It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is, quite frequently, on my mind. So, when I saw this “diary” in the Paris Review—a diary of Ted Scheinman’s time at “Jane Austen camp” (aka the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Jane Austen Summer Program—it sounded, well, pretty awesome.
After all, who wouldn’t want to go to lectures, drink tea, and attend the Meryton Assembly all in one fell swoop?
I certainly would.
The whole thing also got me thinking about other possible “camps” surrounding the work of other classic authors.
Dickens Camp: Everyone begins their time at camp in debtors’ prison, where they’re made to do hard labor in order to pay back their camp fees. If you’re lucky, a newly wealthy (former) convict will thrust you out of poverty and into a more respectable “sphere.” Moldy wedding cake is served each night.
Edith Wharton Camp: They say that the heart of fools resides in the house of mirth, but at this camp, parties abound and there’s an enviable amount of time spent at the opera. The downside? The camp rules are restrictive to the point of despair. Not for the faint at heart or determined nonconformists.
Tolkien Camp: All campers are divided up in groups of men, dwarves, elves, and hobbits—the last of which is clearly preferable due the leisurely lifestyle and plentiful grub. Beware of anyone offering to play at riddles, and know that the theory of “finders, keepers”—especially when it comes to jewelry—is a dangerous one here.
E.M. Forster Camp: Country house or journey to Italy? Bohemian or aristocrat? The choices for campers are endless, but if any of the counselors offers you a tour of a cave—or indeed a delightful trip to India—do yourself a favor and politely decline.
Okay, so maybe these don’t sound incredibly appealing. But I’d still like to go to Jane Austen summer camp. Maybe—just maybe—my family will send me next year.
And now, inquiring minds want to know: what literary camps (classic, contemporary, or anything in between) would you love—or loathe—to be a part of?