My Adventures at the JASNA AGM

My Adventures at the JASNA AGM

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my first Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) Annual General Meeting (AGM). Many other JAFF authors had attended past AGMs and seemed to enjoy them, but I wasn’t sure what I would find at my first AGM in Washington DC.

I learned a couple things. One is that the AGM is huge: more than 850 attendees! I knew Austen had a lot of fans, but wow! Another was that the conference itself was a very fun hybrid of the Modern Language Association Conference and Comic Con. Where else could you find women attending lectures on class and gender in Emma while wearing full Regency regalia?

AGM panels during the day have quite an academic bent, examining aspects of Austen’s works through literary and historical lenses. I particularly enjoyed one that explored how Emma uses humor as a strategy as a woman in a male-dominated world. It got me thinking about how humor functions in many of Austen’s other novels.

AGM attendees also had the opportunity to enjoy tours of Washington, DC, Mount Vernon, or Annapolis as well as special exhibits at the Folger Shakespeare Library (about Shakespeare and Austen) and the DAR museum (about Regency fashion). There were also musical performances and a theatrical production of Sense and Sensibility. An emporium during the day sold Austen related books, gifts, teas, and other items, as well as offering Regency costume rentals. 🙂img_0780

The highlight of the conference, however, was Saturday night—starting with an elegant and delicious dinner. This was followed by a promenade around the many levels of the hotel, which gave attendees an opportunity to show off their beautiful Regency garb. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen two levels of escalators covered in people wearing 1800s fashions. There were some truly spectacular dresses! I was quite envious. 🙂 After the promenade there was an evening of Regency dancing. A wonderful woman directed the myriad dancers at a speed slow enough that novices could participate. Everyone looked just beautiful! img_0831

With all of that to enjoy, however, I have to say that my favorite thing about JASNA was the camaraderie. I had a chance to meet two of my Facebook buddies whom I had never seen face-to-face before—and made new friends as well. Where else can you go to find people who get just as excited about Austen as you do? img_0795Or who are equally knowledgeable? Total strangers are interested in debating why a character did something or how the settings from two different books compare. Perhaps your household is different, but my family tends to start rolling their eyes after too much Austen talk. 🙂 There’s no such thing at JASNA.

If you have an opportunity to attend an AGM, I would encourage you to consider it—even if you don’t know anyone who is attending. You can go for the lectures, the exhibits, the costumes, the shopping, the dancing, or the friendships you might make. But the best reason of all to attend is because Jane Austen fans are your tribe!

19 Responses to My Adventures at the JASNA AGM

  1. So glad you had fun, Victoria. I’ve been to 3 AGMs, including last year which was planned and hosted by my Louisville region. I love them! Alas, this year I could not manage to attend in DC. Perhaps next year a bunch of us AuAus can arrange to meet! Thanks for sharing your experience and photos with us. 🙂

  2. Sounds like you had a lot of fun! I hope to go sometime in the future…possibly next year, even. I’ll have to see… Thanks for sharing your adventure with us! 🙂

  3. I have been so curious to know what those events are like, so thank you so much for sharing! I’m wondering if you would also comment on where the people find the costumes. I assume that some make them, but I also know many people are like me and couldn’t possibly whip up something that complex. Do they rent them from costume shops?

    • Hi Georgina, I had that question too! I don’t know the complete answer. I couldn’t find a lot of places on line that rented the costumes — although there was a rental service at the AGM itself. There were a fair number of seamstresses on Etsy who offered Regency dresses. You can also get patterns and hire your own seamstress.

  4. Thanks for sharing what sounds to have been a fun time with us Victoria. I know what you mean about the family eye rolling! Although, somewhat bizarrely, my husband did quite enjoy watching P&P&Z with me when my copy of the DVD arrived. I love the photo of all the people in their Regency costumes travelling in the escalator. It’s such a juxtaposition of new and old, just like seeing behind the scenes photos of period dramas where the cast are texting on their smartphones, taking onotos on their digital cameras or playing on their tablets, whilst still in full costume.

    Personally, I’d love to attend something like your AGM but also go to Comic Con and the Gallifrey One conventions, too!

  5. How exciting. So glad you had a good time. Thanks for the photos. A picture is worth a thousand words. It looked like everyone was having a great time.

  6. It sounds lovely Victoria. I am impressed with how many followers of all things Jane there are. I especially love the trouble people go to to wear the period costumes – some are so intricate. My daughter lives in Australia but when she was here in 2011 as a treat for my 60th birthday she took me and my mum to Bath for a few days and we went to the fashion museum in the Assembly Rooms. I absolutely loved it. Thanks for this post.

  7. Thanks for your post. I really wanted to go but I was in Phoenix for another conference. I was most interested in the lecture on the JA Quilt by Sue Dell on Friday night. We corresponded about the quilt and I would have loved to meet her and hear he talk.

Your thoughts are precious!