30.451 Jane Austen

Jane Austen is a significant figure in Western literary history generally and in women’s literary history specifically. Her works are much studied and have long made it into the literary canon where other women writers have fallen into obscurity. This seminar course provides an opportunity to study Austen’s fiction with focus and concentration, examining her contributions to the novel form and women’s writing. We will take a cultural, historical, and feminist approach to Austen’s writing, interpreting her work within the context of the Regency period in order to explore her reactions to her historical and cultural moment. We will take a brief look at some of her minor or incomplete works, but we will spend most of the course on her full-length novels, exploring her texts as individual works, while also considering intersections and departures between her novels in order to understand more fully Austen’s complexities. Because Austen has also gained a strong foothold in popular culture in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, we will give a little time to considering recent cinematic interpretations or reworkings inspired by Austen.

Cross-registered with (Gender and Women’s Studies) 36.451.

Prerequisite: 12 credit hours of English literature or permission of instructor.

Introducing Dr. Robson’s newest course

In September 2016, Dr. Robson will be teaching her new course, “Jane Austen.” What is it all about?

  • Why is Jane Austen so popular?

There are a lot of reasons probably, including her irony and her brilliantly nuanced way of exposing her world to critique. At the base of it, though, she’s just a lovely writer and storyteller. Her prose is so rich and smooth, and her narratives are well crafted, built around complex and primarily sympathetic characters whose lives are without a lot of action yet are full of meaning. Her novels challenge you without seeming to do so. They’re always a good read.

  • What is your favorite Austen novel?Jane_Austen,_from_A_Memoir_of_Jane_Austen_(1870)

I actually find that my favorite will tend to change. For a long time it was Persuasion. It’s Austen’s last completed novel and the ideas are just so smooth and sleek, so polished. Lately, though, I’m tending to favor Northanger Abbey. The more I read it, the funnier it gets. Of course Austen is playing around with the Gothic form in this novel, so that element appeals to me as well.

  • In one sentence, what do you hope students will learn in your course?

I hope they learn to appreciate the deftly subtle but bitingly insightful engagements Austen makes with the cultural concerns of her day. (One sentence: that’s a challenge!)

  • Are you planning to watch Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

Absolutely! I’m frustrated to say, though, that I missed seeing it when it recently passed through Brandon; it wasn’t here long at all. I plan to be fast with the Amazon purchase as soon as it comes out on DVD. The concept is a stroke of crazy brilliance and combines two of my favorite literary elements: Austen and horror narratives. It’s so very wrong that it’s perfect.