Jane Austen’s modern reception and immense popularity have been moulded and influenced by the ways that she has been read in the 200 years since her death. On this core module for the MA Jane Austen, you will explore some of the debates that have been important in Austen scholarship in the twentieth and twenty-first century: was Jane Austen a feminist? How did she perceive social class? What do her novels tell us about landscape, or nation, or colonialism? You will become familiar with the critical terrain of Austen studies, exploring both foundational works of classic criticism and emerging new directions influenced by recent developments in critical theory.
Aims and Objectives
Knowledge and Understanding
Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:
- The key issues and conceptual debates generated by Austen’s six completed novels
- Different theoretical schools of criticism – feminist, historicist, new critical, queer, materialist, and Marxist – and how they have been used in readings of Jane Austen’s work
- The major critical treatments of Jane Austen, and the development of Austen criticism in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:
- Assess, criticise and intervene in current critical debate on Jane Austen’s fiction
- Distil and critically evaluate theoretical arguments and approaches
- Apply a number of theoretical lenses to a literary work
Transferable and Generic Skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:
- Manage your time efficiently
- Identify and summarise the main debates in a given field
- Formulate and communicate a coherent and persuasive argument in written form
Jane Austen’s modern reception and immense popularity have been moulded and influenced by the ways that she has been read in the 200 years since her death. Whilst the release of her letters in 1884 and a more complete collection in 1932 opened up Jane Austen’s world in unprecedented ways for readers, modern interpretations of her novels continue to change the ways that Austen’s work is perceived in biography, film, and academia. This core module will allow you to revisit Austen’s six complete novels, and to develop a thorough understanding of the key conceptual debates that have been generated by Austen’s work. After an introductory session on biography, the module will chart the ways in which Austen’s novels have been read by twentieth and twenty-first century critics. You will gain a good understanding of seminal works of Austen criticism such as those by Marilyn Butler, Edward Said, Margaret Kirkham and Alistair Duckworth, exploring the way that these scholars have approached some of the important questions of Austen’s novels: gender, marriage, class, money, and Englishness. You will also be introduced to emerging new directions in Austen studies, and encouraged to draw on a wide range of critical theories to develop your own readings of Austen’s fiction. Topics for consideration are likely to include Austen’s politics; masculinity; material culture; desire; imperialism; the body; and the environment.
Learning and Teaching
Teaching and learning methods
The main teaching method will be one two-hour seminar each week. Students will be expected to deliver presentations on their research, followed by a Q&A every 2-3 weeks, with a view to developing skills in the organisation and delivery of coherent and persuasive arguments, and in responding to the academic arguments of others. There will be two optional research trips to the Chawton House.
Teaching methods include:
- Seminars—a mix of tutor-led and student-led discussions
- Individual sessions with the tutor to develop an essay topic
- Office hours for individual feedback on essays
Learning activities include
- Individual study and research
- Preparatory reading before each seminar
- Participating in seminar discussion
- Preparing and delivering presentations
|Preparation for scheduled sessions||100|
|Completion of assessment task||100|
|Total study time||300|
Resources & Reading list
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, ‘Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl’, Critical Enquiry 17 (Summer 1991).
Austen, Jane, Persuasion (1818).
Leitch, Vincent B.,The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2nd edn (New York and London: W. W. Norton and Company, 2010).
Lynch, Deidre, The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1998).
Butler, Marilyn, Jane Austen and the War of Ideas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1975).
Tanner, Tony, Jane Austen (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1986).
Williams, Raymond, The Country and the City (London: Chatto & Windus, 1973).
Johnson, Claudia L., Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel (1988).
Harding, D. W., Regulated Hatred and Other Essays in Jane Austen (London: The Athlone Press, 1998).
Sutherland, Kathryn, Jane Austen’s Textual Lives: From Aeschylus to Bollywood (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Dow, Gillian, and Claire Hanson (Eds.), Uses of Austen: Jane’s Afterlives (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice (1813).
Johnson, Claudia L., and Clara Tuite, A Companion to Jane Austen (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).
Austen, Jane, Sense and Sensibility (1811).
Kirkham, Margaret, Jane Austen: Feminism and Fiction (Sussex: Harvester Press,1983).
Austen, Jane, Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye.
Austen, Jane, Emma (1816).
Heydt-Stevenson, Jill, Austen’s Unbecoming Conjunctions: Subversive Laughter, Embodied History (Basingstroke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
Looser, Devoney, Jane Austen and Discourses of Feminism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1995).
Looser, Devoney, The Making of Jane Austen (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2017).
Copeland, Edward and Juliet McMaster, The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
Wiltshire, John, Jane Austen and the Body: ‘The Picture of Health’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
Duckworth, Alistair, The Improvement of the Estate: A Study of Jane Austen’s Novels (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press,1971).
Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey (1818).
Austen, Jane, Mansfield Park (1814).
There will be no non-contributory assessments in this module, but classroom activities and individual discussions, should help you to judge how you are progressing in the module.
Formative assessment descriptionOral presentation
Summative assessment description
Referral assessment description
Repeat type: Internal & External