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Janeite Spotlight: Introducing Sarah Hurley

Hello, JASP readers! This year, we’ve decided to begin a blog series highlighting Austen-lovers around the world—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. So, without further ado, here is our first Janeite Spotlight piece, featuring JASP’s very own Sarah Hurley.


Sarah Hurley

Believe it or not, Sarah Hurley was not always a Jane Austen fan. In fact, for the first two-thirds of her life, she would have considered herself a staunch anti-romantic. However, one fateful summer day, at the tender age of fourteen, Sarah came across a peculiar-sounding movie while scrolling though pay-per-view listings: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Sarah had heard of Pride and Prejudice in school, of course, but written it off as stuffy, anti-feminist propaganda that nobody under the age of eighty had any business reading.

(She would like to go on record and say she was a bit of a nincompoop when she was fourteen.)

However, as a life-long fan of all-things spooky, the addition of "zombies" within the title intrigued Sarah, so she thought she’d give it a watch. If nothing else, it would be good for a laugh. And she was right—the gory hordes of the undead indeed put a smile on her face, as well as the movie’s A-list cast, including Lily James, Sam Riley, and Douglas Booth.

Imagine her horror, however, when her favorite part of the film turned out to be the love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Sarah swooned when Elizabeth and Darcy dueled all the way through the latter’s first ill-worded marriage proposal. She watched with tears in her eyes as Darcy proclaimed his love for Elizabeth a second time: “What you said to me on Hingham Bridge… It gave me hope that your feelings towards me may have changed. However, one word from you now will silence me forever. You are the love of my life, Elizabeth Bennet. So I ask you now, half in anguish, half in hope: will you do me the great, great honor of taking me for your husband?”

When the movie ended, Sarah was a changed woman, in every sense.

An Austen-inspired tour of Bath

Already a voracious reader, she went to her local library and checked out every Austen book she could find, as well as every book and film adaptation listed in their database. The first on her list, of course, was Pride and Prejudice. Then came Emma and Sense and Sensibility. The others followed in a natural progression. Throughout high school, Sarah was a girl obsessed—she alternated watching the 2005 and 1995 Pride and Prejudice film and TV adaptations weekly, and she began drinking truly spectacular amounts of piping hot tea.

When it came time for college, Sarah brought a copy of each Jane Austen novel with her, stacked neatly in an old Canada Dry ginger ale crate. Although she was a newly-minted English lit major, she didn’t imagine she’d do anything with dear Jane’s writing as an academic—she’d just wanted them there as comfort literature, to calm her when the pressures of classwork became too much.

But then she took a preparatory course for the undergraduate Honors thesis she would complete the next year, and her professor asked about her favorite author. “That’s a hard question. I guess if I had to pick, it would be Jane Austen,” she said with a dreamy look in her eye.

Chawton Cottage

“Well, then, you should write about that,” her professor said.

And Sarah thought, Wow, that’s not a bad idea!

Thus, she began the year-long project that would become her Honors thesis, “‘Let Other Pens Dwell’: On Austen, Authorship, and the Janeite-Centric Narrative,” defended successfully in April 2023. Her research focused on a unique genre of literature placing the fictional Janeite, an allegorical stand-in for the contemporary real-world Janeite figure, into the role of heroine. Interestingly, Sarah found that most Janeite-centric narratives challenge rather than re-affirm Austen’s authority, disputing traditional ideas about singular, definitive authorship. Her findings suggest that the Janeite-centric protagonist is a fictional allegory for the ways in which real-life Janeites immerse themselves in—and in doing so, alter—Austen’s canonical fictional landscape, indicating that authorship is an inherently intertextual, collaborative, and ongoing process.

Sarah at the 2023 JASP ball!

Sarah was also lucky enough to study abroad in London while working on her thesis, and while she was in England she spent a large portion of her time visiting Austen-related sites. She visited the Jane Austen Centre in Bath (twice!), where she participated in tours of the in-house museum with Mr. Wickham and Mr. Edward Ferrars, had afternoon tea in the dining room upstairs, and received directions for an Austen-themed walking tour of the city. Sarah also toured Chawton Cottage and left a bouquet of roses at Jane’s grave in Winchester, at which point she began bawling like a baby in the middle of the Cathedral.

Last summer, Sarah was fortunate enough to share her thesis research at the tenth annual Jane Austen Summer Program in Chapel Hill, taking part in the adaptation panel with Adam McCune and Sayantani DasGupta, which was a dream come true! She even had her very own Janeite protagonist moment at the JASP Regency ball, where she wore a beautiful dress hand-sewn by her incredibly talented mother.

Rest easy, Jane.

Sarah’s other academic areas of interest include Shirley Jackson’ fiction, Emily Dickinson’s childhood herbarium, and young adult horror literature. She hopes to attend graduate school to obtain her PhD in English very soon, but for now she is taking a much-needed break from academia. When she is not reading or writing, Sarah can generally be found playing guitar, knitting, re-watching her favorite Nickelodeon shows, or trekking through the muddy woods like her favorite disheveled heroine. Connect with Sarah at @skylar_luna_destiny_gold on Instagram.


If you or someone you know would like to be featured in a future Janeite Spotlight article, please fill out this form. We can’t wait to hear from you!


loved reading about you and your janeite story! and your thesis is so interesting! when and where can i get my hands on it?

Replying to

I'll email it to you!



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