Spring 2004

HUMS 616
Jane Austen & the Art of the Novel

Burt,Daniel S.

01/26/2004 - 05/08/2004
Monday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Fisk Hall 115

Jane Austen is, arguably, England's first great novelist. Such a valuation is remarkable when applied to a writer whose range was consciously limited to what she knew best--two or three families in a country village--and who characterized herself as "the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress." She would describe her artistry with similar self-deprecating but misleading modesty as "the little bit (two inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour." A supremely comic writer and moral dramatist, Austen redefined the novel as a powerful truth-telling instrument, demonstrating that commonplace, everyday experience can be a source of great and enduring art.

We will supplement our exploration of Austen's fiction with investigation into the social and historical context of the writer's time and the literary standards that Austen imitated, modified, and transformed. For example, what were the social customs of Austen's day and what role do they play in her books? Similarly, what was the state of the novel and what were the challenges faced by women writers at the time? Answering such questions will enhance appreciation of Austen's achievements.

This course will explore the full range of that art with close readings and discussions of all six of her completed novels NORTANGER ABBEY, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, MANSFIELD PARK, EMMA, and PERSUASION.

Class will include screenings of some recent film versions of Austen's novels. Students will write a passage analysis of one of Austen's novels and research an aspect of Austen's life or time for an oral and written report. The final project will consist of a critical assessment of a modern literary adaptation of an Austen novel or on another topic of the student's choice in consultation with the instructor.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Daniel Burt (B.A. Colgate University; M.A., Ph.D. New York University) is author of The Chronology of American History, The Biography Book, and a three-volume critical guide to historical fiction. He has written extensively about Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett in The Literary 100 and The Novel 100, and on Shaw, Synge, O'Casey, and Friel in the forthcoming Drama 100.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Jane Austen, NORTHANGER ABBEY, LADY SUSAN, THE WATSONS, SANDITION (Oxford University Press) Paperback

Jane Austen, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (Penguin) Paperback

Jane Austen, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (W.W. Norton) Paperback

Jane Austen, MANSFIELD PARK (Penguin) Paperback

Jane Austen, EMMA (Penguin) Paperback

Jane Austen, PERSUASION (Penguin) Paperback


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