Rae Wiseman on the Jane Austen Society and why Coloradans love the writer
Chuckling in libraries and meeting halls since 1979, members of the Jane Austen Society of North America have been digging deep into the English novelist's classic tales of romance amongst the British landed gentry. In advance of the March 30Alamo Drafthouse Cinema screening of the BBC's 1995 adaptation of Austen's novel Persuasion, Westword tracked down Rae Wiseman, the regional coordinator of the Denver-Boulder chapter of JASNA, to find out just what brings these people together and why they love Austen so much.
Artist: Cassandra Austen (c. 1810) Jane Austen's witty, romantic plotlines have captivated readers for two centuries.
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Westword: Talk about how you found yourself enthralled with Jane Austen.
Rae Wiseman: First of all, I should say, I'm not an English literature major or anything like that. I'm just somebody who enjoys reading. I first read Jane Austen in high school and enjoyed it. I went on to other things and came back to it because as much as I'm interested in literature, I'm also interested in history. I'm particularly drawn to that time in history, and I love Austen's writing. Her novels are witty, good stories, and I just came to love her.
Talk about the historical period that shaped Austen and how she differs from some of the writers of that era.
Anybody who starts reading eighteenth-century novels will tend to get a little bogged down in the language. I find hers very readable and much easier to read because it is a more contemporary style of writing. That's one reason why I love Jane Austen and not the others. I mentioned wit: She seems to be a little wittier, and her writing is more lively. Some of the other writers from that period tend to be plodding.
Austen was born in 1775. A lot of people say that she doesn't write about what was going on in her world, and there was really a lot happening. Of course, here in the United States -- well, it wasn't the United States, it was the colonies -- we had the American Revolution going on when she was born. Then you have the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. There was a lot going on in the world that she lived in. That's why I find it to be such an interesting time period. Even though she doesn't directly talk about these things, if you look closely, you can get a feel for some of these things happening.
Talk about the Jane Austen Society and what the organization does.
JASNA includes the United States, Canada and Mexico, although I don't think we have any regions down there. We're mainly U.S. and Canada. It's an offshoot of the Jane Austen Society of the United Kingdom, which was founded in 1940. Then JASNA was founded by just a few people in 1979. It's grown, and we have regions in most states and several in Canada. Some of them are very large regions. In Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York, they have hundreds of members. Some are more like us here in Denver-Boulder, where we have twenty active members and about twice that number who are members of JASNA, but don't participate in their local region. Since they're different sizes, we do different things. Some have big meetings with speakers who come. We tend to be more like a book club. We meet every other month. Sometimes we have speakers, but more often, we just have discussions amongst ourselves. That's how things work in the Denver-Boulder chapter. Colorado also has a region in Colorado Springs. Sometimes we do things together.
Continue reading to learn more about JASNA.