Leimomi Oakes – Apparatus of Happiness

We interview Leimomi Oakes, aka The Dreamstress, one of the speakers at the upcoming Symposium Jane Austen: The Good, The Bad and The Undressed.

If you were a character in an Austen novel, what would your name be?
Lady Caroline de Peyton (If I can’t be a Lady in a fantasy Austen novel, what’s the point!)

Would your character be good or bad?
Mostly good, occasionally very mischievous.

What would make your character good or bad?
Her intent…And the ability of her morality to override her desire to whack at least a quarter of the other characters with her inordinately heavy reticule (inordinately heavy, because she’s using it to carry around at least three books at any given time).

Who is your favorite author and why?
Currently Robin McKinley. I’m enjoying her strong heroines, who find unusual alternative ways to solve their own problems, and her incredibly detailed world-building.

What are your credentials? 
Leimomi Oakes is a Hawaiian-born based freelance fashion and textile historian and sewing teacher. She specialises in recreating historical fashions using period accurate techniques, and in exploring the way historical events and societal mores influenced, and were influenced by, fashion and textiles.

Leimomi is a frequent contributor to Glory Days vintage lifestyle magazine, has been featured in Threads magazine and on numerous international fashion and sewing blogs and websites. She is the designer behind Scroop Patterns and authors the popular fashion & textile history blog thedreamstress.com.

What is the title of your talk for the symposium?
Apparatus of Happiness: Clothing & Jane Austen.


David Norton – I am now going to murder my sister

Meet David Norton one of the speakers at the upcoming Symposium Jane Austen: The Good, The Bad and The Undressed.

‘I am now going to murder my sister’: Villains and villainy in Austen

I hope the audience will help me by nominating their favourite villains in Austen (and those they hate the most). I will try to weave my talk around these nominations, and questions such as the following. Do ‘the graces, the spirit, the sagacity and the perseverance of the villain of the story outweigh all his absurdities and all his atrocities’ (Sanditon)? Are all her villains seducers who want money even more than they want sex? Are they all ‘black at heart, hollow and black!’ (Persuasion)? Is Austen fascinated by wickedness? Is Mr Knightley right that ‘Frank Churchill was a villain’? Why are villains so important in Austen?

About me
An English master nominated ten great English novels and asked us to read two of them during the Easter vacation. So I first read Pride and Prejudice (and Tom Jones). Ever since it has been my favourite novel to teach and to read aloud. There is no better way to begin a course on the novel than to read aloud the opening chapter. When my wife was ill it was the last book we read together (no need to fill in parts of the plot she might miss). Her favourite scene in literature was always Lady Catherine’s visit to the Bennets, and, even in sad circumstances, we thoroughly enjoyed it. Hooray for Elizabeth, and thank God for the gift of Austen! While Elizabeth is my favourite heroine, I identify most with Mr Bennet. If he, perhaps, is a kind of villain, I might be so too.

In retirement, I continue to work on Austen. I have given several talks to the Jane Austen societies in Australia and New Zealand, and am currently writing a study of Austen’s writings, ‘Jane Austen, Laughter and Compassion’. After working so long on the Bible, it is a pleasure to work on a female author with a sense of humour. But the Mr Bennet in me means that the book may never be finished.

Connew 4.jpgDavid Norton FRSNZ
Emeritus Professor of English
Victoria University of Wellington