UTK Celebrates AustenFest April 5-7

This week, April 5-7, The UT AuthorFest series presents the long-anticipated AustenFest, a three-day celebration of the work and the Regency world of Jane Austen, whose characters, including Elizabeth Bennett, Mr. Darcy, Emma Woodhouse, and Catherine Moreland, are among the most beloved in English literature.

AustenFest events will range from public lectures by Austen scholars Peter Sabor (McGill University) and Devoney Looser (Arizona State University), to a marathon reading of Austen’s greatest scenes and a Regency Ball with English Country dancing and desserts.

Although the festival itself will occur from April 5-7, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus has participated in Austen-related activities throughout the semester. In February and March, the Clarence Brown Theatre presented Susanna Centlivre’s The Busy Body , a 1709 comedy by a playwright Austen loved. First editions of Austen’s works and related items from UT’s Special Collections will also continue to be on display in Hodges Library throughout the month of April.

All events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise noted.
AustenFest Poster

AustenFest Event Schedule

Sunday, April 2

Wednesday, April 5

  • 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM: Film screening of Emma
    L&N STEM Academy Lawn
    401 Henley St, Knoxville, TN 37902
    Reading tent and old-fashioned games for children. Seating provided, parking available in the lower KMA lot, free admission, concessions available for a modest price.

Thursday, April 6

All events will take place in the John C. Hodges Library
(Parking available in Volunteer Hall 1525 White Ave.)

  • 3:30 PM: Austen Special Collections Presentation
    Chris Caldwell, Humanities Librarian
    Special Collections
  • 4 PM: Public Lecture: “Jane Austen and the Common Reader: Contemporary Responses to Emma
    Peter Sabor, Professor
    Department of English at McGill University
    Lindsay Young Auditorium
  • 4:45 PM: Announcement of essay contest winners
  • 5:00 PM: Afternoon tea
    Jack Reese Galleria, Hodges Library (RSVP online)

Friday, April 7

  • 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM and 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM Tea Blending Workshops with Julia Matson of Bingley’s Teas
    The tea blending workshops cost $25 (to be paid during the workshop), and places must be reserved in advance.  These are limited to 25 people per session. (RSVP Online).
  • 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM: Marathon reading of Jane Austen’s greatest scenes
    Lindsay Young Auditorium, Hodges Library
  • 4:00 PM: Public Lecture: “The Making of Jane Austen”
    Devoney Looser, Professor
    Department of English at Arizona State University
    McClung Tower, Room 1210
    (Parking available in Volunteer Hall 1525 White Ave.)
  • 7:30 PM: Regency Ball, with dance demonstrations, teaching, and English Country dancing and desserts for all (RSVP online)
    Southern Depot, 306 W Depot Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902

Ongoing events

  • Jane Austen Essay Contest – UPDATED
    Undergraduate DEADLINE March 15
    High School DEADLINE February 27 
  • April 3 to May 5, 2017
    Display of Jane Austen first editions and memorabilia
    Special Collections, John C. Hodges Library

For more information, please email, follow #AustenFest, or visit the Austenfest event page on UTK’s Department of English website.

Susan Lanser to Speak at UTK

On Tuesday, March 21, the Transatlantic 18th Century Seminar will host Susan Lanser (Brandeis), who will give a lecture titled “Lesbian Modernity: Sapphic Subjects from Absolutism to Austen.” Her talk will be held in 1210 McClung Tower from 4-5 pm.

Professor Lanser has published widely on narrative theory and the novel, with a particular interest in women writers, eighteenth-century European studies, and gender and sexuality studies. She is the author of The Sexuality of History: Modernity and the Sapphic 1565-1830 (Chicago, 2014) and co-editor with Robyn W. Warhol of Narrative Theory Unbound: Queer and Feminist Interventions (Ohio State, 2015).

Lanser Lecture Poster

Ghislaine McDayter to speak at UTK on Feb. 13

This Monday, January 13, Ghislaine McDayter (Bucknell University) will give a talk titled “The Anatomy of Flirtation” at 3:30 pm in 1210 McClung Tower.

The following is an abstract of her talk:
The finished coquettes of the Regency period were remarkable for their tendency to berate themselves for their unseemly and immodest behavior, to curse their faulty education which ignited flirtatious desires without teaching the essential lessons of self-discipline, and to vow reformation – after this one, last erotic conquest. But while these earlier coquettes might have fretted and regretted their behavior through the voluminous pages of their stories, there was a new coquettish heroine about to take their place, and she would have no such torturous self-doubts. This was a new breed of coquette, soon to be nominated the ‘Flirt” in order to make a distinction between the angst-ridden behavior of her ancestral sisters, and a new species of woman who, far from regretting her coquettish tendencies, revels in her “natural” powers of seduction. This coquette, we are assured, is not a creature of her environment, but rather of evolution and biological necessity. By the late nineteenth-century the flirt has come into her own as the “natural” representative of feminine perfection. The wit of an eighteenth-century’s Lady Susan – a woman who charms with her brilliant conversation — has been replaced by the dimpled, blushing perfections of a Cynthia Kirkpatrick or a Rosamund Vincy. What this talk will show is how, by the Victorian period, the flirtatious “word” has become flesh.


Ghislaine McDayter is a Professor of English at Bucknell University and author of Byromania: Byron and the Birth of Celebrity Culture. She is currently finishing a book length project on 18th and 19th century flirtation and feminism entitled, Licentious Tyrants: Feminism and Flirtation in 18th and 19th Century British Literature, and serving as one of 5 editors on a new digital edition of Byron’s Manfred under the direction of Jerome McGann. She is also completing an essay for inclusion in the Cambridge University Press edition of Byron edited by Clara Tuite.

Staci Poston Conner’s Chapter on Joyce Carol Oates Recently Published

Staci Poston Conner, UTK graduate student and member of the Nineteenth Century British Research Seminar, recently published a chapter titled “‘We are Beasts and This is Our Consolation’: Fairy Tale Revision and Combination in Joyce Carol Oates’s Beasts” in the 2016 collection Children’s and Young Adult Literature and Culture: A Mosaic of Criticism.

Conner’s fascinating chapter considers how Joyce Carol Oates’ Beasts (2001) blends fairy tale tropes and mythological archetypes in order to present a gothic revision of a well-known coming-of-age/sexual awakening story. The novella begins with undertones of a Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast plot—the protagonist, Gillian, fits the role of a “chosen one” or special girl selected by the “other” (a Prince or Beast or combination of both) as a love interest and thereby enters a new, magical existence that seems to vastly improve her previous life. However, the story soon merges Cinderella/Beauty with Bluebeard, placing the protagonist in a situation of impending danger. In using certain fairy tale archetypes, Conner argues, Oates dismantles expectations in presenting a new, feminist, gothic version of a coming-of-age/sexual awakening story. She deconstructs the male-rescuer archetype in presenting a female protagonist on a trajectory from helplessness to self-reliance. In doing so, she also subverts gender expectations by presenting the prince/beast as a married male/female couple rather than a single male. Examining this, Conner claims, provides a new lens through which to view Oates’s largely unexamined novella, placing it within the canon of contemporary, revisionary fairy tales that trace young female characters’ coming-of-age narratives while offering different ways to investigate questions of identity, growth, and change.

Caroline Wilkinson’s Journal Article on George Eliot Recently Published

UTK PhD candidate Caroline Wilkinson’s “The ‘Former Sun’ in the Sidereal Clock: The Kabbalistic Heavens and Time in The Spanish Gypsy and Daniel Deronda” was recently featured in the first 2016 issue of George Eliot-George Henry Lewes Studies journal.

Wilkinson’s thought-provoking article considers the importance of astrology and Judaism to George Eliot’s fiction. According to Wilkinson, in both her epic poem The Spanish Gypsy and her final novel Daniel Deronda, Eliot drew upon kabbalistic concepts of the heavens through the characters of Jewish mystics. In the later novel, however, Eliot moved the mystic, Mordecai, from the narrative’s periphery to its center. This change, argues Wilkinson, symbolically equated within the novel to a shift from geocentricism to heliocentrism, affects time in Daniel Deronda both in terms of plot and historical focus. Not only does time slow as Mordecai assumes a central role, the astral imagery begins to draw upon a medieval past when Jewish thinkers explored interdisciplinary concepts of the heavens. This essay argues for the centrality of the astronomical imagery in relation to the Jewish themes of Daniel Deronda and shows through its analysis of The Spanish Gypsy how Eliot employed kabbalistic ideas of the skies in an attempt to create a new vision of star-crossed love for literature.

Check out the entire article in the 2016 George Eliot-George Henry Lewes Studies journal, volume 68, number 1!

Robin Barrow to Present at the 2017 MLA Convention in January

Senior Lecturer Robin Barrow will be giving a presentation on Friday, January 6 at the 2017 MLA Annual Convention in Philadelphia.

Barrow’s presentation, titled “Active Victimhood in the Indian Rebellion of 1857,” will be featured in a special conference session on “Framing the Rape Victim in the Long Nineteenth Century.”
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In her presentation, she will address issues of victimhood and agency in the contemporary rhetoric surrounding the Indian Rebellion of 1857. When Sepoy soldiers mutinied against their officers and roused a general rebellion in the Indian countryside in May 1857, reports in the Victorian press included horrifically detailed accounts of the rape and murder of Englishwomen. Though victims of sexual violence, these women were not necessarily passive nor without agency. Mingled within sensationalized accounts of their assaults in the Victorian press were also tales of resistance. The stories of Margaret Wheeler and the family of Alexander Skene emphasized English heroism as enacted by both men and women, and when the voices of slaughtered and defiled women were appropriated as war propaganda, England’s response was fierce. Based on a consideration of fiction, news reports, and poetry between 1857 and 1859, Barrow will offer a model of victimization that is not commensurate with passivity, and thus intersects with Mardorrossian’s project “to reconceptualize the word ‘victimization’ and to produce a more capacious notion of agency.” While this active victimhood subverted contemporary notions of agency, it reinforced traditional models of gender rather than destabilizing them.

Susan Wolfson to Speak at UTK on Nov. 3

On Thursday, November 3, invited speaker Susan Wolfson will deliver a lecture titled “Form without Formalism” at 3:30 pm in 1210 McClung Tower.

In the Romantic era, poets exercised form in ways irreducible to socio-historical context or thematic paraphrase, turning poetry into a critical, and often self-critical, practice. In this lecture, Professor Wolfson will look at modern debates over poetic form and suspicion about formalism while resisting the influential polemics against New Criticism – not to deny the value of historicism, but to advocate for the revelatory refinements of close reading.

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Susan Wolfson, a professor of English at Princeton University, is one of the foremost advocates of what has been dubbed the “New Formalism” and she has published widely in the field of Romantic poetry and novels. Besides her numerous articles, she is the author of Reading John Keats(Cambridge UP, 2015); Romantic Interactions: Social Being & the Turns of Literary Action (Johns Hopkins UP, 2010); Borderlines: The Shiftings of Gender in British Romanticism (Stanford UP, 2006); Formal Charges: The Shaping of Poetry in British Romanticism (Stanford UP, 1997); The Questioning Presence: Wordsworth, Keats, and the Interrogative Mode in Romantic Poetry (Cornell UP, 1986). She has also edited editions of works by Austen, Byron, Coleridge, Keats, Felicia Hemans, and Mary Shelley, among others, as well as been a leader in reviving interest in and study of women poets of the Romantic period.

In addition to her lecture, Wolfson will be joining us on Friday, November 4, from 11:45-1:30 in 1210 McClung, for a lunchtime seminar for graduate students and faculty in which a pre-circulated piece by Professor Wolfson will serve as a jumping point for discussion.

Professor Wolfson has been invited as the final distinguished scholar for the University of Tennessee-Knoxville English department’s Literature Speaker Series.