by Carly Schnitzler, Graduate Communications Editor
At this fall’s Welcome Reception for the English and Comparative Literature, the Jane Austen Summer Program (JASP), organized by ECL faculty Dr. Inger Brodey and Dr. James Thompson, received the Harlan Joel Gradin Award for Excellence in Public Humanities. Awarded by the North Carolina Humanities Council, the Harlan Joel Gradin Award honors “significant, imaginative, Council funded public humanities projects that reflect and affirm the Council’s mission.” The Jane Austen Summer Program was recognized for its educator capacity-building efforts, a key component of the mission of the North Carolina Humanities Council. Since its inception in 2013, the JASP has awarded free admission to 22 teachers from 19 counties across the state.
The JASP is an annual 4-day summer symposium that focuses on one of Austen’s works each summer and is “designed to appeal to established scholars, high school teachers, graduate students, undergraduate students, and anyone with a passion for all things Austen.” In bringing together UNC faculty, students, and community educators, the program is a testament to the power of public humanities in fostering collaborative relationships around a shared interest in a seminal intellectual and cultural work. High school educator and JASP attendee Crystal Hester said of the program, “As a 12th grade English teacher, it is always a challenge to find classic works that will appeal to my students; JASP gave me the opportunity to explore not only the literature but also the culture and history of the period. I have shared the experience with several other teachers and have encouraged them to attend in the future because it was such an enriching experience. From being able to talk with experts in the literature to lovers of the time period, I received an education like none other.” In addition to seminars, rare book library tours, and lectures on the annual topic of the Program, the JASP concludes in a Regency Ball, complete with period costumes and dances. This capstone ball gives attendees a chance to experience Austen in a fun and exciting way that stays true to Regency-era celebrations.
This summer, the theme of the Jane Austen Summer Program was “Northanger Abbey and Frankenstein,” a nod to the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein and its relationship to the seminal Austen work that preceded it. The program considered the two classic novels in their historical contexts as well as their afterlives in fiction and film. Program Director Dr. Inger Brodey notes, “both Austen in Northanger Abbey and Shelley in Frankenstein react eloquently to the gothic taste in literature and have similar commentary on the frightening results of the French Revolution. Bringing the authors’ works together [allowed] us to explore their revolutionary legacy, both in terms of literary innovation and social change.” Next summer, the JASP will explore “Pride and Prejudice and Its Afterlives” on June 20-23, 2019. For more information on attending this award-winning summer program, click here.