A Janeite convention.
Jane Austen’s millions of fans worldwide continue to celebrate all things related to the author and Regency England
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “Janeite” as “an enthusiastic admirer of Jane Austen’s writings.” Anyone who is vaguely familiar with Jane Austen’s work is probably aware of the term that has been widely embraced by Austen’s fandom.
Interestingly, the term Janeite was first originated by the male literary scholar George Saintsbury in his 1894 introduction to a new edition of Austen's Pride and Prejudice. In the early 20th century, Janeitism was primarily considered a male enthusiasm shared among publishers, professors and literati. Rudyard Kipling’s 1926 short story “The Janeites” even depicts a group of World War I soldiers who were secretly fans of Austen’s novels.
Today, individuals of all genders comprise the large subculture of modern Janeites, although the majority of contemporary fans are women. The cultural phenomenon of Janeites is akin to the fandom seen with the zealous devotees of Star Trek (Trekkies) and Harry Potter (Potterheads). Besides their devotion to Austen’s literature, contemporary Janeites participate in various activities such as conventions, tea parties and balls, games, readings, dramatic representations and more. They dress in Regency costumes and write their own Austen-style fan fiction. In addition, Janeites often make travel pilgrimages to visit iconic Austen sites in England, including historic places mentioned in the author’s six novels.
Austen’s work has certainly made its mark on popular culture, and her novels continue to remain a subject of serious academic study at colleges and universities as well. Aside from the world of academia and more scholarly tomes, there have been several books published recently exploring the author and popular culture, including Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan, Among the Janeites: A Journey through the World of Jane Austen Fandom, Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures, Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location and Celebrity and Global Jane Austen: Pleasure, Passion and Possessiveness in the Jane Austen Community, to name just a few.
Although it’s been more than two hundred years since the beloved author’s death, Austen-mania—with its millions of ardent fans around the globe—continues to be a cultural force.
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