Need some feel-good news today? Please congratulate Dr. Ruth Wilson. She just received her PhD in English from the University of Sydney—at age 89. Ruth's fine dissertation on Jane Austen, "Milestones in a Reading Life," brilliantly brings together reading memoir, reception studies, and the history of education and pedagogy. Her dissertation committee assembled Austen scholars from three continents! Ruth's mentor/examiner team included Drs. Rebecca Johinke, Olivia Murphy, and Katie Halsey, with whom I had the pleasure of serving as an external examiner. Among other things, Ruth's fascinating work describes seeing the 1940 MGM Pride and Prejudice, when it was first released. She was brought to the theatre by her film-loving parents. It turned out to be an exposure to Austen that lasted a lifetime and ultimately led her to this doctoral degree. Ruth is amazing, and she wants to take her original research on Austen, school curricula, and the history of memoir and memory into the wider world, in book and article form. That's absolutely as it should be. Her work deserves a wider audience.
I'm looking forward to talking to Soniah Kamal, author of the beautiful novel Unmarriageable (Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan), at this virtual event hosted by Houston's Brazos Bookstore, on Thursday 10/22, in the evening, depending on which time zone you are in!. Soniah is always great fun to talk to, so I am sure this is going to be lively and fun. Join us! Registration is necessary.
I’m on a strange, fun journey this week, taping 24 lectures on Jane Austen for The Great Courses. Three down. 21 to go. Next up: Sense and Sensibility. I'll be sure to keep you posted about how it all unfolds.
Looking for some JaneAusten and books fun? I'll be moderating a Zoom webinar discussion on Saturday, 8/15, at 1p.m. ET, with authors Natalie Jenner, Janice Hadlow, Rachel Cohen, and Lucy Worsley, a virtual event presented by St. Martin's Press, Henry Holt & Co, and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux! Run mad but do not faint! There will be laughs. Register here.
It's difficult to write about roller derby right now, but I tried. Here's my latest essay, "Roller Derby in a Pandemic." . . . With thanks to the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University, for the chance to say it, and to my amazing league, Arizona Derby Dames, for the opportunity to live it . . . . And, as ever, to the late Jerry Seltzer, for inspiring me, and so many of us, to skate and rebuild. Hope you are staying safe and healthy in your corner of the world.
If you need a quick Jane Austen break, here's a four-minute dive into Sense and Sensibility, with a moving passage I selected on illness and recovery. I'm grateful for the chance to kick off Penguin Classics's Crash Courses series with this inaugural episode of recorded-at-home messages about how #BooksConnectUs https://instagram.com/tv/B_VOlX7AY5e/
Some happy news in difficult times: Project Muse, Johns Hopkins University Press, and many other presses have made available hundreds of books and journals for free download during COVID-19, including my books. Until May 31, 2020, The Making of Jane Austen is available for free download. If you download and read, I'd be grateful if you dropped me a line to tell me what you thought of it--or tell readers on Amazon, Goodreads, or BookBub? Hope you are staying safe and healthy, and I look forward to being in touch again in the coming weeks.
Check out my just-published piece, "Five Myths About Jane Austen," in the Washington Post. It's in the March 8th print paper on p. B3, too. Want a sneak peak? The five myths that emerged were . . .