JASNA-Florida South West Meeting April 1, 2017
Regional Coordinator Dr. Sara Dustin delightfully diverted 14 of us on Saturday, April 1 with a preview of her upcoming break-out talk at the Huntington Beach, California, AGM October 6-8. Her topic “Sun, Sea and Sanditon: Reexamining Austen’s Unfinished Work” ignited a spirited discussion among the participants, including several new and potential members.
Sara provided a brief timeline of events in Jane Austen’s life from the spring 1816 failure of brother Henry’s bank to her death on July 18, 1817, the period in which she wrote the existing twelve chapters of Sanditon. Though unfinished and not clear just where the tale was heading, Austen’s work seemed to be taking a new departure, leaving many intriguing questions about her intentions. Four months before her death, she abandoned the manuscript as her illness deepened.
Nevertheless, the fragment has continued to interest her devotees since it was first published with the 1869 Memoir of Jane Austen by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh. Currently, Sara reports, a film version of Sanditon is in production, and completions by various authors can be found on line.
Among the questions commented upon by members were the identity of the intended heroine as well as the hero, suggestions for continuing the plot, and the quality of the writing overall. Were, as some observers point out, Jane Austen’s powers reduced by her condition, or was she at the top of her game? Were some of the darker aspects of the work affected more by Austen’s poor health or the post-Napoleonic changes in the economy and society?
We all agreed that Sara’s Huntington Beach audience will indeed be in for a treat next October.
Before Sara’s presentation, we discussed our participation in the Fort Myers Reading Festival, which yielded the names of almost forty persons interested in more information on upcoming meetings. We stress that both local residents and visiting “snowbirds” are welcome to attend.
JASNA-SWF’s next meeting will feature a reading of a humorous play based on Persuasion.