One of English literature's most beloved writers, Jane Austen (1775-1816) is often studied as a practitioner of the novel of sensibility, or of the comedy of manners. While there is no doubt that she set a standard for the courtship novel that is still highly influential, and that her characters evoke a chuckle in even the most sophisticated of readers, these approaches tend to diminish her accomplishment. Austen was a perceptive reader of her culture, and her novels present a profound engagement with the issues of class and gender that were hotly debated during the Regency period. Moreover, they display a strong indictment of the romantic philosophy that dominated much of the writing of her contemporaries. Ironically, the very aspects of her culture that she questioned are ignored or even celebrated in some of the film adaptations that have recently led to a resurgence in her popularity.
Through lecture and discussion, we shall explore Austen's novels against the background of her culture, and against the background of our own. Regular weekly writing focused on the novels will be combined with exploration of critical and popular responses to them, from the recent spate of films to the "Janeite" phenomenon.
Please obtain the editions indicated below:
Jane Austen, Northanger
Useful Web Sites
It is expected
that you own an Oxford dictionary and a guide to MLA style.
Essays: There will be two essays. The first will be an analytical paper; the second will be a research paper. Topics and detailed instructions will be provided well in advance.
Weekly Writing: Most weeks, you'll be asked to do a page of informal writing about one of the texts we're studying. You'll be provided with a question or topic one week in advance. Your task is to demonstrate that you've read the text and thought about it. Typed submissions are appreciated. You'll receive full credit simply for handing in an acceptable assignment; you'll see a checkmark on it when I hand it back. If I think you haven't spent enough effort on the assignment, I'll put an X on it and indicate why. We'll often use the assignments as the basis of discussion on the day they are due.
Assignments must be submitted in class on the day they are due. Late weekly writings defeat the purpose, so will not be accepted unless you have been absent on the day the discussion took place. A late essay will be accepted only after prior consultation and the setting of a new due date; I reserve the right not to accept a late essay.
Attendance and participation: Attendance is required. A sign-up sheet will circulate daily, and it is your responsibility to sign it. Students who miss more than four classes will lose the 10% participation grade. Students who miss more than eight classes will receive an F for the course. Participation involves playing an active role in group discussions and providing regular evidence that you have read the texts and thought about them. You are expected to arrive at class on time; frequent lateness will be reflected in your participation grade.
The exam will take place in the formal examination period, and will
be three hours long. The date is included in the schedule so that you
may make your travel plans accordingly. In the past, my exams have consisted
of a combination of short-answer (i.e. a paragraph) and essay questions.
track of your absences in the checkboxes beside the dates. Remember
that more than 4 absences will result in a 10% decrease in your final
grade; more than 8 absences will result in your failing the course.