UVM professor Eric Lindstrom speaks about Austen’s novel ‘Sandition’
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 18:04
Soft chamber music, peppermint bonbons, cucumber sandwiches and steaming cups of English breakfast tea were used to transport a community of Jane Austen fans to rural 19th century England.
The Hauke Conference Center at Champlain College held an event for the Vermont chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) April 15. “Janeites,” or declared Austen enthusiasts, gathered to celebrate a shared admiration for a beloved writer.
The sunny afternoon event began with students and JASNA members filling up their plates and mugs, and standing in tea-drinking circles to speak with fellow Austen enthusiasts.
Others milled about the tables of Austen memorabilia items for sale, which included calendars, paper dolls, bookmarks and notecards.
Deb Barnum, JASNA-Vermont regional coordinator, introduced the event and UVM professor Eric Lindstrom, event speaker.
Lindstrom’s talk, “How to Love Sanditon,” revolved around Austen’s last and unfinished novel, “Sanditon.” Editor R. W. Chapman first published the 11-chapter manuscript in 1925, more than a century after Austen’s death in 1817.
He began his talk with Austen related interviews and pictures. Among them was a watercolor of Austen painted by her sister, Cassandra, in which Austen is seen only from the back.
“The history and mystery of this faceless Jane contributes to the appeal of this visual representation of the novelist,” Lindstrom said.
For a novel boasting a brief 50 pages, “Sanditon” offers an unavoidable contrast to the marriage plot typically found in Austen novels. The absence of this plot leaves room for readers to study Austen’s temperament, he said.
“In Sanditon, we find a more ironic vision — a book that might leave Austen readers cold,” Lindstrom said in his opening remarks. “In the novel, two towns echo one another, a trait indicative of the changing English national character.”
The novel’s characters themselves are caricatures, and the thematic obsession with illness and the decaying body can be seen as contributing to what Lindstrom depicted as the “menacing” mood of the novel.
He described “Sanditon” as having an understanding beyond its limitations in England.
“Even the name ‘Sanditon’ wsuggests an ‘un-foundational’ place,” Lindstrom said.
Austen, he pointed out, is discreet in the novel: she had to pretend the world was better than it was at the time.
The JASNA branch of Vermont hosts many events throughout the year, including talks and an annual birthday tea in honor of Austen.