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Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan

by Ted Scheinman

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685314,164 (3.62)17
The son of a devoted Jane Austen scholar, Ted Scheinman spent his childhood summers eating Yorkshire pudding, singing in an Anglican choir, and watching Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy. Determined to leave his mother's world behind, he nonetheless found himself in grad school organizing the first ever UNC-Chapel Hill Jane Austen Summer Camp, a weekend-long event that sits somewhere between an academic conference and superfan extravaganza. While the long tradition of Austen devotees includes the likes of Henry James and E. M. Forster, it is at the conferences and reenactments where Janeism truly lives. In Camp Austen, Scheinman tells the story of his indoctrination into this enthusiastic world and his struggle to shake his mother's influence while navigating hasty theatrical adaptations, undaunted scholars in cravats, and unseemly petticoat fittings. In a haze of morning crumpets and restrictive tights, Scheinman delivers a hilarious and poignant survey of one of the most enduring and passionate literary coteries in history. Combining clandestine journalism with frank memoir, academic savvy with insider knowledge, Camp Austen is perhaps the most comprehensive study of Austen that can also be read in a single sitting. Brimming with stockings, culinary etiquette, and scandalous dance partners, this is summer camp like you've never seen it before.… (more)
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Showing 5 of 5
A brief memoir mixed with critical insights on Jane Austen based around Scheinman's experience as a grad student supporting the inaugural "Jane Austen summer camp" (an Austen conference/social event) in North Carolina, with a few other insights smattered from his 18 months actively participating in the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) events. Scheinman is an intriguing guide to the world of Janeites, as his mother is a well-reputed Austen scholar and he has grown up immersed in various elements of her works but isn't a true Janeite himself. His literary criticism of Austen isn't particularly original or earthshaking for those even mildly familiar with Austen studies but the recounting of his experiences at the camp are charming. A short read but one likely to entertain most Janeites. ( )
  MickyFine | Nov 12, 2020 |
I think all the previous reviewers had the same thoughts I did. The book wasn't as much about the camp as I thought it would, but I did learn more about Jane Austen in his ramblings. As my Jane Austen fandom consists of playing Jane Austen Manors on facebook and watching on occasionally movie based on the book, I think I might enjoy going to a camp like that. ( )
  eliorajoy | Aug 30, 2020 |
I would have liked this to really be more about the "camp" and the JASNA meetings and the people who populated them, rather than so often veering into attempts at literary criticism. The author often came off as...indulgent, like an uncle playing tea party with his nieces. There were rare moments of warmth and humanity—especially when the author was interacting with actual children—but I, personally, would have liked to see more of them. Perhaps this was a result of the author attempting to maintain some sort of journalistic detachment or the book's short length or some combination of these, but it meant that I didn't engage with the text as much as I wanted to. ( )
  BillieBook | Apr 1, 2018 |
A quick little book, with rather more of a personal focus than I had anticipated, but interesting and amusing. And I should have expected the emphasis on the author's personal experience as a “Janeite,” since he puts it right up front in his book's subtitle. After telling of his early introduction to Austen, by way of the “Juvenilia,” and of his familiarity with the world of Jane Austen enthusiasts through his mother, a college professor and Austen specialist, Scheinman moves on to tell how he became involved with Camp Austen and with the JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) group, and, for most of the book, to describe his experience as a graduate student helping host a four day “Jane Austen Summer Camp” at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

I found Scheinman a bit too self-congratulatory – apparently young men are at a premium at these gatherings and the attention and admiration he enjoyed during the convention (he played Mr. Darcy) seemed, judging by his comments, to have gone to his head. He mentioned how perfect his manners were and how nicely he “cleaned up” a few more times than I thought necessary. Still, for the most part his narration is entertaining. He offers a nice balance of background, on the “Janeites” and on various of the quirky people he meets, and description of the events as they play out over the long weekend. Two stories in particular delighted me: one about an older married couple who clearly enjoy JASNA meetings as romantic getaways and who have a tradition of pretending to “meet” each other for the first time at each JASNA ball, and the other about a sweet, tiny primary school girl who requests a dance with “Mr Darcy” at the weekend's concluding ball, and who proves to be, thanks to her early immersion in all-things-Austen, an expert dance partner.

Three and a half stars. ( )
1 vote meandmybooks | Mar 20, 2018 |
Entertaining and lightly informative look at Jane Austen fandom, revolving primarily around conferences and the costuming, balls, and theatricals that go along with them. Fun, and very good on audio, though probably not to the point where I specifically recommend the audio over reading the book in print. ( )
  lycomayflower | Mar 19, 2018 |
Showing 5 of 5
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The son of a devoted Jane Austen scholar, Ted Scheinman spent his childhood summers eating Yorkshire pudding, singing in an Anglican choir, and watching Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy. Determined to leave his mother's world behind, he nonetheless found himself in grad school organizing the first ever UNC-Chapel Hill Jane Austen Summer Camp, a weekend-long event that sits somewhere between an academic conference and superfan extravaganza. While the long tradition of Austen devotees includes the likes of Henry James and E. M. Forster, it is at the conferences and reenactments where Janeism truly lives. In Camp Austen, Scheinman tells the story of his indoctrination into this enthusiastic world and his struggle to shake his mother's influence while navigating hasty theatrical adaptations, undaunted scholars in cravats, and unseemly petticoat fittings. In a haze of morning crumpets and restrictive tights, Scheinman delivers a hilarious and poignant survey of one of the most enduring and passionate literary coteries in history. Combining clandestine journalism with frank memoir, academic savvy with insider knowledge, Camp Austen is perhaps the most comprehensive study of Austen that can also be read in a single sitting. Brimming with stockings, culinary etiquette, and scandalous dance partners, this is summer camp like you've never seen it before.

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