The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary

Bernie Su, Joanna Sotomura, Brent Bailey, Dayeanne Hutton and James Brent Issacs

Emma Approved Executive Producer Bernie Su, Joanna Sotomura (Emma Woodhouse), Brent Bailey (Alex Knightley), Dayeanne Hutton (Harriet Smith) and James Brent Isaacs (Robert “BMart” Martin)

Juliet McMaster

Juliet McMaster

Bernie Su and Lynda Hall

Bernie Su and Lynda Hall

Joanna Sotomura (Emma) and Brent Bailey (Knightley)

Joanna Sotomura (Emma) and Brent Bailey (Knightley)

Diane Stafford, one of the winners of the basket raffle

Diane Stafford, recipient of one of the basket drawings

Clara Browda and Beverly Johnson, focusing intently on the day's quiz

Clara Browda and Beverly Johnson try their hand at the luncheon quiz.

Spring 2016

Emma on Board

May 14, 2016

The Queen Mary, Long Beach


Juliet McMaster — “I Hate to Hear of Women on Board” and “Destined … for the Sea”: The Hero of Catharine, or the Bower
Lynda Hall — Miss Bates: Superfluous Spinster or Sympathetic Spectator?
Bernie Su and the cast of the web series Emma Approved — The Making of Emma Approved


JASNA-Southwest members and guests boarded the historic Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, for the Spring 2016 Meeting on May 14, with the theme “Emma On Board,” in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Emma.

More than a hundred attendees gathered in the elegant Queen’s Salon for a full day of speakers and activities, beginning with a talk by Juliet McMaster — renowned 19th century English literature scholar, frequent presenter at JASNA Annual General Meetings, founder of Juvenilia Press, and co-author of The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, among many other works.

McMaster began by reading from her late husband’s paper “I Hate to Hear of Women on Board,” which opens with the discussion from Persuasion between Captain Wentworth, his sister and Admiral Croft about whether women can be made comfortable aboard a ship. She described Austen’s seafaring brothers Charles and Francis, and their contrasting approaches to military service during a time in Britain’s history rife with war. McMaster then explored the female experience at sea, sharing details of four types of women on board during Austen’s era: ladies, below-deck wives, prostitutes and women serving in the Navy dressed as men. She also enlightened the audience about the origin of the phrase “son of a gun,” which was how a baby born on a Naval vessel was entered on the ship’s register.

Next, JASNA-Southwest member and Chapman University Professor Lynda Hall presented “Miss Bates: Superfluous Spinster or Sympathetic Spectator?” While Miss Bates is an important catalyst in the heroine’s transformation, Hall explained that Austen also uses the spinster to highlight the relative value of unmarried women in early 19th century England. Miss Bates is the opposite of “handsome, clever, and rich,” she noted. “Within the narrative space, Miss Bates fights against her lack of importance, foreshadowing the poverty Harriet Smith might face if she does not marry Mr. Martin and the confinement that Jane Fairfax will need to endure if she does not marry Frank Churchill — even as she represents the meddling bore that Emma might become if she were to remain single.”

Hall added that we understand the worth of other characters by how they treat Miss Bates. For instance, she compared Mr. Knightley’s subtle and anonymous patronage with Frank Churchill’s selfishness and Mrs. Elton’s exultation of her status as “lady patroness.” She also emphasized how Miss Bates’ long speeches lure the reader into inattention, which works as a key plot device.

McMaster returned to discuss “Destined … for the Sea”: The Hero of Catharine, or the Bower — a work from Austen’s juvenilia. She shared her theory on how Austen would have finished the story, and also signed copies of numerous publications she illustrated for Juvenilia Press.

Following lunch, which included a quiz on famous first lines from a wide range of novels, Bernie Su — an executive producer and head writer for the award-winning digital series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved — took the stage. He was joined by several lead actors from the latter series: Joanna Sotomura (Emma Woodhouse), Brent Bailey (Alex Knightley), Dayeanne Hutton (Harriet Smith) and James Brent Isaacs (Robert “BMart” Martin). The panel discussed the making of Emma Approved, its multicultural casting, their favorite moments from the series, the challenges and joys of translating Austen’s work to present-era Los Angeles, and much more. “I felt like we did a fairly accurate job of representing Austen’s Emma,” said Sotomura, who credited the writers with making that happen. “She’s just as stubborn and unlikeable in the beginning of our show as she is in the novel.”

Isaacs drew considerable applause when he declared being was a longtime Austen aficionado. When he was being considered for the role, he said he wrote to the producers: “And this is a direct quote: ‘I have loved and read every Jane Austen novel.’”

Although Isaacs and numerous others involved in series and its predecessor already knew and appreciated Austen, Su noted that the production company, Pemberley Digital, has introduced thousands of new fans to her work.

View video highlights on our YouTube page.


Juliet McMaster, well known to JASNA audiences, is the co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, author of Jane Austen the Novelist and Jane Austen, Young Author on the Juvenilia. Editor-illustrator of The Beautifull Cassandra and founder of the Juvenilia Press, she is distinguished professor emerita at the University of Alberta.

Rowland McMaster, distinguished scholar, longtime professor of English at the University of Alberta and fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, was less a Janeite than a war buff but he gave talks on Waterloo and Trafalgar and women at sea to Jane Austen groups in Australia, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. He published books on Trollope and Thackeray, editions of Great Expectations and Little Dorrit and many articles on Victorian authors, including Carlyle, Morris, Tennyson, Dickens, Thackeray and Henry James.

Lynda Hall teaches at Chapman University and earned her PhD in English literature from Claremont Graduate University. She has been a member of JASNA and JASNA Southwest for almost 30 years and has made several presentations at AGMs and at various JASNA regions in the western United States. She currently is working on a book that traces the economic and moral value of Jane Austen’s minor women, of which Emma’s Miss Bates is a part.

Bernie Su was the creator and head writer of Emma Approved. He was also the head writer of its predecessor, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. He is a multi-platform storyteller who loves using new platforms. Bernie also loves hats and coffee.

Brent Bailey, who plays Alex Knightley on Emma Approved, is a lot like the character in real life as well. You may see him on your TV in tons of commercials and TV shows and he is soon to be acting alongside Woody Harrelson in the upcoming movie LBJ. He also has a master’s in business and is very proficient in Microsoft Excel!

Joanna Sotomura plays Emma Woodhouse in the series Emma Approved. She’s also been in several other acclaimed web series, such as Video Game High School and Stylehaul’s Vanity. You can catch Joanna in Wong Fu Productions feature film Everything Before Us, available now on Vimeo.

Dayeanne Hutton plays the awkward and enthusiastic Harriet Smith in Emma Approved. A lifelong book nerd, she is honored to be included among the ranks of actors in Jane Austen adaptations. You can find more of her work at

James Brent Isaacs plays Robert “BMart” Martin on Emma Approved. As a self-proclaimed massive Jane Austen fan, one of his goals was to join a Pemberley Digital production after finding The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.