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The University of Southampton

HUMA3014 Jane Austen's Playlist: Entertainment in Georgian Britain

Module Overview

What did people do for fun in the years around 1800? Music was a central element of entertainment both within and outside the home. The module uses Jane Austen's fiction, correspondence and personal music collection as a springboard for exploring British musical culture. Starting with musical scenes in Austen's novels and the contents of her family's music collection, we will consider the spaces and occasions for musical performance, and the role of music in gentry sociability and family life. The module is particularly suitable for students in Music, History, and English, and is open to all other university students. Music reading ability is useful but is not necessary for successful completion of the module. We will discuss music's role in the 'accomplishments' advocated in female education; dance and ballroom culture; 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 music with musical life in the home; music for children and understandings of childhood; and the changing historical understanding of categories such as 'professional' and 'amateur' in music. We will investigate the contents of the Austen family music books and compare them to other music books of the time that are held in the university's Hartley Library Archive, giving you an opportunity to gain first-hand insight into 18th-century musical sources. 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 music making. (Note: performance participation is on a voluntary basis and is not required 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

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • describe characteristics of some principal musical genres of the time;
  • 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 such as 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; gender and music; music and dance in the theatre, at assemblies and at home; provincial concert life; popular and Scottish songs; catches and glees; music for children.

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 • 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

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

Resources & Reading list

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

The Austen Family Music Books.

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

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. 

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

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. 

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

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

Janet Todd (2005). Jane Austen in Context. 

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


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 music. 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 to explain how these pieces correspond to social and literary contexts articulated in contemporary documents and fiction; and to describe how the composer and his/her music figures in scholarship today. 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.


Essay proposal


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 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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