When Austen died on 18 July 1817, her death caused only a very small ripple in literary circles, but 200 years after her death Austen’s works are showing no signs of dying off.
What is it about Austen that still attracts readers – and what made Jane Austen ‘tick’ and inspired her writing success?
In a bid to fathom the enduring appeal, Flinders University’s School of Humanities and Creative Arts is staging the Immortal Austen Conference in Adelaide in July.
Along with a range of public events, academic papers and workshops with a mainly literary focus, there will be an entire day of events focusing on music in Austen’s life and work.
The world-renowned English novelist Jane Austen was a devoted amateur pianist – according to her niece Caroline she started every day with music.
A large collection of the music she played and sang survives, some printed but some copied by hand into her own manuscript books.
Conference convenor and Flinders English literature expert Dr Gillian Dooley has been researching Austen’s sheet music collection for the past decade, and has presented several programs selected from the collection in a variety of venues in Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and the UK.
The Immortal Austen Conference music program will begin at 10am on Sunday 16 July with an illustrated public lecture by renowned musicologist and performer Professor Geoffrey Lancaster. He will give a talk on the early piano and its place in English domestic music culture.
In the afternoon, a concert of ‘Dirges and Sad Ditties’ will be presented by Dr Dooley along with fellow Adelaide musicians Nicola Hardie-Beveridge (soprano), Alistair Knight (piano) and Christopher Rawlinson (violin), as well as piano music featuring NZ pianist and academic Kirstine Moffat.
The program includes laments for lost lovers and doomed queens by C.W. Gluck, Stephen Storace and Thomas Moore, bracing songs about soldiers and sailors by Charles Dibdin and Samuel Arnold, and a dramatic ballad about the dying revenge of a spurned maiden by Tommaso Giordani. Other composers on the program include James Hook, Giovanni Paisiello, and Georgiana Cavendish.
Public bookings for the concert can be made here.
In addition to these public events, a panel discussion of music, gender and class in Austen’s novels led by Kirstine Moffat, Dr Dooley, and eminent Austen expert John Wiltshire will be on the conference program on 16 July.
Other Flinders University academics and conference convenors Associate Professor Amy Matthews and Dr Eric Parisot are supporting the varied and engaging program to commemorate the bicentenary of Austen’s death.
Immortal Austen July 13 to 16 will open with a public lecture by Australian writer Andrea Goldsmith titled ‘Never Leave Home Without Her’ and a creative writing workshop by New York Times bestselling Australian romance writer Stephanie Laurens.
Devoney Looser, Professor of English at Arizona State University, US, will also launch her latest book The Making of Jane Austen.
Other conference speakers will cover the enduring appeal of Mr Darcy as well as contemporary film and fiction adaptations.
In association with the conference, the University of Adelaide JM Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice will present a screening of the film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with an introductory talk by the Centre’s Director Jennifer Rutherford.