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It’s plain to see — readers still love their Jane

January 28, 2011

It's a truth universally acknowledged -- Jane Austen never goes out of fashion.

Hold onto your bonnets, Jane Austen fans. An out-and-out Austenpalooza is coming to Chapman University on Feb. 15, when Lynda Hall, Ph.D., professor of English and a scholar of 19th Century British literature, hosts “Austenalia,” a panel discussion featuring four novelists whose contemporary work picks up where Austen’s pen left off.

Among the panelists will be Karen Joy Fowler, author of the Jane Austen Book Club, which spent 13 weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list, was a New York Times Notable Book and was adapted to film in 2007. Other panelists include Diana Birchall, author of Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, Syrie James, author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, Laurie Viera Rigler, author of “Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict.

The event commemorates the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, and celebrates the inexhaustible fascination readers have with the troubles, romances and foibles of all those lively heroines testing the boundaries of English society. That timelessness is thanks to Austen’s keen observation of human nature, says Dr. Hall, who will also offer insights into the novelist’s work and life Feb. 22 in “A Night With … Jane Austen,” part of Wilkinson College’s special series during which faculty members portray historical figures about whom they have performed extensive research.

“I think part of what is so fascinating and interesting is that people really haven’t changed in 200 years. She really understands the predicaments we get ourselves into. … It’s why we keep watching Shakespeare. We just get into the same predicaments over and over again,” Dr. Hall says.

In conjunction with the anniversary, Leatherby Libraries has purchased a first American edition of Sense and Sensibility and will unveil it at the event.

Austenalia begins at 4 p.m. in the Henley Reading Room of Leatherby Libraries. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, call 714-628-7355.

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