Jane Austen Society of North America, Southwest Region
Janine Barchas discussed her work creating the What Jane Saw digital gallery reconstruction.
Sarah Raff spoke on the similarities between Austen’s Mansfield Park and Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.
Raff compared Fanny Price and Isabella, as well as Sir Thomas Bertram and the Duke of Vienna.
The Will & Jane exhibit shattered all prior attendance records at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Barchas said nothing will top seeing her work showcased on the side of a bus.
Among the emporium selections
Will and Jane
December 3, 2016
Luminarias Restaurant, Monterey Park
Janine Barchas — Will and Jane
Sarah Raff — Comparing Mansfield Park to Measure for Measure
A large contingent of members and guests attended JASNA Southwest’s Winter 2016 Meeting, “Will and Jane,” on December 3 at Luminarias Restaurant in Monterey Park. The event explored the common ground shared by Jane Austen and William Shakespeare, two of the most legendary and enduring authors.
Janine Barchas — who recently co-curated the exhibition “Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity” at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. — discussed that effort as well as her work developing the What Jane Saw website, which digitally and painstakingly reconstructed two Georgian museum blockbusters as they looked to Austen in 1796 and 1813. Barchas is on faculty at the University of Texas at Austin and is the author of Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel and Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity.
While the 1813 retrospective of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ portraiture was the initial impetus for the What Jane Saw digital reconstruction project, Barchas’ talk focused on the 1796 exhibit at the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery that we believe Austen also would have attended. It was the first Shakespeare museum in the world. “She stayed around the corner from the museum in August 1796 when she was 20 years old,” Barchas noted. No one with an interest in literature and theatre, like Austen, would have missed such a big event.
Serendipitously, when Barchas was working on the Will and Jane exhibition for the Folger Library, she discovered that the 1796 Shakespeare Gallery had taken place in the same space she had already reconstructed for the 1813 Reynolds retrospective. However, only 29 of the Shakespeare Gallery paintings Austen would have seen — less than a third — survived, whereas most of the Reynolds paintings she saw still exist. Barchas and her team had access to the exhibit’s catalog and engravings of the entire collection, as well as fragments of some of the artworks, and were able to develop an algorithm that allowed them to accurately determine the size of the missing pieces.
Her inspiration for the 2016 Will and Jane exhibit at the Folger was examining how Shakespeare was viewed 200 years after his death, compared to Austen at 200 years. The exhibit broke the attendance record of every prior show at the Folger, in part due to attracting some major media coverage in The New York Times and the New Yorker, Barchas said.
“No other authors fit on the shelf with Shakespeare and Austen,” Barchas noted. “It’s not that there aren’t other worthy authors. But Shakespeare and Austen do seem to be the outliers in terms of their celebrity. It’s that we know so little about their lives, and it’s the parallel trajectory their fans have taken. It’s the coincidence of being on the scene at the 200-year mark when there is a new technology — public museums in Shakespeare’s case, and the BBC bonnet drama in Austen’s. And ultimately it has to be their talent and that what they wrote appeals to such a wide variety of people.”
View video highlights on our YouTube page.
After lunch, Sarah Raff discussed the similarities between Austen’s Mansfield Park and Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in the context of authority and guardianship and their ramifications. She discussed the view during Austen’s time of whether guardians and heads of state — as well as authors — served as delegates or principals.
“Much as the guardian educated, protected and supervised the marriage of his ward, so did the novel educate young readers, protect them by teaching them how to protect themselves and guide them to a wisely chosen spouse,” Raff explained. “In the early 19th century, an era still deeply suspicious of the novel genre, the alignment of novels with guardians served a defensive purpose.”
Raff argued that, ultimately, what most conspicuously connects Mansfield Park with Measure for Measure is not the concern with authority and guardianship but “its similar ugly duckling status within the complete works of the author.” She went on to add that “the reception of some of the main characters is radically divided in both works.” She noted that the Duke of Vienna is considered by critics as either a “benevolent god or a monster of hypocrisy” while Sir Thomas Bertram is seen as either the “ideal British landowner or a tyrant.” The heroines’ reception is even more divided, with many finding Fanny Price either an exemplary moral center of her world or an insipid goody two shoes (or worse), while Shakespeare’s Isabella is either “a saint or a sadistic fury.”
Raff is an associate professor of English at Pomona College and the author of Jane Austen’s Erotic Advice and the forthcoming Author-Guardians in the English Novel.
The day also featured a white elephant exchange as well as an emporium.
The “Will and Jane” basket
The Jane Austen basket
Janine Barchas recently co-curated the exhibition “Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity” at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. In 2013, she unveiled the first installment of the “What Jane Saw” website, which offers digital reconstructions of two Georgian museum blockbusters as they looked to Austen in 1796 and 1813. Her books include Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2003) — which won the SHARP book prize — and Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012).
Sarah Raff is an associate professor of English at Pomona College. Her scholarship seeks to define how authors foresee and shape their influence upon readers. Her first book, Jane Austen’s Erotic Advice (Oxford University Press, 2014), interprets didacticism as a seductive rhetorical mode and shows how Austen’s narrators use didactic speech-acts to elicit readerly devotion. Her current book-in-progress, supported recently with grants from the Lewis Walpole Library and the Huntington Library, tracks the rise of the novel in England against the cultural and legal history of guardianship. Tentatively called Author-Guardians in the English Novel, it identifies a strand of novels running from the 18th century to the end of the 19th century in which fictional guardian/ward interactions prefigure novelist/reader relations.