette, The Rules of the Assembly, by writer, musician, dancer and dance teacher Allison Thompson who presented a lively chat with slides. It was great to learn more about the social strictures and “rules” to attend an Assembly dance in the Georgian and Regency eras. I laughed to hear that even the Duke of Wellington was turned away from the bon ton Almack’s Assembly Room in London because of improper attire.

Deb was off to the US JASNA Open Business Meeting and I headed to our room for a much needed lie down before dressing for the Ball and a festive evening. These conferences are exhausting, and after three days of nonstop activity, discussion and lectures, my energy level was waning. By the time Deb returned to the room I was partially revived and ready to hear all about her Breakout sessions and JASNA news from the business meeting. Iris Lutz would be the new president. Huzzah! We chatted and lost track of time, needing to rush to dress for the Ball, arriving for the pre-banquet social hour to see and sea of Regency attire and a roaring of discussion in the Ballroom foyer. The costumes were breathtaking and I will let the pictures speak for themselves. The Ballroom doors opened and we found our table, inconveniently located behind a large column! Oh well! Our party of ten which included Diana Birchall, Jane Krisel, Christina Boyd, Deb Barnum, Debbie McVay Aldous, Christy Somer, Sue Forgue, and Syrie and Bill James had so much fun talking and laughing it mattered little in the long run. We were a very merry group indeed, so not being able to see or hear anything that was being announced by the Master of Ceremonies mattered not. (At one point, we were so merry it bordered on rowdy, and they asked us to quiet down!)

Admiral Croft and his Lady? at the Masque Ball Promenade

Puget Sound JASNA member James Nagle & friend at Masque Ball Promenade

Maggie Sullivan at the Masqued Ball Promenade

The Grand Ball Masque Promenade commenced after dinner and much finery and splendor was witnessed, despite the fact that I was told it did not go off as planned. I understand they usually take it outside and promenade around the block, but since it was impossible to get 600 people up one escalator in a timely fashion, it was nixed and they just circled the Ballroom. The rest of the evening was spent watching the wonderful dancing and chatting with the amiable and interesting Debbie McVay Aldous and the beautiful Christina Boyd (who contributes book reviews here at at Austenprose). She looked so amazing in her new Ball gown made by her mom, with opulent fabric found in the upholstery section of her local linen draper. Well… it worked for Scarlet O’Hara! Her young son also contributed to her finery by helping make her very fashionable mask with spikey feathers! An incredible time was had by all, so much so by me, that I totally missed the “Monster Mash”, three special Breakout sessions held adjacent to the Ballroom. Here are photo’s of the event that can say far more than I. Please help me fill in names!

Juliet McMaster and friend at Masqued Ball Promenade

Heather Laurence and husband at the Masqued Ball Promenade

Diana Birchall at the Masqued Ball Promenade

Handsome Regency couple at the Masqued Ball Promenade

Debbie McVay Aldous and Christina Boyd at the Masqued Ball  (not over trimmed in the least!)

Signing off from Portland

Laurel Ann

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Portland Ho! Off to the Jane Austen (JASNA) Conference 2010

I am all anticipation! Tomorrow (now today) I will be on my way to the Jane Austen conference in Portland to celebrate three days of total Austen immersion. Jane Austen and the Abbey: Mystery, Mayhem and Muslin in Portland begins officially on Friday, October 29th and runs through Sunday, October 31th.

This is my first JASNA conference. After years of hearing it praised to the skies, I too will be one of the happy revelers, attending Plenary speakers and Break-out sessions on the most interesting of topics (Henry Tilney), shopping like Mrs. Allen on Milsom Street and meeting for the first time, many of my online Janeite friends who have until this opportunity, remained cybered.

My amiable roommate Janeite Deb of Jane Austen in Vermont is already in Oregon, having traveled in style with her husband and dog across country in their elegant equipage, the Airstream. I am so looking forward to meeting her. She is a JASNA conference veteran, and has graciously promised to show this rookie the ropes.

After registration, and unpacking by the maid of all work, Deb and I shall be hotfooting it to the Portland Public Library to see the exhibit (especially created for the descending Janeites) of Jane Austen first editions. Then it’s off to dinner with whoever will have me, followed by a Social Hour and a performance by actress Angela Barlow, “Jane Austen & Character: An Actor’s View.” Delightful. I love theatricals even though they make Fanny Price squeamish.

My trip by train journey tomorrow morning should be relaxing and I plan to listen to my Naxos Audiobooks recording of Northanger Abbey, read by the Incomparable Juliette Stevenson to put me in the mood. I have been frantically packing tonight, needing to use my largest piece of luggage to fit everything in. We do like to travel with all the comforts of home and a full wardrobe (not quite the Queen arriving for a state visit, but close). I was relieved after stepping on the scale that I have not exceeded weight limits. Oh joy! I actually have ten pounds to spare, and can make up the deficit with purchases.

I will be reporting in daily, so do check back for the latest news and hopefully some photos. I just received an email from Diana Birchall who reports that the weather is fair and warm and not raining at present.

‘She hoped to be more fortunate the next day; and when her wishes for fine weather were answered by seeing a beautiful morning, she hardly felt a doubt of it; for a fine Sunday in Bath empties every house of its inhabitants, and all the world appears on such an occasion to walk about and tell their acquaintance what a charming day it is.’ The Narrator on Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey Chapter 5


Laurel Ann

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