August 16 Meeting - Continuing Our Study of Mansfield Park

Speaker:   Kristen Miller-Zohn
                Director of Collections and Exhibitions
                The Columbus Museum
Topic:       Fanny Price and the Family Profiles:
                The Reading of Character

In Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, Fanny Price's East room is decorated with various keepsakes, including portraits of family members in profile, a type of portraiture that was very fashionable at the time.  Profiles were linked to the study of physiognomy, a popular pseudo-science that contended a person's character could be ascertained through the study of their facial features.  Not only did the theory impact the visual arts, but physiognomic descriptions were included in novels, and Austen knew both visual and literary examples. Fanny's possession of the family profiles might reflect the fact that she is able to read the characters of those around her.

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We had a great meeting with much intellectual fare as well as some of the comestible type!  
Thanks to all who helped make it a success.  
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Two events in May

- - - - -  May 17  Visit to Kennesaw State University   - - - - -  

We visited the Bentley Rare Books Gallery in the Sturgis Library to examine several 18th and 19th Century books.  Curator Adam Doskey had arranged a display of many books that Jane Austen is known to have read, including a 1754 edition copy of Sir Charles Grandison by Samuel Richardson.                                      
The library setting was perfect for us fans of the Regency.  From Wikipedia:  The gallery is designed to resemble a "domestic library in a middle-class household during the reign of King George III (1760-1820)." Other cited sources for the design were Agatha Christie's description of her ideal home in her autobiography, the Edwardian imagery of E. M. Forster, and Edith Wharton's "The Decoration of Houses."

After our meeting we had Kitty and Lydia's luncheon of cold meats.*  The weather was rainy, so we dined indoors instead of picnicing. (Mr. Knightley would have been pleased.)

*see P&P, chapter 39

- - - - -  Earlier in May  - - - - -  

Several of us saw the movie Belle at local theatres.  The movie was inspired by the real life Dido Elizabeth Belle, the bi-racial niece of Lord Mansfield.  The Mansfields lived next door to Jane Austen's brother Edward Knight in Chawton.  Jane Austen mentions visits to their family in her letters, so she was well aware of the story of Belle.  The writer/director adds dialog and back-story to the basic historical facts to make a lavish, entertaining, and thought-provoking movie.

Belle stars newcomer, British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, as well as veterans Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson and Miranda Richardson.

April 26 Meeting: Jane Austen and the Story of Dido

Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray
(painted 1779)
We had a great meeting on this.  Many thanks to Renata for all the research and the great presentation.
Saturday, April 26, 2014
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Dunwoody Library

Was Dido Elizabeth Belle, biracial niece of William Murray, the Earl of Mansfield and Chief Justice of the King's bench, the inspiration for the character of Fanny Price in Mansfield Park?  Jane Austen's letters mention visits to the Murray's, so she knew the family history.

What are the similarities between the real-life Dido and Fanny?  Did Dido have a role in Lord Mansfield's decision that led to the abolishment of slavery in England?  One of our members will present her findings on this fascinating but little-known story at our April 26 meeting.  You won't want to miss this one!   

This meeting continues our focus on Mansfield Park in 2014, the 200th anniversary of its publication.                          


The Novelists Who Influenced Jane Austen

Frances Burney (1752 - 1840)
One of Jane Austen's favorite authors.

Dunwoody Library
Saturday, March 22, 1-3 pm
One of our members, Helena, entertained us with some insights from her reading of several 18th and early 19th Century authors that Jane Austen admired including Fanny Burney and Maria Edgeworth.

We also watched an excellent 30 minute video of a lecture on some of the innovations that Austen introduced to the art of novel-writing. This is a continuation of our recent look into the history of the novel form.  
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More 2014 Jane Austen Events
April 26    Dido - the inspiration for Fanny Price? And Jane Austen's suprising connection
                to Chief Justice Mansfield, whose ruling ended slavery in England.
                Dunwoody Library  1-3 pm
May 2      Attend the opening of the movie Belle, the story of Dido.
                We don't know where it will be playing yet. 

May 17    A trip to Kennesaw State University's Bentley Rare Book Collection.  The
               curator will speak about some of their 18th and early 19th Century holdings.
               Afterwards we'll visit the Zuckerman Museum of Art at KSU.  This is the first
               museum to open on a Georgia college campus in 30 years.

Jun-Aug   Summer hiatus.  Sme of us will make the trip to Louisville for the annual     
                  Jane Austen Festival beginning on July 18

Sept       Meetings resume. Details TBA

Oct 10    Some of us will travel to Montreal, site of 2014's Annual General Meeting.
              The theme novel is Mansfield Park on the 200th anniversary of its publication.

Nov 15   Our members who attended the AGM will share their experiences with the
               rest of us.  Some of the presentations will be discussed in detail.

Dec 13   Annual Jane Austen Birthday celebration.  The Toast to Jane Austen Tea Party
              is a JASNA tradition. 

At our last meeting -- 
Saturday, February 22, 2014
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Dunwoody Library
We discussed the three movies that have been made from Mansfield Park and watched a few scenes from the 2007 adaptation, starring Billie Piper as Fanny Price.  Then we finished our discussion of the book.

2014 Theme Novel - Mansfield Park

Fanny Price:  "Pray, is she out, or is she not?"

We had a great meeting in January.  Some details --

Saturday, January 25, 2014
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
A.G. Williams Library at Toco Hills

1:00 – 1:15    Welcome and Intro of our 2014 Theme
1:15 – 1:30    A reading/performance of a scene
1:30 – 2:30    Discussion of first third of
Mansfield Park
2:30 – 3:00    Snacks, socializing, Austen game
3:00 – 3:45    Resume discussion of
Mansfield Park
3:45 – 4:00    Open discussion on any Austen-related topics

Mansfield Park was published in three separate volumes - the common practice for18th and early 19th Century novels.  We discussed 'Volume, the First. 
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Jane Austen’s ‘Problem Novel’
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s first novel to be composed in her mature years, i.e. after age 35.  The novel is more complex and much more ambitious than her first three novels that were composed when she was in her 20’s.  It is also considered by many to be Austen’s ‘problem novel,’ similar to the three ‘problem plays’ of Shakespeare that he wrote in the middle of his career.  From Wikipedia (

Problem Plays…Other definitions have followed, but all center on the fact that the plays cannot be easily assigned to the traditional categories of comedy or tragedy. [All’s Well that Ends Well, Measure for Measure, and Troilus and Cressida.]  The three plays are also referred to as the dark comedies, since despite ending on a generally happy note for the characters concerned, the darker, more profound issues raised cannot be fully resolved or ignored.

Many critics have suggested that this sequence of plays marked a psychological turning point for Shakespeare, during which he lost interest in the romantic comedies he had specialized in and turned towards the darker worlds of Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth.

The term, coined by scholar Frederick Boas, could be adapted to describe Mansfield Park.  Again from Wikipedia:    ( )

The problem play is a form of drama that emerged during the 19th century as part of the wider movement of realism in the arts. It deals with contentious social issues through debates between the characters on stage, who typically represent conflicting points of view within a realistic social context.

There are debates aplenty in Mansfield Park!  And, as it was for Shakespeare, Austen’s ‘problem novel’ marked a turn to more serious subjects.  As she was proofing Pride and Prejudice for publication, she wrote to Cassandra that “The work is rather too light and bright and sparkling….”  Her last three novels definitely corrected this problem, perhaps at the expense of giving the public another heroine as feisty as Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

The 2014 Annual General Meeting will be held in Montreal on October 10-12, with the theme, “Mansfield Park:  Contexts, Conventions and Controversies.”  As the AGM webpage points, out, “Understanding and appreciating Mansfield Park is central to understanding and appreciating Jane Austen: her world, her values, and her methods of literary composition.”  Thus, the first two meetings JASNA-Atlanta in 2014 will be devoted to a thorough examination of Jane Austen’s most challenging novel.  While many readers regard Fanny Price as ‘insipid’ (Jane’s mother’s verdict), Jane clearly loved this heroine.  Can we learn to see what Jane saw in her? 


Welcome to the Atlanta Region of JASNA!

Our members meet regularly throughout the year to enjoy lectures, attend events, and discuss the works, life, and times of Jane Austen (1775-1817). We meet on the weekends so that people living farther out from the city will be able to attend more easily. We hope you will join us!