Robert Rodi

Charles Lynn Batten

Robert Rodi
Robert Rodi

Lively Q&A sessions followed each presentation.

Robert Rodi

Throughout the day, attendees perused specially chosen selections from The Huntington’s archival collection.

Miss J. Austen of Steventon is listed among the subscribers in this edition of Fanny Burney’s Camilla; or, a Picture of Youth, from The Huntington’s collection.

Ted Scheinman signed copies of his book Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan.

Docent-led tours included a visit to the art collections, led by Jean Uffelman, including paintings Austen herself would have seen at an 1813 exhibition in London.

Attendees visited the bench JASNA Southwest and The Huntington dedicated to Austen in 2017.

In addition to scones and clotted cream, tea breads and other delicacies for breakfast, attendees enjoyed tea sandwiches, savories and treats during the buffet lunch. 

The meeting was dedicated to the memory of longtime JASNA Southwest board member Jaye Scholl Bohlen.

June 2019

Ted Scheinman and Deborah Knuth Klenck

It’s All Relative: Relationships in Austen

June 1, 2019

Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

Haaga Hall

Speakers:

Deborah Knuth Klenck
Ted Scheinman
Charles Lynn Batten

Overview

More than 180 members and guests attended “It’s All Relative: Relationships in Austen” on June 1 at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, making this one of the largest turnouts ever for a JASNA Southwest regional meeting!

The opening presentation by Austen scholar Deborah Knuth Klenck, a professor of English at Colgate University, and her son, Ted Scheinman, author of Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan, discussed “Those Who Chose to Be Idle Certainly Might: Mothers as Teachers in Jane Austen.”

Knuth Klenck jokingly remarked that a better title might have been “Maria Bertram’s Agreement,” referring to the Mansfield Park character who, when told by her aunt that there was a great deal more for her to learn, replied, “Yes, I know there is, till I am seventeen.” Such muddled thinking, Knuth Klenck said, marked most conversations in Austen’s works about what girls, in particular, should know as part of their preparation for adult life and the eventual acceptance of a proposal of marriage. It seems that education ended at marriage.

Scheinman charmed the audience with his amusing narrative rendition of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. This grand lady, noted his mother, was quite clear on what everybody else’s daughters needed to know, while her own daughter was exempted from learning of any kind. In short, mothers in Austen’s novels “did not have time for such cares” as the education of their daughters.

 
Austen’s heroines were often “intellectual orphans, at least in regard to their mothers,” Scheinman said. He noted that the heroines must undertake a kind of autodidacticism, seeking and sometimes finding temporary surrogate mothers in figures like Lady Russell and Mrs. Allen or else among books.” For Austen, books were a sort of surrogate child; she referred to Pride and Prejudice as “my own darling child.”
 
In Mansfield Park, Fanny becomes a surrogate for her sister Susan by taking an active interest in her education. Fanny had “longed to give her a share of her own first pleasure and inspire a taste for the biography and poetry which she delighted in herself” and, under her tutelage, Susan “became a most attentive, profitable, and thankful pupil.” A happy ending, Scheinman said, as the talk came to a close.
 
UCLA Professor Emeritus Charles Lynn Batten charmed and enlightened guests with his discussion of “Failed Marital Relationships: Causes and Solutions in Jane Austen’s Novels.”
 
He began by informing the audience of two prejudices that inform his reading of Austen. “Jane Austen emphatically does not write what we nowadays dismiss as chick lit,” he said. He believes Austen wrote equally for male and female audiences and addressed concerns for both. Batten said she offers wise advice to both men and women concerning their choice of a suitable mate, often the most important choice they make in life.
 
He explained how Austen warns women to stay away from the “bad boys,” like her male rakes Wickham, Willoughby and William Walter Elliot, and that she similarly warns her male readers to stay away from the female rakes like Lady Susan and Lucy Steele.
 
Although Austen wrote in the Romantic Age, Batten added that she wrote like 18th century neoclassical authors who held that the “business of the novelist is not to examine the particular individual the author knew but the species of individual that the character represents.” To illustrate this point, he challenged the audience to make a list of Austen’s characters and to check them off as each is encountered in real life. He added that it is through her expert characterization that Austen educates her readers.
 
Austen’s novels, he asserted with some humor, suggest that, in aiming at a successful marital relationship, all her characters conduct two kinds of calculations: probability assessment and cost/benefit analysis. One must first ask: What is the probability of finding a more suitable mate than the one currently being considered? And then consider if marrying a less than suitable partner is better or worse than remaining without any mate at all? He counseled the audience to “think of the plight of the spinster, Miss Bates, against the plight of, Charlotte Collins, being married to a fool.”
 
Austen’s novels explore remedies to deal with less than suitable marriages, he said with a mischievous smile. Without the option of divorce, her characters developed “coping mechanisms.” Charlotte Collins, for instance, “at times simply pretended not to hear what she didn’t want to hear” and “best of all, she chose a sitting room on the far side of the parsonage where she was least likely to encounter her husband. In effect, she found a way to hide from her husband in her own house.”
 
Throughout the day, members and guests were able to peruse specially chosen selections from The Huntington’s extensive archival collection. Karla Nielsen, curator of literary collections at The Huntington, spoke to the group about the selection of archival treasures assembled especially for JASNA Southwest’s spring 2019 meeting. Among the archives on display were a Cruikshank illustration of a Regency ball scene, and a fan that included reminders of the melodies of numerous popular dances. A copy of Fanny Burney’s Camilla; or, a Picture of Youth, was among the books on display. It featured a page listing subscribers, including a Miss J. Austen of Steventon.
 
Docent-led tours included a visit to the Chinese Garden, led by The Huntington’s incomparable Botanical Gardens Director James Folsom; a tour of the impressive Bonsai collection, one of the largest in the U.S., led by Ted Matson, including the trees dedicated to the memory of JASNA member William James; and a tour of the art collections, led by Jean Uffelman, including paintings Austen herself would have seen at an 1813 exhibition in London.

Presenters

Deborah Knuth Klenck is Professor of English at Colgate University, where she has taught courses in the long 18th century (historians typically define this period as extending from the revolution of 1688 to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815) for 40 years. She has directed Colgate’s London Study Group program for seven semesters. Her original scholarly focus was on the satire of Alexander Pope, but she soon turned to Jane Austen, on whose work she has published more than 10 essays and book chapters.

A frequent JASNA Annual General Meeting and regional speaker, she also has enjoyed being part of the Jane Austen Summer Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and serves as one of the judges of graduate-student entries in the annual JASNA essay contest.
Ted Scheinman is senior editor at Pacific Standard magazine, where he directs special projects and climate coverage.
 
Among other duties, he reported from the United Nations climate summits in Paris and Marrakech in 2015 and 2016. A graduate of Yale University, with an MA in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he is the author of Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan (2018), and his essays and reporting have appeared in the Atlantic, the Chronicle of Higher EducationThe New York Times, the Oxford American, the Paris Review, Playboy, Slate and elsewhere. He is also a contributing editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books.
A longtime JASNA Southwest favorite, UCLA Professor Emeritus Charles Lynn Batten won numerous teaching awards throughout his career. Although his research interests focused on British literature from 1660 to 1800, he taught a wide range of courses, including the Bible as Literature and graduate courses in bibliography and literary criticism.
 
He is the author of Pleasurable Instruction: Form and Convention in Eighteenth-Century Travel Literature and appeared in two episodes of A&E’s Mysteries of the Bible.

JASNA Southwest members and guests wish JASNA and JASNA Southwest a happy 40th anniversary!