To seal their in-group status and steer clear of Muggles who might not get it, Janeites today still use code, handles, jargon, masquerade, memes. Generally speaking, a “Willoughby” is a cad, and a “Darcy” is a catch (though maybe also kind of a dick). The code acts as homage to the days when Janeites flew studiously below the radar. Kipling’s story “The Janeites” tells of a group of World War I vets who were closet Janeites. There’s gender-bending too. Janeites who may be super butch in light of day privately visit spheres coded female: domesticity, romance, social life. All of this has stirred anxiety among out-group traditionalists. In a hatchet job on Austen and her disciples given as a speech in 1928, one critic derided her—and her fans—as sexless, malicious, and girlish. As Forster was gay and other early Janeites—including Bradley—were lifelong bachelors, the homophobia of haters was hard to miss.
Heath coined the phrase “self-digitizing community” in 2011 to describe any group that “takes the time to organize information about itself or information that it cares about” by making its artifacts legible, archivable, and searchable. Ancient numismatics, he has argued, were part of Rome’s self-digitization; the coins made crucial aspects of the Roman Empire retrievable by future historians and archaeologists. In modern times, Heath cites the superb wiki of Game of Thrones aficionados, which makes their community accessible and (mostly) intelligible, even to those outside it.