AUSTEN-L

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Mailing List
Name: AUSTEN-L
Date(s): 2 January 1994 – present
Moderated: no
Founder(s): Jacqueline Reid-Walsh
Type: discussion
Fandom: Jane Austen
URL: AUSTEN-L, Archived version
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AUSTEN-L or Austen-L is the earliest mailing list in the Jane Austen fandom. Founded in January 1994, it is of the listserv type, based at the McGill University in Canada, and is predominantly a discussion list. Searchable online archives are available from December 1997. It remains active as of January 2014.

History

AUSTEN-L was founded in January 1994 by Jacqueline Reid-Walsh, thus pre-dating the popular BBC Pride and Prejudice adaptation of 1995. It grew rapidly, reaching an international membership of hundreds within a year.[1] In 1996, at the height of Firthmania, it was estimated to have over 800 members, with around 25 daily posts.

Topics

Discussion topics include anything related to any of Austen's works. Group reads of the novels & other works were organised in 1996–98,[2] and are repeated at intervals.

Adaptations

Discussion of the adaptations is explicitly permitted; Karen P posted in 1996:

As for the proposal that movie adaptations of the novels be excluded from the list, the discussions on AUSTEN-L are wide-ranging, taking in subjects as diverse as wedding rules and customs, china, dancing, dyes, clothing, furnishings, manners, religion, drawing, medicine, naval history and customs, and on and on and on. It is not to be expected that all list members (and I think we currently number over 800) are going to be interested in every message. Postings carry subject headings to help people decide which ones they want to read. Limiting discussion on the list to the writings of Jane Austen would be less complicated, I dare say, but it would not be near so much like AUSTEN-L.[3]

Despite this, Henry Churchyard (compiler of the list's de facto FAQ) states Hollywood gossip about the actors who appear in the films, or declarations of admiration for Colin Firth's derrière, are less welcome.[2] The P&P2BB message board (later the nucleus of The Republic of Pemberley) span off from AUSTEN-L in July 1996 to facilitate discussion of the 1995 P&P adaptation aka "P&P2".[4] Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom quotes Amy B., founder of P&P2BB, as saying:

You had this invasion of this scholarly literature list by all these fans of the movie ... We were all holding back. We wanted to feel free to gush over Colin Firth's portrayal, but we felt that these academics might be looking down their noses at us.[1]

Fanworks

Fanfiction does not appear to have ever been posted to the list, although occasional story recommendations were posted.[5]

Fanny Price Wars

According to Churchyard:

Without a doubt, the most disputed topic on AUSTEN-L is: --
Miss Fanny Price
The heroine of Mansfield Park has always been a controversial topic on AUSTEN-L, and we have had periodic "Fanny Price wars", which one should avoid exacerbating needlessly and gratuitously. Therefore if you have just subscribed, and are new to the list, then it would be advisable, before you post any standing questions or urgent reflections about Miss Price, to take into account the current state of any discussions of the topic on the list, and especially whether or not a "Fanny Price war" has just ended (in such a case, your posting may serve to fan the dying embers of argument into fresh flames, just when many list members were beginning to breathe a sigh of relief); to check on this, you can retrieve or search the list archives. Meanwhile, you should be careful about casually throwing around words such as the following in reference to Miss Price: "insignificant", "moralizing prig", "feeble", "dull", or "nebbish" -- not because these are necessarily objectively wrong, but because on AUSTEN-L they are what the U.S. Supreme court has termed "fighting words".[2]

Reviews

Excerpts from a long review by academic Sandra Thompson in 1996:

...The contributors to the list, who reside in a variety of English speaking countries around the globe, come mostly from non-academic institutions. The discussions, however, are almost always informative with carefully constructed posts from all the members.

Although a list concerned with such a popular author ... has many members who are lurkers, a good number and variety of members post comments. The list is fairly active with an average of 25 posts a day. Individual topic threads do not usually continue for a long time, but may generate more than a few interesting responses.

Scholarly credentials are not necessary, but list members are expected to have read all of Jane Austen's novels. They should be warned that seeing a few movies based on her works is not enough preparation to fully contribute to the list. As a result, questions about plot summaries are not tolerated, although general questions about Austen's minor works and letters are welcomed. ...

...The most entertaining and informative feature of the list is its chapter-by-chapter discussions of Austen's novels. ... This online book group is a hobby for most, a way to spend time discussing the works of their favorite author in an understanding and encouraging environment. Although discussion never delves into critical interpretations of the texts, it does seem to offer some insight into the novels for most of the list members.

Recently, probably a result from the recent number of films released adapted from Austen's works, members have made many posts relating to the individual movies. These posts range from comments made on the way the screenplay was adapted from the original novel's text or the authenticity of the movie's set and wardrobe to posts offering a recommendation of the film or effusive worship of a actor playing a male lead character role. For the most part, the posts related to the films are helpful and members' recommendations and comments are to be highly considered.

Rarely do the posts take an overly scholarly tone, although often members will cite sources and give quotations when supporting their assertions. Members will rarely ask for information on research sources or critical literary interpretation, instead members will post their opinions about a passage or a character and will welcome others to give their own opinions in return.[6]

A brief fannish review by Ann Haker/Margaret D.:

The Austen-L is an ongoing e-mail discussion forum for all things Austen. It is one of the most scholarly internet-based Janeite forums. They engage in many discussions at once and are usually engaged in a careful reading of one of the novels.[7]

Resources

A huge amount of information about the list in 1998 (originally compiled by Henry Churchyard) is available here [8] at The Republic of Pemberley.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Yaffe, Deborah. Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom pp. 185–187
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The Republic of Pemberley: The AUSTEN-L Mailing List (accessed 29 January 2014) Archived December 16, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Post dated Sat, 14 Sep 1996 12:44:19; quoted at The AUSTEN-L Mailing List (accessed 29 January 2014) Archived December 16, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  4. The Republic of Pemberley: FAQ (accessed 29 January 2014) Archived December 15, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  5. For example, AUSTEN-L: The Bits of Ivory (9 December 1999)
  6. The E-List: Resource Reviews for Teachers of Writing: List Review of AUSTEN-L (accessed 29 January 2014) Archived August 24, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Austen.com: Links to Jane Austen on the Web (accessed 29 January 2014) Archived August 28, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  8. "The AUSTEN-L Mailing List". Archived from the original on 2014-12-16.