The University of Southampton

HUMA3014 Jane Austen's Playlist

Module Overview

This module uses Jane Austen's fiction, correspondence, and family collection of music books as a lens to explore English musical culture c. 1800. We will investigate musical genres and practices associated with Austen's world and explore their wider social and cultural context. We will consider spaces and occasions for performance and the role of musical activities and materials in gentry sociability and family life. The module features original research into the music of Austen's time, and considers how British music and domestic genres relate to concepts of canon and national style in musicological scholarship. The module is open to Music students and to all other university students who can read music fluently. The module will explore music in Jane Austen's biography and fiction, asking how Austen's experience may have been representative of the period and how this experience informs the musical scenes in her novels. We will examine the music books compiled and collected by members of the Austen family, comparing them to other examples of domestic music collections from the period, and explore social and material aspects of their construction and use. We will consider the main genres represented in domestic musical collections, exploring how these musical forms and styles respond to currents in British musical life of the period. Our discussions will consider music's role in the 'accomplishments' advocated in female education; male musical activity and the role of catch and glee clubs in masculine sociability; the work of female poets and musicians for the domestic musical market; the intersection of 'public' theatre and concert repertories with domestic musical life; music for children and understandings of childhood; and the changing historical understanding of categories such as 'professional' and 'amateur' in musical culture. We will explore the variety of composers who appear in these collections and ask to what extent their activities and achievements may be obscured by a focus on public music making in today's music histories. Using available student instrumental/vocal specialisms, we will perform and listen live to some of these repertories to gain further insight into the nature and function of domestic genres. (Note: performance participation is on a voluntary basis and is not essential for successful completion of the module). Appropriately qualified students may be offered the opportunity to repeat their performances at Chawton House Library.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This module aims to introduce you to the wide range of musical genres practiced in England c.1800 in their social and cultural context.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • describe musical characteristics (including aspects of form, style and performance practice) of some principal genres of the time, as represented in the Austen family's music books and correspondence;
  • demonstrate understanding of the social and cultural contexts for music making and musical consumption among members of Austen's class, gender and region in the years around 1800;
  • critically interrogate the position of British domestic, amateur, and female music making in relation to broader historiographical issues in music, including concepts of canon and national identity;
  • prepare a short research project, following a process through from proposal and sample bibliography to completed essay.


Topics will typically cover the following: Jane Austen's musical world; special session in Hartley Library Archives looking at domestic music owned by contemporaries of Jane Austen; the Austen family music books; gender and music in domestic settings; music in the theatre and at home; provincial concert life; variations and arrangements; popular and Scottish songs; catches and glees; juvenile repertoires.

Special Features

One special session to be held in Hartley Library. Opportunity for suitably qualified students to perform music from primary sources of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Optional opportunity to perform at Chawton House Library dependent on negotiation with CHL over suitable dates, availability, student interest and satisfactory risk assessment.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

• Lectures • Weekly assigned reading and listening (provided through Blackboard) • Further sharing of ideas and materials via Blackboard (extended resources lists and links, videos, sound examples) • In-class exercises and group discussion • Performance of examples of domestic music • Visit to Hartley Library Archives, to see and discuss examples of domestic music books from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries • Tutorial assistance (open hours) • Individual written feedback on essay assignment (provided to individual students via e-assignment) • General written feedback on essay assignment (distributed and discussed in class; based on overall trends and issues in students' work) • Examination revision session

Wider reading or practice25
Preparation for scheduled sessions25
Completion of assessment task50
Follow-up work25
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Simon McVeigh (1993). Concert Life in London from Mozart to Haydn. 

Richard Leppert (1988). Music and Image: Domesticity, Ideology and Socio-Cultural Formation in Eighteenth-Century England. 

Brian Robins (2006). Catch and Glee Culture in Eighteenth-Century Britain. 

Paula Byrne (2002). Jane Austen and the Theatre. 

Deirdre Le Faye (2004). Jane Austen: A Family Record. 

The Austen Family Music Books.

Janet Todd (2005). Jane Austen in Context. 

H. Diack Johnstone and Roger Fiske (1988). The Eighteenth Century. The Blackwell History of Music in Britain. 

Leslie Ritchie (2008). Women Writing Music in Late Eighteenth-Century England: Social Harmony in Literature and Performance.. 

Curtis Price, Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume (1995). Italian Opera in Late Eighteenth-Century London. 

Jane Austen (1995). Jane Austen’s Letters - Edited by Deirdre Le Faye. 

Natasha Duquette and Elizabeth Lenckos (2013). Jane Austen and the Arts: Elegance, Propriety, Harmony. 


Assessment Strategy

The essay will be a short research project devoted to the work of a single composer whose music features in the Austen family's collection of domestic repertoire. Students will be expected to compile biographical and musical information about these figures, learning how to use primary source material in music as well as how to employ printed and online research tools; to provide a musical analysis of the pieces they have chosen OR (for non-Music students) to explain how these pieces correspond to social and literary contexts articulated in Austen's novels and family papers; and to describe how the composer and his/her music figures in contemporary scholarship. In addition to meeting these criteria, third-year students will be expected to use a wider range of research materials; to provide a more searching musical or social-historical analysis including comparison with pieces discussed in class or covered in the reading; and to furnish a more extensive critical discussion of the historiographical issues surrounding evaluation of the chosen works. Third-year students will also be expected to meet higher standards of written presentation. For the examination, third-year questions will require broader reading and more developed analytical and critical skills.


Essay proposal


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2400 words) 60%
Exam  (2 hours) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

None - all resources already available in Hartley Library or online

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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