ENGL 265 - Selected Author
Semester Offered: Fall
Topic for 2021/22a: The Novels of Jane Austen. Today, more than 200 years after her death, Jane Austen is everywhere. Not only do her novels continue to be read and reread by avid “Janeites” everywhere, but the steady flow of film and TV adaptations shows no sign of slowing down (2020 having brought us the so-called “Millennial” Emma, as well as PBS’s attempt to finish Austen’s final, unfinished novel, Sanditon). Austen appears on undergraduate syllabi, in neuroscientific studies, and on white-supremacist message boards. In the United Kingdom, since 2017, Austen has been not just current, but currency—her face having replaced Charles Darwin’s on the £10 note, opposite the Queen. But Austen is not only everywhere, she is also—as the literary critic Nicholas Dames recently wrote—everything: sentimental and satirical, serious and frivolous, conservative and revolutionary. She is both an avatar of the past—of “period” style—and a herald of modernity.
In this class, we trace these many Austens back to their roots in the six major novels she published between 1811 and 1818. Restoring Austen to her original context, we explore how her fictions engaged with major historical events and cultural movements of her time. We situate her formal and stylistic innovations in relation to larger narratives of English literary history, including the rise of the novel, the culture of sensibility, and the consolidation of realism. Along the way, critics and theorists of various persuasions—feminist, queer, psychoanalytic, postcolonial, Marxist, and others—help us to reflect on the pleasures and pains of our own reading experiences, and to examine these “truths universally acknowledged” about Austen’s life and work with a critical eye. Mark Taylor.
This course satisfies the pre-1900 requirement for the English major.
Two 75-minute periods.
Course Format: CLS
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