Once again, the calendar turns to the end of the year and we gather to celebrate the anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth. Here in Anno Domini Two Thousand and Twenty, well, it’s a little different from usual. To say the least, this year has been deeply weird, and not just because of the pandemic.
2020 has been a year of upheaval in so many ways, and that includes within Janeiteland itself. A very much belated recognition of the role of race in Austen’s work and that of her contemporaries has come to the forefront this year, and we consider it a good thing. We like to say that Janeiteland is a big tent, though we meant that to be with regard to opinions about Jane Austen. But now we hope that tent has become more welcoming, more inclusive and inviting, as well. There is work to be done, without a doubt, but at least it has started.
A lot of our gatherings have become virtual this year, which is not odd to us as gatherings here at AustenBlog HQ have always been virtual. But a vaccine for COVID-19 is OUT THERE and we hope by the next such celebration, things will be better. We do not say, “back to normal,” as we think the world has changed permanently, not least from the loss of so very many beloved souls. We can understand if some of our Gentle Readers see no reason to have any kind of celebration at this time, quite literally the darkest time of the year.
But we believe Herself still merits recognition of the day, at least. Jane Austen has given us so much, and yet so little that we cling to each tidbit with tenacity. Each new adaptation, each virtual talk or gathering, each new work of criticism or history, each new JAFF novel give us something to feed our desire that Jane Austen had lived to write more books. But at the same time, whenever we gather in her name, even to read a blog post, is a little miracle. She wrote six books, and some more things, more than two centuries ago–and yet here we are still, reading and re-reading and watching and discussing and enjoying. Happy birthday, Jane, and may we continue to gather, however we can, for many more.
ETA: As always on Jane Austen’s birthday, JASNA has published its latest issue of Persuasions On-line, including papers from the 2020 (Virtual) JASNA AGM, pieces on “Staying Home with Jane Austen” during a pandemic, and miscellany as well. It’s free to read; do check it out.
Gentle Reader, are you doing anything special for Jane Austen’s birthday? Do you want to share your thoughts or good wishes? Please feel free to use the comments.