Every Spring Christ Church holds a Special Interest Weekend open to the public. In April 2015 we are having a single topic weekend entitled 'Jane Austen's Places; Inspiration and Imagination'. This weekend offers the chance to hear papers from a group of specialists on Jane Austen. The weekend will focus on Austen's Oxford connections, the places she lived and visited and how they inspired her novels.
Why are Jane Austen’s novels still in print, still debated and more popular than ever after 200 years? Sir Walter Scott, the premier and bestselling novelist of Austen’s time, recognised that she had ‘a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with’. Scott acknowledged that she had a gift he lacked: ‘exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment’. 180 years later, Austen’s skill is universally acknowledged and her novels celebrated across the world. Institutions such as the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and Jane Austen Society of Australia (JASA) offer a lively forum for discussion.
Though Austen’s descriptions are spare, her novels convey a strong sense of the places which are so important to her characters. Many are set in the Home Counties and based on places she visited, and when she didn’t know a place she asked for details from the Austens' wide network of connections. This Special Interest weekend looks at significant places in the life and fiction of Jane Austen; from her beloved Hampshire and the country houses where she danced, flirted, wrote letters and – above all – observed, to the cities of Bath, London and Oxford.
In the spring of 1783 Jane Austen, then seven years old, came to Oxford with her sister Cassandra, and their
cousin Jane Cooper, to be taught by their relative Mrs Cawley, wife of the late Master of Brasenose. The family
already had Oxford connections – Mrs Austen’s uncle, Theophilus Leigh, was Master of Balliol from 1726-85,
and Jane Austen’s father, the Reverend George Austen, went up to St John’s in 1747. Jane’s brothers, James and
Henry, followed in their father’s footsteps, matriculating at the college in 1779 and 1788 respectively. While at St John’s, James, then a Fellow, and Henry, a scholar, started The Loiterer, an Oxford-based weekly periodical to
which their sister may have contributed an arch, tonguein-cheek letter, under the pseudonym, Sophia Sentiment.
Oxford continues to have many associations with Jane Austen and her family history. It is the ideal place in which to read and learn about the author and her work. The Bodleian Library holds first editions of Jane Austen’s published works and an unrivalled collection of her manuscripts, a selection of which you will be able to see during your stay at Christ Church. Oxford hosts the Jane Austen Fiction Manuscripts Digital Edition and The Clarendon Press of Oxford University Press published the fi rst scholarly edition of Austen’s works. Members of the University’s academic community such as Professors Fiona Stafford and Kathryn Sutherland continue the scholarly work of establishing authoritative editions, reception and book histories, and illuminating criticism. They will join a number of experts in guiding you through the network of Jane Austen’s connections, people, places and fiction.
Online booking is available by clicking the red button below. It is also possible to book by completing and returning the attached booking form. Full payment is required at the time of booking.
If you have any queries or would like a hard copy of the conference leaflet, please email:
or telephone + 44 (0)1865 286848
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