Lynn Batten illuminates 19th century literary styles.

Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen face off in heaven’s anteroom.

The audience is absorbed by the discussion.

Fall 2012

Jane Austen vs. the Victorians

September 8, 2012

Pasadena Public Library — Donald Wright Auditorium


Charles Lynn Batten — Jane Austen and the Victorians Duke It Out (in a very ladylike manner, of course!)
Diana Birchall and Syrie James — staged reading of You Are Passionate, Jane


The event marked JASNA-Southwest’s first foray into hosting a fall meeting — a tradition that has since been continued annually and has been appreciated by longtime members and has helped attract new members to the organization. The half-day format with no formal lunch (attendees break off to visit local restaurants in small groups on their own) keeps costs low so that more community members can participate.

The morning began with a fascinating talk by Charles Lynn Batten, literary critic and UCLA professor emeritus on Jane Austen and the Victorians. Through pithy exposition and sample quotations, Batten clarified the differences in sensibility and style between Jane Austen’s work and that of the writers who succeeded her in the Romantic Period and the later Victorian age.

Then Diana Birchall and Syrie James performed a staged reading of Birchall’s play You Are Passionate, Jane, in which Jane Austen, in her role as gatekeeper in heaven for literary figures, evaluates whether Charlotte Brontë is worthy of entry. Birchall portrayed Brontë and James played Austen. They brought the characters to life on stage in a witty and poignant performance that deepened the audience’s understanding of, and affection for, both authors.


Charles Lynn Batten came to UCLA in 1969 after earning his BA from the University of Virginia and an MA and PhD from the University of Chicago. Although his research interests focus on British literature from 1660 to 1800, he has taught a wide spectrum of courses ranging from freshman composition and Shakespeare surveys to graduate courses in bibliography and literary criticism. In addition, he has taught the Bible as literature. Now a professor emeritus at UCLA, he has received numerous awards during his career, including the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He is the author of Pleasurable Instruction: Form and Convention in Eighteenth-Century Travel Literature and the editor of Pamela Censured, the first published attack on Samuel Richardson.

Diana Birchall, a story analyst who read novels for Warner Bros., is the author of Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, Mrs. Elton in America and a scholarly biography of her novelist grandmother.

Syrie James is the bestselling author of nine novels, including The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen and Jane Austen’s First Love.