AGM Closing Speaker Rachel M. Brownstein entertained us with a lively presentation on “The Age of Caricature.”  She compared some of Jane Austen’s descriptions and actions of her characters to the irreverent and often insulting caricatures drawn by artists such as Gillray ad Rowlandson.

Rachel Brownstein on the jumbo screen

High Change in Bond Street ou la Politesse du Grand Monde
by James Gillray (1756-1815)  1796

Like the exaggerated and comical portraits of these pedestrians on London’s Bond Street, Jane Austen’s characters often embody the culture of consumption and display of her day.  She had a witty turn of phrase which often told us more about a subject than pages of intricate description. As an example, think of Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Bennet who asks ironically “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbor, and laugh at them in our turn?”

Dr. Rachel Brownstein, Professor of English at CUNY
JASNA described Dr. Brownstein’s talk in the program book: “Although her novels, famously, do not describe what characters look like, Jane Austen’s friends and family praised the skill with which she ‘sketched’ them, and we still use that metaphor…in London heterogeneous crowds gaped at the latest exhibitions in print-shop windows…”
‘All Bond Street Trembled as he strode’ by Gillray, 1802
Jane Austen did not suffer fools gladly, and she found the culture of ostentation and conspicuous consumption distasteful, mocking such qualities in her less-than-heroic characters. Think of Frank Churchill In Emma traveling to London for a haircut, or Robert Ferrars taking so long to chose a simple toothpick-case at the jeweler. Like Gillray, Rowlandson, and others, Austen was an incisive social critic.
Tales of Wonder, by Gillray, 1802
satirizing the popularity of scary Gothic novels, like Northanger Abbey
Two Penny Whist by James Gillray, 1796
making fun of card-players and gamblers 
Rowlandson: A Bill of Fare for Bond Street Epicures, 1808
by Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827)
mocking figures and fashions
Though Jane Austen rarely ventured remarks on specific political occurrences, the caricaturists loved to satirize political figures, even royalty.
“An Excrescence…a Fungus alias a Toadstool on a Dunghill”, Gillray, 1791
A favorite target was Prime Minister Pitt the Younger

Plum Pudding in Danger, Gillray, 1805
Here Pitt and Napoleon slice up the globe, aka a plum pudding

Dr. Brownstein’s talk was both significant and amusing, a perfect denouement for the 2015 JASNA AGM.

Adorning the stage was a reminder of Kentucky culture!

The hard-working AGM Coordinators Alana Gillette and Bonny Wise

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