Written by Gabrielle Lesage
Jane Austen’s novels have endured the test of time and remain popular after over 200 years. I have explored this idea in an article I wrote for the Jane Austen Centre back in the summer, and for QUEUC I would like to revisit this idea since I am planning a Jane Austen themed event for the conference. The reason there will be a small Austen Celebration is because 2017 will be the 200th anniversary of our beloved author’s death (or “deathiversary”, if you will). We will take some time to commemorate her life, her works, and take a little bit of time to appreciate the impact she has had on our lives. It is a small way of saying “thank you” to the famous writer.
My fascination with this question started with my curiosity with the ways that Austen has had an impact on us. I created “The Dear Jane Project” in order to understand this. The purpose of the project is to bring people together to celebrate Austen. People around the world can submit letters written to Jane, allowing them to tell her how she is important to them. I have received letters from many countries ranging from Canada to Australia. The project is still running, but I can make a few observations with the letters I have already received to answer the question: why Austen?
For me, Jane Austen is not simply another writer. She is a friend I can talk to at the end of the day. Her characters are people I identify with, and they show me that some people are good, others are bad, and we are not perfect human beings. I think what I love most about her novels is the fact they are realistic; she does not shy away from the realities of life. Her novels have allowed me to view the world differently, and view myself differently too. I identify with some of her main heroines, and it is refreshing to see that, like me, they have flaws. It may seem like I am rambling, but Jane Austen has had an important impact on my life that I will never forget.
Letters submitted by people around the world have shown me a new perspective on the importance of Austen novels. They have brought people together, helped people in a time of turmoil, and helped someone find out who they are. The beauty of Austen is that she doesn’t just have one way of having an effect on lives. In whatever situation people find themselves in, Austen’s novels provide a safe and comfortable place. They allow people to escape their troubles and delve into another world where they can meet memorable characters that people see themselves in. They give people the chance to connect and bond. It has power.
I am hoping that in time more people will submit letters in order to enrich our understanding. Seeking the truth is a continuing quest that I am more than happy to take on.
If you are interested in submitting a letter, or would like to read letters people have submitted, please visit: www.dearjaneproject.wordpress.com. I hope we can go on this journey of exploration together!
I cannot wait to see you at the conference!