Among the Janeites: A Journey through the World of Jane Austen Fandom
Reviewed by Melanie Asmar
Melanie Asmar is a newspaper reporter and freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado.
When she was young, Deborah Yaffe ’87 thought she was the only one. It wasn’t until she took a weekend off during her first semester at Yale to attend the 1983 convention of the Jane Austen Society of North America that she realized there are many, many others who, like her, feel a personal connection with an author who lived two centuries ago—but whose stories of romance and relationships still resonate with people who’ve never worn a corset or accepted a marriage proposal from a near-stranger.
Yaffe also discovered that not all Janeites, as Jane Austen devotees are called, are the same. In her book Among the Janeites, she introduces us to fans who express their devotion in a multitude of ways: by writing erotic Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, for instance, or by investing in closetfuls of high-waisted gowns. Some of Yaffe’s Janeites are scholarly, teaching college courses on Austen’s works and editing volumes of literary criticism. Others are rich; Yaffe tells the story of an American woman who made it big in the tech industry and then spent $20 million turning Austen’s brother’s English estate into a library. (The neighbors had feared a theme park or lesbian commune.)
Part memoir, part journalistic exploration, Yaffe’s book is highly readable.