Austen-tatious Day!

C. Krabak '19

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Juniors Nina Martineck, Esther Nyakato, and Emily Cauley.

On December 15, 2017, Nardin Academy students and faculty gathered together for an exciting day of activity to celebrate the timeless work of Jane Austen and to commemorate the 200th anniversary of her death. After assembling in the gym to watch the 2005 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the Nardin community spent the day immersed in a variety of workshops straight out of the Regency Era. Thanks to the hard work put in by both teachers and guest speaker Dr. Kim Simpson, Austen-tatious Day proved to be a major success as students learned about the societal standards that eighteenth-century female authors had to overcome in order to make their voices heard.

Born on December 16, 1775 in Steventon, Hampshire, Jane Austen stands as one of the most renowned female literary pioneers in history. Known best for her six published novels, Austen based the majority of her work on subjects like the importance of social standing and the use of marriage as an economic tool in Regency culture. Following the experiences of strong female characters, Austen’s novels thoroughly criticize the superficial value placed on the women of her time period and their dependency on marriage for economic stability; though her novels are pertinent to the Regency Era, they often exhibit timeless themes. After at first being denied publication by several editors, Austen remained determined and went on to publish Sense and Sensibility, her first novel, anonymously. Wildly successful, the book prompted the later publication of other works including Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. Defying the gender stereotypes of her time, Jane Austen serves as a role model for all young women to pursue what they love and promote change in a world still plagued by inequality.

With Austen’s spirit in mind, students and faculty gathered in the gym to watch the film adaptation of her second novel Pride and Prejudice for the first half of the day. Snuggled under blankets and snacking on homemade scones (courtesy of Chef Julie), everyone watched as Elizabeth Bennet, the female lead, defied the social customs of her time in order it stay true to her values and learned a priceless lesson by overcoming her prejudice. Receiving a round of applause, the movie separked excitement for the rest of the day. Afterwards, students broke off into groups to participate in interactive workshops that focused on different aspects of Regency culture; the Nardin community enjoyed a variety of activities including ballroom dancing, a virtual reality simulation that transported participants to scenes from Austen’s books, and a session where students drank tea while discussing the do’s and don’ts of courtship during Austen’s time. Finally, after enjoying a lunch of comforting shepherd’s pie, faculty and students once again gathered in the gym to listen to Dr. Kim Simpson, Postdoctoral Fellow at Chawton House Library and Lecturer in Eighteenth Century Literature, speak about Jane Austen’s legacy and the lasting inspiration of Austen’s work for young women everywhere.

Overall, Austen-tatious Day received positive feedback. To get a better feel of the community’s experience, I sent out a survey to students and interviewed several staff members:

 

Meera Herle (‘20)

What was your favorite part about Austen-tatious Day?

“I thought the whole day was well balanced because it was nice and peaceful to just watch the movie in the morning, but then the activities in the afternoon were also super for and more engaging.”

What did you take away from Austen-tatious Day?

“I realized how far the writings of Jane Austen have reached, and I gained a greater appreciation for, not only Austen, but also women like her who were pioneers in literature.”

 

Annelise Wall (‘21)

What was your favorite part about Austen-tatious Day?

“I liked learning about Austen’s time period while using modern technology to facilitate the process. I was interested by the speaker, she kept me listening the whole time. And the scones. Loved those.”

What did you take away from Austen-tatious Day?

“I definitely feel like I gained a lot of knowledge from the event. Not only did I learn new things, I also got to spend a relaxing day with friends and talk to new people.”

 

Maura Ende (‘19)

What was your favorite part about Austen-tatious Day?

Even though it’s hard to choose the number one highlight of Austen-tatious Day, I definitely loved the unique nature of the day. We have never had such a wonderful, eventful day. From the scones in the morning to the introduction to Chinese calligraphy to the riveting presentation in the afternoon – it was such a fresh, fun day!

What did you take away from Austen-tatious Day?

I learned so much about Jane Austen and her amazing life, full of astonishing accomplishments. The day was really a beautiful affirmation of Girl Power and feminism. Like Jane Austen, we women really can do anything we set our minds to, even if certain men tell us otherwise (and, while we’re at it, we might even excel past the men trying to pull us down).

 

Ms. Boltri:

What was your favorite part about Austen-tatious Day?

“I really enjoyed our sessions. We did the guided meditation and I really enjoyed that with the students, and I also really loved lunch.”

What did you take away from Austen-tatious Day?

“I think I took away a sense that the message of Jane Austen is very relevant today and that girls can be very much inspired by what she has to say.”

 

Mrs. Robertson:

What was your favorite part about Austen-tatious Day?

“I loved seeing all you girls coming together, having this sort of collective collaboration of one thing, but all in separate parts, and all these separate parts seem to be moving in the right direction. I just thought it was a nice way to celebrate Austen’s work, and doing that as a school is great. I think it’s nice having [these days] where you have one target and we’re all working towards the same goal while learning something in between.”

What did you take away from Austen-tatious Day?

“I gained a better sense of how much of an independent thinker she was. Going back to her history and going back to some of the things I read in college, I think it was nice to have a better study of [her history]. She was a strong independent thinker and I think we generally dismiss that from a woman who was writing in the 18th century.”

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