In this introduction to the collection of essays, Looser and Friedman discuss the history of and the state of the scholarship of teaching Jane Austen, a surprisingly underdeveloped area of study, given Austen's ubiquity in the English curriculum at the college level.
This essay describes an advanced undergraduate course on “Jane Austen and the Gothic.” Breaking with a literary-historical narrative of development in which Austen corrects the Gothic’s excess, the course interspersed a selection of Austen’s novels with Gothic fiction of the 1780s and 90s to explore what these works share, and what their differences could prompt students to see about Austen’s fiction, about the Gothic, and about novels and novel reading in general. Reading Austen with the Gothic helped highlight the uneasiness and “agitation” permeating Austen’s evocations of apparently ordered social worlds, and helped students understand disordering moments in both Austen and the Gothic through a shared network of formal and ideological concerns linking political and social debates to questions of narrative and the representation of character. As the course played out, the striking diversity of student responses to Austen and to the Gothic—responses shaped in part by the divergent afterlives of Austen and the Gothic in today’s popular culture—focused our discussion in surprising ways not only on the social and epistemological value accorded different genres and modes of writing, but also on the kinds of privilege accorded different modes of reading (for example, fast or slow, compulsive or disciplined, credulous or skeptical), both in the Romantic period and in our own classroom practice.
This essay describes a freshman seminar called “Advice about Love and the Literary Narrator.” After touching on Pride and Prejudice’s opening sentence and some consequences of the belief that one can take advice from a fiction or its narrator, I track a version of the course that moves from Ovid’s Amores to Capellanus’s courtly love treatise, Cervantes’s Don Quixote, and the proposal scenes of the eighteenth-century novel. I conclude by showing how a proposal scene in Emma illuminates earlier models of advising.
This essay explores how digital and print editions of Jane Austen’s manuscript writing may be profitably integrated in upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses. In particular, it examines how the digital collection Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts can be used by students to (1) understand Austen’s material practices of writing and sharing her fiction, and the different audiences she anticipated in script and print; (2) study her development as a writer, through comparison and analysis of her fiction manuscripts, which represent her writing at every stage of her career; (3) survey the differences between script, print, and digital media, and critically examine how we interact with them; and (4) evaluate different theories of textuality and editorial practice.
This article argues that Romantic-era children’s literature provides a useful means of introducing first-year students to Austen’s novels. By comparing children's decision-making processes in texts for young readers to the dilemmas faced by novel heroines, students better understand Austen’s era and the stakes of her heroines’ choices.
As part of a fall 2011 honors seminar on Jane and the Austenites, my students analyzed various cinematic adapations of Austen's novels. When they viewed a clip involving Alan Rickman, who played Colonel Brandon in Ang Lee's production of Sense and Sensibility (1995), they immediately linked the actor to his role as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. This essay examines how students utilized their knowledge of the Harry Potter series and films as a gateway for a close reading of Sense and Sensibility. Their understanding and affinity for Snape provided a blueprint for unlocking Colonel Brandon's emotions, motives, and the way he conducts himself in tension-filled situations.
This essay explores the challenges of teaching literature in the unique setting of higher education programs in correctional institutions. Based on the author's experience teaching a romantic-literature course in prison, it explores some of the cultural and logistical obstacles at play in prison education and possibilities for how these obstacles can be successfully negotiated. Finally, it suggests possible examples of how to adapt Austen for other nontraditional audiences.
Throughout the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century, Jane Austen was not treated—in published criticism or in the classroom—in relation to the major male Romantic poets or thought to participate in the period’s defining events and concerns, either political or literary. Although these attitudes have begun to change, most scholarship on Austen still treats her either in isolation or in relation to other women writers, and many instructors report that they have trouble integrating Austen in Romantic period courses. My essay argues that Austen’s novels share many characteristics with Romantic-era poems and can be taught alongside these in a way that enhances our understanding of Romanticism. Similarities in the works of Austen and the male poets include an embrace of individualism; a shift from external events to the inner life as a focus of literature; a fascination with brother-sister incest; an emphasis on commonplace people and settings; conflicts between the attractions of romance and reality; a celebration of the sympathetic imagination and awareness of the dangers of solipsism and visionary flight; and a love of the natural world.
This essay takes account of the author’s evolving approach to incorporating popular culture materials and historic editions into her teaching of Austen. It outlines a philosophy of teaching Austen to a broad undergraduate population in liberal-arts colleges, as well as practical classroom strategies for undergraduate courses on writing and literature at all levels. Also included are students’ responses to encounters with historic editions.
This article discusses the use of research-intensive editing projects in order to better understand early nineteenth-century literary marketplaces, as well as the current realities around book production.