A JASNA-NY Member Shares Her Experience at the 2016 AGM, Emma: No One But Herself

October 29, 2016 – The AGM is a Janeite’s dream come true. Surrounded by fellow Janeites from North America and around the world, the weekend is a break from reality and a complete immersion in everything that is Jane Austen. It’s my kind of heaven.

The AGM lies somewhere in between a comic convention and an academic conference. My experience has taught me that the mark of a good AGM is one with excellent breakout sessions (with plenty to choose from), engaging plenary speakers, and an opportunity to meet fellow Janeites whom I would never meet outside of my local JASNA region.

My favorite breakout session related to the fact that Emma is a black comedy. Unlike other women in her world and her era, Emma Woodhouse is not only unafraid to speak to her mind, but she speaks of topics that make some people (especially men) uncomfortable. There is an indirect line from Emma Woodhouse to women who today dominate comedy and are not afraid to speak to their minds.

While the highlight of the AGM is the banquet and ball, where I dressed up and danced—English country dancing is quite the workout— my absolute favorite part of the AGM was visiting the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Museum and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Gowns on display at the DAR Museum
Gowns on display at the DAR Museum

The DAR Museum is located minutes from the White House. On display during the AGM was the exhibition An Agreeable Tyrant: Fashion after the Revolution, which told the story of how America built its economy during its early years by encouraging citizens to buy American made goods. The clothes were authentic and lovely. The exhibit will be at the museum until April 29, 2017.

Will and Jane at the Folger celebrated Shakespeare, Austen, and the cult of their celebrity in the centuries following their deaths. On view were Emma Thompson’s script of her adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, Cassandra Austen’s copy of Emma, and, most excitingly, the shirt worn by Colin Firth in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, otherwise known as The Shirt. The exhibition was a must see for any Janeite.

Overall the weekend was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time. I look forward to seeing Janeites, both new and old next year, and I encourage my fellow Janeites who have not attended an AGM to consider joining the excitement. Next year’s conference is in Huntington Beach, California, where we will remember and mourn the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death. In two years, the Kansas City region will host to a gathering focused on Persuasion.

Adina Bernstein

A version of this article originally appeared on Adina Bernstein’s blog.

Photos courtesy of Marybeth Ihle