Friday, October 19, 2007

Austen Heroine or Disney Princess?

I know I have missed a few days. Still caught up in the glow of the AGM ball, (just ask everyone I come in contact with who sees my pictures which I conveniently carry around at all times) I am preparing for our anniversary trip to Disneyland next week. But it’s not as much of a shift of gears as you might think. There are some very interesting parallels between Austen’s heroines and the six Disney Princesses.

Catherine Morland- Snow White. Young and innocent, she heads out into the world only to be surrounded by mental dwarfs. Complete with scary old buildings and General Tilney as the wicked witch, instead of being poisoned, she is exiled in the middle of the night, alone. And who wouldn’t want Henry Tilney on the other side of “love’s first kiss”?

Fanny Price- Cinderella, but with no Fairy Godmother, no little mice, and no sunny optimism to cheer her on. Though a family member, she is reduced to the level of a servant. She has a brief moment of glory with her first ball, but then is sunk even further, locked up and confined, and not until after her release is she found to be the perfect match to her prince.

Emma Woodhouse- Princess Jasmine. Living alone as daughter to the nutty and lovable Sultan, Jasmine can’t see the handsome prince that is right under her nose. Like the story of Jasmine and Aladdin, Emma is a fairy tale……from the male’s perspective. Mr. Knightly is able to charm the young woman of his dreams, the woman he’s always loved, the woman whose father’s land completed the missing chunk of property cut out from his own inheritance generations ago. This may be a bigger feat than Aladdin’s rags-to-Prince Ali-riches story. Way to go, Knightly. Does this mean Mr. Perry is Jafar?

Elinor Dashwood- Belle. Though Elinor doesn’t fall in love with a beast, she does fall for a man with a beastly secret that threatens to separate them forever. A folly in his youth made him what he is and now he must pay the price. Elinor also endures trial and sacrifice for the good of a family member. Belle’s common sense and emotional restraint make her the perfect modern fairy-tale counterpart to Elinor.

Elizabeth Bennet- Ariel. Though at first glance you would think Ariel has more in common with young, headstrong Lydia Bennet, I ask for your indulgence. (As if your reading of this piece so far isn’t indulgence enough). Elizabeth has the grace to shine among a myriad of sisters (many of whom are out), as does Ariel. She finds entertainment in odd and interesting people the way Ariel is amused by gadgets and trinkets. And Ariel goes to great lengths to ‘Quit the sphere in which she was born.” as Lady Catherine would say. But how will either lady maintain the balance between her new life and love of her old family? Only sequel novels and straight-to-DVD movie releases will tell.

Anne Elliot- Sleeping Beauty. As the lovely Princess Aurora, promised in youth, her love is doomed when outside forces intervene. In a forgotten thorn covered castle she sleeps, waiting for the dashing Captain Wentworth to slay the dragon of seven years of bitterness and resentment, and come bounding through the window to awaken her and claim his one true love. Aaaahhhh.
Also Aurora was raised as an orphan by fairies. Which gets me thinking, is there any possible way Anne could actually be related to Elizabeth, Mary and Sir Walter Elliot?

I hope you enjoyed my musings. Austen really is everywhere.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Jane Austen Society Annual General Meeting

I'm home from my wonderful trip to Canada for The Jane Austen Society of North America. It was a great experience, though it was so Jam packed with Austen goodness that I rarely had time to eat if the meal wasn't included in the convention with the time blocked out. I also rose around 6 and stayed up till at least 1 am each day, so I'm beat. On Friday night this was my fault for bringing a dress and gloves that still needed the little tiny buttons sewn on.
I drove up on Thursday afternoon, and after a little map confusion, arrived at the Hotel around 7:45. The first lecture was at 7:30, so I dropped my luggage in the room and when down for that hour, which was followed by another, smaller discussion group where people shared their favorite quotes from Emma.

In this room I recognized my roommate, and after the class was done she was heading down to the hotel lounge for a drink, so I decided I would go along to get a dinner of appetizers and a soda at 10:00 p.m.
The next morning at 9 was my 'reticule' class, where we sew by hand a cloth purse like they used over the turn of the 18th to 19th century. The kits were precut, linings and lovely fabrics, with trims and drawstrings in the packet. Some of them had beautiful antique lace or bead trims within the kit. Mine wasn't as fancy but I wanted one that matched my ball dress. Now that class had been an additional $35.00 fee, and I later saw a purse much like mine that a woman had bought pre-made upstairs in the Jane Austen Emporium for half the price it cost me to go to the class and learn to sew it by hand. Still, the class gave me a chance to sit with other ladies and get to know them as I was sewing, and I would do it all again.
Even thought the class was two hours, few people finished. I packed up my materials and put it all in a little gift bag so I could carry it around and sew during lecture classes. I finished, and this is the reticule you see me holding in the pictures.
About the speeches and breakout sessions- even though I love the information, class after hour long class of someone reading their presentation, even about Jane Austen, can get a little tiring. So the lighter side activities were, shall we say, SO REFRESHING! I’m not used to sitting still all day, and if I would have had more free time I would have taken a few laps around the block.
Quite a few ladies attended the entire conference in costume, and I wouldn't mind doing that if I had more of a wardrobe. It was very fun to see people dressed up.
Friday Night there was a play, “Mrs. Knightly Pays a Call: A Conversation at Randalls”. I went very early, skipping dinner so I could have a good seat. I have heard from many attendees that they didn’t enjoy the play because they couldn’t hear in the back of the room. It’s unfortunate. I really enjoyed it and the women who performed were great.
On Saturday during the lunch break there was a more informal play called “The Courting of Mrs. Elton”. My roommate went down early to hold a chair for me, and I arrived soon thereafter- thankfully, because the little room filled up fast and people were left out in the hall. I say this was informal, because the actors held scripts and read their parts as they acted them out, but it was a delightful comedy. I would love to report who was in the play, and can only say, having lost my flyer and being uninformed as I am, that the authoress acted the part of Augusta Hawkins, the future Mrs. Elton, and Juliet McMaster, to the intense delight of the crowd, played the role of Mr. Elton. This was one of my favorite events of the whole AGM. Worth missing lunch for and only eating a glass full of dry raisin bran from my room and a diet A&W to get me through till banquet time. I don’t mean for the lack of food to be a repetitive theme here. Perhaps it’s just to show you my dedication to Austen, opting to attend events rather than eat.
There were many good discussions and detailed interpretations of Austen's novels, and many people to meet and talk to while waiting for an event to begin. It is so easy to be friendly when we all have a common interest. As you know, I was matched with a roommate. My roommate and I got along well together and I think I did well in that department. I’m only sorry I left the light on so long on Friday trying to finish the sewing!

Saturday night was the feast and Regency Ball. The dining was wonderful. I had the roast pheasant, which was delicious. The Ballroom itself was a magical regency style ballroom with decorated walls and ceiling and three huge chandeliers. There was a large ornate stage at one end where the little orchestra was, and a dance mistress helped to guide us novices through the steps until we had caught on. There were several hundred people there, so often the dance formed three long lines. A lot of ladies danced with other ladies for a partner but it was fun because anyone who wanted to could give it a try.
I danced four dances. Each one probably went on for 15 minutes, and that would only get you halfway up the entire line of couples dancing. I’m told that a dance at a real ball would continue until the head couple has worked their way all the down to the bottom of the set and back up to the top again. So it is easy to see how one could go on till the wee hours of the morning.
We didn't do any dance for that long because they wanted to get through at least 8 and there were so many couples. Even so, we went until midnight and I was only thinking it was about 10:30. My favorite dance by far is the one seen in A&E's P&P at Netherfield, when Mr. Darcy first dances with Elizabeth. This dance is so beautiful. The couples mostly walk from place to place, weaving within their line, but at one point two couples join hands in a line facing the head of the room, and step forward for three, and back for three. The result over a whole ballroom is fabulous, because there is all this weaving and confusion, then all of a sudden everyone is lined up and the whole room moves forward in this wave, then goes back, then its all mixed up again. It really was a magical moment.
The very unfortunate name of that beautiful dance is Mr. Beverages Maggot. This afternoon I watched that section of A&E’s Pride and Prejudice to recognize the dance that I had learned. I was stunned, (though why should I have been surprised?) at how perfectly the dance was performed and how well choreographed their conversation was within the dance. I’ve always found it strange that Sir William Lucas stops to talk to Mr. Darcy during the dance, and Darcy is just standing there. Now I understand that they had reached the end of the line, and they wait out for a moment and join in again to head back up the set, turning from a #1 couple to a #2 couple. As they move back up the set they have less dancing to perform than they did at first, and more moments where they are just standing. This perfectly suits the agitated nature of their conversation and symbolizes the awkwardness of feeling by the time the dance is finished. I should have expected no less from the most perfect show ever to be seen on television.
Sunday morning I attended an Anglican church service across the street that incorporated texts written by Jane Austen. I checked out of my room after that, then attended the closing brunch, and finally a wonderful concert of music from the era of Jane Austen by Pro Musica, “A Jane Austen Parlor” It was simply beautiful!
Leaving my family for several days is a new thing for me. I think my trip was a success and I am already longing to go to another one. Next year is Chicago, then Philadelphia, but after that is Portland, so if I don't get to go sooner I will be planning for that on Oct of 2010.

See You there!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Preparing for AGM

A friend I met today sent me an article about the upcoming AGM in Vancouver.
I have much to do to get ready, and to get my family ready for me to leave. At this moment I have to put up my daughter's hair for ballet. (If only I could send Chapman to her...)
If I don't post more today I'll be finishing my dress.