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Otago hosts Jane Austen 200

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 10:00am

Jane Austen 200 Dunedin organiser Jane Reynolds: Photo: Sharron Bennett.

Professor Paul Tankard will kick off the University’s commemorations of the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death this evening with a talk exploring the times, life, works and legacy of the 18th century novelist.

Jane Austen 200 Dunedin is a series of talks, organised by Regency Era enthusiast and Brain Health Research Centre Administrative Assistant Jane Reynolds. The talks will cover Jane Austen herself and her books, and also Regency fashion, law and medicine. They will be held every Tuesday from today through to 17 October.

Mrs Reynolds says Jane Austen 200 is being celebrated in England, and other places around the world – and that she felt Otago should also take part. She contacted international Jane Austen expert Emerita Professor Jocelyn Harris of English and Linguistics, who encouraged her to take the lead.

"Although she died 200 years ago, Austen’s work is still fresh. In fact, she becomes more popular the longer she is dead!"

“Of course once I started organising a programme, because I’m not an academic or working in Humanities, I thought that the academics I was approaching might think I had an awful cheek to be impinging on their territory. But everyone has been amazingly encouraging and supportive of this endeavour,” she says.

“People outside the University have been very interested in it too. Jane Austen has a very large following, even people who haven’t read her books. There are countless adaptations for TV and movies, many relying on her own dialogue. In 2016 alone there were five motion picture films of her works or based on her works!"

The commemorations will end with a Jane Austen ball at Labour Weekend.

“Although she died 200 years ago, Austen’s work is still fresh. In fact, she becomes more popular the longer she is dead! Her work is able to be reimagined in different countries (Bride and Prejudice) and with pop culture (Clueless, Pride and Prejudice with Zombies),” Mrs Reynolds says.

“I love Austen’s work. It’s so deep and layered that you get a very different reading of it as you age. When you read her work as a teenager you read the romance, but as an adult you start to see the moral decisions that her characters make, and her ironic and wry observations about human nature and society.”

Come along:

Jane Austen 200 Dunedin

Tue 12 Sep 2017, 5.30pm
An Introduction to Jane Austen - her times, her life, her works, her legacy
Dr Paul Tankard (Department of English and Linguistics)
A lecture for everyone: from those who have never read Austen, to those who have always loved her.
Burns 2 Lecture Theatre, Albany Street

Tue 19 Sep 2017, 7pm (doors open 6.30pm)
Such Wickedness: Theatre in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park
Explore the delights of Jane Austen, with dramatic readings by Hilary Halba (Department of Music, Theatre and Performing Arts) and Dunedin actor and teacher Terry MacTavish. This talk is part of the 'Alumni, Books, Conversation with an Otago Lecturer' series at the University Bookshop.
University Bookshop, 378 Great King St
Seating limited, booking required. To make a booking, email

Tue 26 Sep, 5.30pm
Regency Law and Medicine
Professor Nicola Peart (Faculty of Law) and Professor Barbara Brookes (Department of History and Art History)
Two talks on one night, covering Regency legal matters and the state of medicine 200 years ago.
Archway 1 Lecture Theatre

Tue 3 Oct, 5.30pm
Regency Fashion
Dr Jane Malthus (Otago Polytechnic Design Department)
Flimsy dresses, outrageous underwear, and dandies: What happened to decency in the Regency?
Burns 2 Lecture Theatre, Albany Street

Tue 10 Oct, 5.30pm
Notable Regency Gals
Dr Karen McLean (Department of English and Linguistics)
Learn more about spirited women of the Regency period who lived bold lives.
Burns 2 Lecture Theatre, Albany Street

Tue 17 Oct, 5.30pm
The Many Faces of Captain Wentworth and the making of Persuasion
Keynote talk by international Jane Austen expert Emerita Professor Jocelyn Harris (Department of English and Linguistics)
Celebrating 200 years since the publication of Persuasion, often thought to be Austen’s most lyrical and romantic novel.
College of Education Tower Lecture Room G07

Sun 22 Oct, 7.30pm
4th Jane Austen Spring Ball
Channel your inner Elizabeth Bennett and come to the ball, to mingle and dance. Partners are not required. Period dress is encouraged.
Ball tickets are $30/person and include a free dance lesson the evening before the ball.
NEV School Hall, 248 Main North Road

Regency dance classes
For those interested in dancing every dance, Regency dance classes will be held at 7pm Wednesday evenings Sep 13, 20, 27 and Oct 11 and 18 (no class 4 Oct) in the NEV School hall, 248 North Road. Tickets are $40 for all five classes or $10 each class.