Monday, August 27, 2012

The Satirical Jane: "Love and Friendship" and "Lesley Castle"

Response Questions #1 (due Friday by 5pm)

This week’s readings: CAOW, “Love and Friendship” and “Lesley Castle”

Choose ONE of the following to respond to in a 1-2 page response (double spaced).  Since you have all week to do this, put some thought into it and don’t just give me an answer.  Explain why you read the story as you do and offer support from the text.  A good answer should have some element of a ‘close reading,’ which examines a short passage from the book and ‘reads’ it from your perspective.  Don’t assume that everyone sees the same passage or ideas as you do—help us see your reading.  Other than that, go wherever the question takes you. 

1. Based on these two works (one finished, one probably unfinished), what kind of woman was the young Austen?  If we can glean character, ideals, values, and eccentricities from a literary work, what do these stories say about the woman behind them?  Additionally, how might these works contradict the portrait her brother, Henry, wrote about her to preface her posthumously published works?  Remember he praised her modesty, sincerity, and abhorrence for anything “vulgar.” 

2. Why do you think Austen gravitated to the epistolary novel (or in this case, story) in her early career?  What did it allow her to reveal about her characters and/or satirize about the world around her?  Would these stories make as much sense—or be as outrageously funny—if we took out the back-and-forth letters? 

3. Somewhat similar to the question above, what do you feel are the limitations of the epistolary novel?  What directions does it not allow Austen to move in?  Is she aware of this?  Do we ever get the feeling that she’s metaphorically panting herself into a corner?  Related to this, why do you think she might have abandoned the form for her later works? 

4. Jane Austen was a notable defender of the novel as a literary form, writing in the early novel Northanger Abbey that although “our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried.”  Yet in “Love and Friendship” in particular, she seems to be satirizing the girls’ love of novels and the values they instill.  Why does she implicate novels in her satire, and what might be her overall message in doing so?  You might consider the works they read (only one or two are mentioned) and the lingo they pick up from them, notably “sensibility.” 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reminder: change of schedule

If you missed class today (Thursday), or actually have a life and forgot what the heck we did in Jane Austen in Fiction and Film today, remember that I tinkered with our schedule already.  Instead of taking one more day to cover Austen context, we're going to launch into reading her early works, starting with "Love and Friendship" (originally planned for next Thursday).  In a day or two I will post the discussion questions for next week, which will cover "Love and Friendship" and "Lesley Castle."  Enjoy these early, tart, satirical works! 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Welcome to the Course!

Welcome to the Fall 2012 seminar "Jane Austen in Fiction and Film."  This course is designed for either the devoted fan of Jane Austen’s books or the complete novice (in other words, the two guys in class--kidding).  We will read a few selected novels, as well as her unpublished early fiction, in order to ask a few pivotal questions about Jane Austen: who was the woman we know as Jane Austen?  Why did she only write novels?  What did she think about the major political, historical, and literary events of her life?  Why have her books become such an intractable part of the English canon?  And how do we account for the “Austen boom” in film adaptations in the mid 90’s to the present day?  To do this, we will read her books in their historical and cultural context, trying to see what readers of her own time would have noticed and appreciated.  At the same time, we will use contemporary criticism and theory to help us read her against the grain, stressing that Austen is very much a 21st century writer, one who continues to speak to us and inform our understanding of literature and society. 

Required Texts: Please be sure to have the correct editions of these books, since each one has supplemental readings that will be assigned for the class.  

Catherine and Other Stories (Oxford UP) 
Pride and Prejudice (Norton) 
Emma (Norton) 
Persuasion (Norton)

Here's the schedule for the next two days (no reading yet, but feel free to read ahead in Catherine and Other Writings):

R 23    Context: Austen’s Life and Portraits

T 28:   Context: What Austen Read: Richardson and Wollstonecraft (handout) 

More posts and assorted links to come!