Reviews: September/October 2018

View full image

Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan
Ted Scheinman ’08
FSG Originals, $15
Reviewed by Margaret C. Sullivan

Margaret C. Sullivan, founder of, is the author of The Jane Austen Handbook.

A Venn diagram comparing academics who seriously study Jane Austen’s novels with “amateur” Austen fans has a larger intersection than one might think. In Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan, Ted Scheinman ’08 enters the world of the Janeites, as many Austen devotees call themselves, and gives a literate, heartfelt report of his adventures there.

Scheinman comes by his own affection for Austen via his mother, herself an Austen scholar. While a graduate student at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, he volunteers to participate in the university’s Jane Austen Summer Camp, a long weekend of Austen scholarship and fun: academic papers are given by day, and theatrical presentations and balls take place by night. The stakes are not small for Scheinman, as he wants both to assist his professors and not disappoint his mother. Thus he throws himself into the proceedings—including dressing in men’s Regency garb and pretending to be Mr. Darcy—with an open mind, and finds himself charmed.

Scheinman does not merely report the activities of his Jane Austen Summer Camp experience—and two Jane Austen Society of North America annual meetings—but also incorporates some of the history of Austen fans and scholars throughout the two centuries since her books were published.

Though Scheinman ultimately realizes that his own affection for Austen’s work is different from that of the Janeites, his view of Austen fandom is affectionate. Camp Austen is an entertaining read for Janeites—or anyone.

The comment period has expired.