Take a romp through three days at a Jane Austen summer camp, complete with dashing men dressed as Mr. Darcy, bonnets and corsets and skirts galore, and discussions on your favorite Austen works. That’s what you’ll get with Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan by Ted Scheinman, a short, fun book sure to delight readers of Austen who read about these summer camps and festivals but can only begin to imagine them.
Here’s the blurb from Amazon:
The son of a devoted Jane Austen scholar, Ted Scheinman spent his childhood 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.
Overall, this book is less than 200 pages and absolutely a fun read. It’s equal part lifestyle criticism and exploration of these kinds of events, and the people who attend them, and reflection on why Jane Austen has endured and inspired and will continue to attract “Janeites” for years to come. I loved this book but I’ve also read every thing Jane Austen has written, including the Juvenalia, which is a big focus of this book as it was the topic of the summer camp that year. I definitely don’t think non-Austen readers will enjoy this book as much, but even if you’ve only read and seen Pride and Prejudice, I think it has something to offer you. Even though you should totally read her other books as well!