Immersed in Sense and Sensibility! ~ the Jane Austen Summer Program at UNC-Chapel Hill ~ Guest Post by Margaret Harrington

Dear Gentle Readers: Today I welcome Margaret Harrington, a member of JASNA and happily for us, the Vermont Region. Margaret recently returned from her immersion in Sense and Sensibility at the Jane Austen Summer Program at UNC Chapel Hill, June 12-15, 2014. She shares with us her thoughts with pictures – looks to have been a delightful adventure!


The Jane Austen Summer Program at UNC ~
Sense & Sensibility Revisited”

by Margaret Harrington, JASNA Vermont member


Jane Austen’s juvenilia play “Jack and Alice” given a lively performance

[Note: JASP has graciously made this production available online – you can view it here: ]


I experienced blissful immersion in Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility during this four day conference at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. From the gracious reception at the UNC Friday Center throughout the days and evenings of serious enjoyment, I conclude that this was a wonderful personal adventure. There were lectures, teas, regency dancing, a play, movies, intense conversations about Jane Austen, and some thunder storms. The conference offered study of the book itself, provided insight into the culture in which it was written, and even gave a pleasant glimpse of one or two aspects of contemporary culture in the American south.

A warm welcome from Emma, Emily and Rachel at the UNC Friday Center


‘Elevenses’ of clotted cream and scones dished up by Gisele Rankin of JASNA North Carolina


 Lunch on the lawn with kite flying and shuttlecock


The ‘Sense and Sensibility’ Ball at Gerrard Hall, UNC


 Drama at the Sense and Sensibility Ball



Dr. James Thompson of UNC-Chapel Hill co-hosted the event and set the tone for the conference as both formally educational and informally warm and welcoming.



Inger Brodey

The initial lecture by his co-host Dr. Inger Brodey, also of UNC-Chapel Hill, entitled “Making Sense of Sensibility” placed us in the Regency world of the philosophers and other writers who influenced Jane Austen’s concepts. I gleaned from this opening lecture that to interpret the novel as a dichotomy between sense and sensibility or as a tension between the two mind sets of Marianne and Elinor is to limit perception.  Professor Brodey opened up a whole world of ideas which were accessible to Austen and evidenced in her writing and showed me that Sense and Sensibility has a richness of texture I had not been aware of prior to the lecture.

In fact the days were planned to deepen understanding of the novel with 15 minute context corners on the subjects of Law and Inheritance, Childhood and Education, Medicine and Illness, and the Clergy and the Church. These were followed with 45 minute Context Response sessions during which we, the participants, exchanged ideas. Then of course there were ‘Elevenses’ with scones and clotted cream. There were boxed lunches on the lawn with kites, battledore and shuttlecock as period entertainment. There were dance workshops to prepare us for the Regency ball. There was an amusing and informative lecture by Colgate University Professor Deborah Knuth Klenck on: “Jane Austen’s School of Rhetoric: Style, Substance and ‘Delicacy of Mind.’”



Jade Bettin, UNC-Chapel Hill, demonstrates (on a willing participant) the way to corset up properly during her lecture “‘But he talked of flannel waistcoats’: How Clothing Makes the Men and Women of S&S.”



 Ruth Verbunt of the North Carolina Regency Assembly after her insightful talk “Mourning in the Time of Jane Austen”

[see also their facebook page: ]


Dr. Robert Clark, University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, author of The Literary Encyclopedia, was an amazing speaker in the two lectures he gave to expand and deepen our understanding of Sense and Sensibility. In the first he concentrated on the economic facts that drove Jane Austen’s world, such as The Inclosure Act of 1773, which diminished the number of people who could own land to under 500 in all of England, entitling an oligarchical society to the prestige and privileges Austen’s characters scramble so hard to hold onto in her novels. In his second lecture entitled “The White Glare of Bath,” Professor Clark made Jane Austen’s playground of intrigue, balls, and shopping come alive up from the ground in the white stones and mortar and rubble that savvy developers offered to the rich for their recreational homes. In his remarkable lecture I could see Jane Austen moving about Bath, shopping and promenading, visiting, plotting her novels.


 Dr. Robert Clark relaxes a moment after his talk on Bath


All in all my experience was totally wonderful and I’d recommend it to Janeites everywhere. Next year’s conference is entitled “Emma at 200.”

Imagine that!

I leave you with a picture of Janeite Maureen O’Connor who attended the conference from far away Brooklyn and dressed authentically for every occasion:

Maureen O'Connor

Maureen O’Connor

Text and images by Margaret Harrington, with thanks!

I suggest we all mark our calendars now for next June 18-21, 2015! info is here:

 c2014, Jane Austen in Vermont

2 thoughts on “Immersed in Sense and Sensibility! ~ the Jane Austen Summer Program at UNC-Chapel Hill ~ Guest Post by Margaret Harrington

  1. Jean, they showed the Ang Lee S&S at the conference and it was the first time I got to see it on a big screen. I loved it. They also showed From Prada to Nada and Kanducondain which are both take offs on S&S, the first set in Los Angeles and the second in Tamil India. Then there was great discussion.
    I’m glad you liked my post and I hope we meet up there next year.


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