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Jane Austen, Teenage Dirtbag?

Social media has been awash lately with celebrities, influencers, and just normal folks posting pictures of themselves as adolescents to the tune of "Teenage Dirtbag." The "then v. now" charm of the trend is how often the younger photos reveal not a dirtbag but a winsome youth, awkward and idealistic.

So JASP 2023 is on-trend as we kick off our blog series leading up to our June 15-18 program on Jane Austen's teenage writing. The assigned texts for this year are the Teenage Writings and "Lady Susan." Though not always included in the juvenilia, Austen completed "Lady Susan" before turning 20, so this snarky delight is fair game (please remember that if you order through our amazon smile link, your purchase will help support our programming!).

JASP has a long and merry relationship with the juvenilia thanks to Adam and Blanche

McCune's annual theatricals. Co-founder and Director Dr. Inger Brodey expresses what many may feel when she declares it's "time to actually study those wonderfully playful texts that Austen wrote in her teens!". As an added bonus, she shares, "We decided to schedule this event to coordinate with the International Literary Juvenilia Society’s biennial meeting." This collaboration means we will benefit from the presences of many of the leading scholars of literary juvenilia, including some of the founders of the delightful Juvenilia Press, such as Juliet McMaster.

The creative programming that has characterized past JASPs will be in full effect as well! In keeping with the teen spirit of the readings, there will be workshops and contests for middle and high school students to encourage new writers. Dr. Brodey also reveals that "We hope to screen Whit Stillman’s Love and Friendship, an adaptation of 'Lady Susan,' in our local old-fashioned cinema (complete with vintage marquee) for the group."

Austen's juvenile writings are wild and wooly affairs, replete with beheadings, excessive drinking, and other bad behavior that is as often rewarded as not. Critics divide over whether these untamed texts are "Jane Austen practicing" in the words of Virginia Woolf (writing in The New Statesman in 1922), or whether Austen aspired to be a bolder writer than the publishing world in her day was ready for. Margaret Anne Doody and others suggest that Austen's mature works demonstrate not refinement, but restraint of her initial art.

As always JASP will be an interdisciplinary, fun-filled, stimulating town-and-(ball)gown bonanza. We invite you to follow our blog posts to learn more about Austen's juvenilia and their context in preparation for the event. Time to start counting down the days!


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