Beyond the Bit of Ivory: Jane Austen and Diversity.
The police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others and the pandemic that has disproportionately killed along racial lines have shocked the world into a confrontation of inequities resulting from individual behavior, institutional design, and even attachment to limited and comfortable perspectives. It’s time for the community of those involved in the scholarship and discussion of Jane Austen and her world to examine the limited ways in which we understand Jane Austen’s writing and the world of which she was a part and the limited ways we write and talk about those subjects. This special issue of Persuasions On-Line, to be coedited by Danielle Christmas and Susan Allen Ford, hopes to explore Austen through the perspective of race—as well as how other forms of inequity related to ethnicity, gender identity and orientation, ability/disability, culture, and class might intersect with or inform those perspectives.
It’s been forty-five years since Donald Greene described “the myth of limitation” dominating both the scholarship and the popular image of Jane Austen. The years since have expanded our understanding of Austen’s rootedness in and responsiveness to many dimensions of her larger culture. And at the same time the audience for Austen’s writing has grown—partly due to the popularity of film and televised adaptations. But there’s more for us to do. It’s rarer than it used to be to take seriously Austen’s own self-mocking, miniaturized description of her work as the “little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour.” But we must pay attention to that metaphor, to those bits of ivory—not merely to the artistry that decorates the smooth white surfaces but to what lies beneath those painted images, to where the bits of ivory originate. How can we achieve a fuller understanding of what’s painted on the surface, what’s beneath that has been obscured? What other metaphors for Austen’s extraordinary art might be more helpful, more inclusive? How and why can we still celebrate her artistic achievement and articulate the value of reading and studying her works today more than ever?
Topics might include:
- Jane Austen and race
- Jane Austen and the challenging absence of diversity
- The whiteness of Jane Austen
- Imperialism or cultural imperialism
- Colonial expansion and exploitation
- Austen and abolition or the slave trade
- Adaptations, particularly those that move the novels to other racial or ethnic communities
- Austen’s work in terms of disability studies
- Diversity in Austen scholarship
- Teaching or discussing Jane Austen with minority/minoritized constituents
- Fandom and diversity
Other approaches are welcome.
This special issue of Persuasions On-Line (41.2) will be coedited by Danielle Christmas and Susan Allen Ford. Please address inquiries to Susan Allen Ford, Editor, at email@example.com. Submissions of 2500-4000 words should be sent on or before January 15, 2021; the issue will be published in the summer of 2021. The journal’s style guide may be found at http://www.jasna.org/publications/persuasions/submissions/persuasions-style-sheet/.