Guest Post by Maria Grazia
I wanted my little Jane Austen corner in the blogosphere, My Jane Austen Book Club, to support my real life Jane Austen reading club. I was so happy and excited when I was chosen as the moderator of a reading group at the public library in my town in a project to read Jane Austen’s six major novels one each month from January to June 2010. It was inspired to the movie “The Jane Austen Book Club”, which I had loved.
I expected to meet other Janeites, at last. Living in a small provincial town in the mountains near Rome, I really knew none living near me. Only a couple of friends in Rome.
A small group of readers came: few of my students with their friends and two elderly ladies. None of them was really interested in reading Jane Austen. They were enthusiastic of being part of a reading club but not at all interested in Austen, the Regency or English literature. I was rather disappointed actually, but not hopeless.
First meeting. Sense and Sensibility. The two elderly ladies were competing all the time. They wanted to be always the centre of our attention, they didn’t respect turns, they only wished to say what they thought and not to listen to the others’ opinions . First book was one always talked and digressed about how beautiful watching Pride and Prejudice 1940 – Oh! Laurence Olivier! Oh! Mr Darcy! - was or how interesting reading the critical preface to her edition of S&S was; the other kind lady tried to interrupt her in order to start preaching against scandalous, immoral Miss Austen (Poor Jane! Immoral? Scandalous?) . Why weren’t we reading Dante Alighieri and his Divina Commedia? That rascal Willoughby (pronounced Villòbi) and that sissy Marianne. They were so improper, lascivious! They disappeared in their barouche and ... could we imagine what they did? Morever, we hadn’t read that book (Mansfield Park) yet ... but, did we know that in that immoral novel two cousins got married? That was incest.
Good Heaven! I watched the girls laughing and getting more and more disinterested in the discussion and didn’t actually know what to do. I couldn’t reproach the ladies as I usually do at school with naughty teenagers. The rest of the group nicknamed one of the two ladies Miss Bates and the other Lady De Bourgh. Actually I liked them, the two ladies I mean, they made the discussion livelier, while the girls never wanted to speak, expecting me to talk all the time as a teacher usually does giving lectures.
Mmmm, not a very positive experience indeed. I so wanted to meet real Janeites. What could I do? I asked for help from my Janeite friends who live in Rome and they came a couple of times. It was much more fun with them!
Meanwhile, my little blog Austen-dedicated grew and grew. I got in touch with lots of writers, publicists, readers interested in Jane Austen and ... my comically disappointing experience in real life, was not so important any longer. I had what I wanted: A virtual place where people who were fond of Jane Austen could meet. Different opinions very are welcome as stimuli to real discussion but if one is not interested in our beloved writer, they won’t read my blog.
My Jane Austen Book Club is two years old now (started on January 16th, 2010) and goes on growing. I’ve added a daily twitter paper to it (The Everything Austen Daily) and a facebook page ( more than 1,000 likes!) I was interviewed by other bloggers because of my Austenmania and related activity on line. Can you imagine, how glad that can make me?
What? As a teacher, do I succeed in making my students love Jane Austen? Well, that’s another story. And not a happy ending one. Maybe, I’ll tell you about it another time.
Have you got any questions for me? I’d be glad to answer. Enjoy Barbara’s lovely blog. Thanks for reading me today!