Jane Austen fans descending on Twin Cities this weekend

Jane Austen
English novelist Jane Austen from an original family portrait.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Later this week, "Janeites" — the term used to describe fans of Jane Austen — will arrive in the Twin Cities for the Jane Austen Society of North America's annual general meeting.

This year is special for Austen fans as they celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of "Pride and Prejudice." The conference includes dance and bonnet decoration workshops to prepare for Saturday's ball.

The Janeites are a unique group, often compared to Star Trek or Harry Potter fanatics. Conventions include elaborate costumes, fan fiction and tea parties to celebrate the author.

From the BBC:

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It's a curious phenomenon when one considers that Austen won little fame in her own lifetime, dying aged 41 in 1817 with only six novels to her name...

For all that her stories can be by turns bleak and waspish, however, it's the romance of Austen's world that many Janeites say drew them in.

"There's a longing for the elegance of the time," says Myretta Robens, who manages one of the most popular US Austen fan sites, The Republic of Pemberley. "It's an escape."

Ahead of the gathering, we speak with two Austen scholars about why her work has endured.


Jane Austen's Home
The home of novelist Jane Austen (1775 - 1817) in Chawton, near Alton, Hampshire, which is now a museum.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Jane Austen: Strictly ballroom
For Jane Austen's heroines a ball is a rare chance to mingle with the opposite sex. Now a BBC reconstruction of the Netherfield dance reveals the rigid social conventions that governed regency life. (The Guardian)

The 200-Year Jane Austen Book Club
Although "Pride and Prejudice" continues to circulate in the somber black associated with Penguin Classics, especially in classrooms, the novel has recently been reissued in a dazzling array of colorful outfits. In 2009, Penguin began offering "Pride and Prejudice" in a designer-cloth hardback, which decorative retailers like Anthropologie sold as home decor. (New York Times)

Slideshow: 200 Years of 'Pride and Prejudice'
Even when it comes to the high-minded business of literature, people do judge books by their covers, and covers may be especially important when it comes to the classics. (New York Times)

Five great Jane Austen film adaptations in honor of 'Austenland' (some looser than others) (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Love for Jane Austen unwaning
Even though she died in 1817, Austen still makes news: The Bank of England recently stirred controversy with its decision to put her image on the 10-pound note, replacing Charles Darwin. And the government also recently blocked the export of a turquoise Austen ring purchased by American singer Kelly Clarkson at auction last year for $237,000. The Jane Austen's House Museum is raising money to buy the ring from Clarkson to keep one of the few existing artifacts known to have belonged to Austen in the writer's native country. (Tampa Bay Times)

John Mullan on Austen:

Janine Barchas on Austen book covers: