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Janeite Spotlight: Introducing Sarah Adams

Hello, dear readers! This year, we’ve begun a blog series highlighting Austen-lovers around the world—sharing how they first discovered Austen’s fiction, why they love Austen, how they’ve contributed to the Janeite community, you get the picture. Fans, who cultivate and engage in discourse surrounding Austen’s life and fiction, participate in workshops and conventions, host book clubs, and don I ❤️ Darcy merchandise with pride (but hopefully not prejudice—wink, wink), are the reason Jane’s spirit survives in the twenty-first century. We deserve a shout-out! And we deserve the chance to connect with like-minded individuals across the world. This article features Sarah Adams, a Facebook-savvy Janeite on a mission to spread the joy of Austen’s work to as many people as possible.


Sarah Adams

As a curator at Edwards Place, an 1857-dated historical home belonging to the Springfield Art Association of Springfield, Illinois, Sarah Adams revels in different aspects of history every day. Given her love of things from the past, it is no surprise that she is also a great lover of Jane Austen, whose work she first encountered as a senior in high school when she was cast as Jane Bennet in a drama club production of Pride and Prejudice.

Wanting to learn more about the story to better portray Jane’s character, Sarah acquired a copy of the book. “At this point I knew nothing about Jane Austen,” Sarah says. “I probably thought her books were boring and hadn’t even tried to read them before.” But as she sat down to take character notes, she fell almost instantly in love, finding the story much more enjoyable than she had originally anticipated and finishing it in record time.

After finishing Pride and Prejudice, Sarah sought out the rest of Austen’s novels, devouring them in rapid succession. She couldn’t get enough of Jane’s humor—so quick, so biting. Sarah was especially drawn to the hilarious Northanger Abbey, a satire of the gothic novel that largely dominated the late eighteenth-century literary sphere, deeming it “underrated as one of [Jane Austen’s] funniest books.”

Several years ago, Sarah became involved with online Jane Austen fandom, joining several Facebook groups dedicated to the late author’s life and writings. However, upon finding one of these groups unsupportive of conversation surrounding the relative queerness, or queer-coded qualities, of various Austenian characters, she decided to start her own group called Gay Austen. The Gay Austen page was somewhat of an overnight success, drawing nearly seven hundred followers soon after its creation.

“I wasn’t really prepared for that,” Sarah admits, “because I’m not somebody that posts that much. I mostly like to lurk on social media. It was just kind of a strange thing.” By now, Sarah has enlisted the help of several friends to keep the page up and running.

At the Bridgerton ball!

Beyond the computer screen, Sarah also enjoys attending modern Regency-themed events, including the annual Jane Austen festival in Louisville, Kentucky, and a Bridgerton-themed ball and promenade closer to home. She loves to interact in-person with people who feel as passionately about Austen as she does, often bringing her friends and family along for the ride.

Even though the world we live in today is much changed from that which Austen inhabited, Sarah loves to engage people in conversation about Austen’s continued relevance in our society. The characters, in particular, are highly relatable to twenty-first century individuals: “You know, you can say ‘I’m a Lizzie,’ or ‘I’m a Jane,’ or ‘I’m a Catherine Morland’… because they all have very unique personalities, and I just love that so much about her books.”

Such distinct female characters were rare among the male authors of Austen’s time, as well as male authors writing today—such as Stephen King or John Updike, both of whom are notoriously bad at writing authentic female characters. She believes Austen’s work still appeals to readers today because Austen wrote so realistically, so unapologetically, about life. Historical records of the human experience remain relevant for a long time because the things people want and need at the most basic level do not change. As for Austen’s characters, “they want to be safe—they want to be loved, just like we do today.”

When it comes to adaptations, Sarah is fairly open-minded, generally enjoying even the ones that are “like, objectively bad.” She considers every adaptation she encounters as an entity totally separate from its source material. Going in, she knows that she might get a story similar to one she already knows and loves, but she limits her other expectations.

For example, on the topic of Netflix’s widely disparaged 2022 film adaptation of Persuasion, Sarah appreciates it for what it is, saying, “I don’t particularly enjoy it as an ‘Austen thing,’ but I do enjoy it as its own thing.” She particularly loves adaptations that expertly capture the language, characterization, or messages integral to Austen’s original work, such as Ibi Zoboi’s Pride or Claudia Gray’s The Murder of Mr. Wickham, that incorporate characters of color and queer identities within the text. These adaptations in turn welcome new groups of individuals into Jane Austen fandom.

The season's Diamond, to be sure...

Ultimately, it all comes down to spreading Austenian cheer to as many people as possible. Sarah claims to have already converted several friends and family members into Austen-lovers, “tricking them into it” through whatever means necessary. Although she sometimes relies on romantic, charming movies to hook her unsuspecting target, Austen-themed board games are her weapon of choice.

Connect with Sarah Adams via Facebook or Instagram.

Excerpted from Zoom interview with Sarah Adams, March 4, 2024.


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