For 200 years, Jane Austen's books have been sources of bookseller
profits. The Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) is a literary society dedicated to the organization dedicated to the enjoyment and appreciation of Jane Austen and her writing.
About Jane Austen
Jane Austen (1775 – 1817) is recognized as one of the greatest novelists in the English language. While often pigeon-holed into the Romance genre
of books, Austen's stories are astute and clever commentaries on the social and financial structures and strictures of her day.
Austen’s six completed novels
have been in print for nearly 200 years have been adapted countless times into television series and films like Clueless,
the Valley Girl version of Emma;
and the Bollywood version of Pride and Prejudice
, Bride and Prejudice
). Jane Austen’s stories have been the inspiration for new works ranging from novels about how she inspires readers (The Jane Austen Book Club
), to a fantasy television series (the BBC’s Lost in Austen
), to eroticized versions of her novels, to horror mash-up fan fiction (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
), to imagined biographies of her own life (Becoming Jane
Jane Austen’s fans are legion and include such literary figures as Rudyard Kipling and modern day celebrities as Roseanne Cash. When the late screenwriter and director Nora Ephron was asked by a New York Times
reporter what she wished she had written, she famously replied, “A lesser sentence of Jane Austen.”
In 1979 a number of Austen’s fans—or “Janeites” as Rudyard Kipling called them—formed the Jane Austen Society of North America.
About the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA)
The Jane Austen Society of North America is a non-profit, membership-based. The mission of JASNA is “to foster among the widest number of readers the study, appreciation, and understanding of Jane Austen’s works, her life, and her genius.” The society has approximately 4,000 members in the United States and Canada, as well as Austen fans from other countries who care to participate.
JASNA members span all ages, are men and women, and hail from all walks of life. While there is an academic element in the organization—professors and students involved in in-depth study of Jane Austen’s life, times and novels—other members are lay readers drawn to the author for pure, avocational passion for her words. JASNA members (and Janeites in general) are a book-buying force, embracing e-books
as well as print books to "read Jane."
The History of JASNA
JASNA was founded in 1979, by Joan Austen-Leigh, a writer and the great-great grand-niece of Jane Austen; Henry G. Burke, an attorney and private collector of Jane Austen’s work; and J. “Jack” David Grey, a New York City junior high school vice principal and also an Austen collector. Though they were from different areas of North America—British Columbia, Baltimore and New York, respectively—they came together to create the literary society organized around Jane Austen.
On October 5, 1979, one hundred fans of Jane Austen met at the Gramercy Park Hotel and thus launched JASNA. The New Yorker
magazine reported on the event in its “The Talk of the Town” column.
Three times a year, the society publishes JASNA News
, a newsletter with items of interest to members, such as reports on the regional events or news bulletins related to Austen and her works. Persuasions
and Persuasions Online
are annual peer-reviewed publications featuring essays related to Austen studies.
The Jane Austen Society Regional Groups and Meetings
JASNA is comprised of more than 60 regional groups which meet on a regular basis to discuss the works of Jane Austen. The meetings generally have lectures and/or discussions on topics relevant to Austen’s books or the Regency era. Individual regions might also have book groups, readings, or organize relevant outings; all regions generally celebrate Jane Austen’s December 16th birthday with a special meeting.
The Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting (AGM)
Each year, a different JASNA region mounts an annual conference on a specific Jane Austen topic, such as “Sex, Money, and Power in Jane Austen’s Fiction” (Brooklyn, New York
AGM 2012) or “Mansfield Park in Montréal: Contexts, Conventions and Controversies” (Montreal 2014). The JASNA AGMs feature several days of prominent keynote speakers (such as Anna Quindlen, Cornel West, etc), as well as numerous panels, lectures, dance instruction, concerts, and other Austen-related events. The banquet night is capped by a Regency ball featuring dancing of the period; many of the members wear costumes.
Membership in the Jane Austen Society begins at $30 a year for a regular membership. For more information, visit the Jane Austen Society of North America website.