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Jane Austen

This course will help you to analyse Austen’s style and techniques, and give you a greater knowledge of the novels’ context, which will enhance your understanding and enjoyment of reading them.
University of Oxford University Offices Wellington Square Oxford ,OX1 2JD United Kingdom
(4418) 65270000

Course at a Glance

Mode of learning : Online - Instructor Lead(LVC)

Domain / Subject : General/Others

Function : General

Trainer name : Dr Celine Sabiron

Starts on : 17th Sep 2014

Duration : 10 Weeks

Difficulty : Advanced

About the course

Jane Austen’s six major novels have hardly been out of print for two hundred years. Many readers enjoy them but cannot always define the qualities that make Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion so enduring and so rewarding for reading and rereading.

This course helps students to learn to analyse Austen’s characteristic style and techniques and thus gain an enhanced appreciation of her art. It also looks at the historical and literary contexts of the novels, allowing students to gain a greater understanding of their themes and sub-texts. The course is suitable for those new to Austen’s writing as well as for the devoted Janeite. Though the topics covered range across all six major novels, and those who have read all six will be able to use that knowledge, each week’s required reading includes key sections of one novel.

Course aims

This course aims to introduce or reintroduce Austen’s major fiction, placing her work in its historical and cultural context and encouraging close critical analyses of the texts in order for students to gain a greater understanding of the themes and undercurrents of the stories as well as of Austen’s literary techniques.

Course Objectives

This course will enable students to go beyond immediate opinions about Austen’s novels to the production of reasoned, informed, and supported arguments based on close critical analysis and contextual knowledge.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment due half way through the course and one longer assignment due at the end of the course. Students will have about two weeks to complete each assignment.

Teaching methods

The activities will include reading the introductions to the required editions of the novels, and commenting on them, commenting on online Austen resources, producing short analyses of short extracts from the novels, comparing short extracts from Austen’s work and short extracts from the fiction of her contemporaries (using Project Gutenberg’s legal downloads), looking up the ways in which word meanings have changed since Austen’s time (using online resources), and answering quizzes on (e.g.) Austen characters and places. Students will be expected to keep personal logs about their reading of the novels and their changing interpretations and analyses of the texts as the course develops.

Teaching Outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:

  • The chronology of Austen’s life and work.
  • Some of the most important themes of Austen’s major novels.
  • Austen’s characteristic techniques and style.

And students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • The ability to speak and write with confidence about Austen’s life and times.
  • The ability to speak and write with confidence about their readings and evaluations of Austen’s fiction.
  • Some practice in close critical analysis and the formulation of reasoned arguments supported by reference to the text.
  • Some practice in using understanding of the context of a text to enhance readings of the text.

Course eligibility

Course Requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following books (all by Jane Austen):

  • Sense and Sensibility,
  • Northanger Abbey and Other Works
  • Pride and Prejudice 
  • Mansfield Park 
  • Emma 
  • Persuasion

 Students will be required to read from all six novels. You will be encouraged to read as much as is practical of all of the novels.

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Course Content

The areas you will cover in this course are:

  • Unit 1: Who was Jane Austen? Biography and biographies; Family history; Letters.
  • Unit 2: Jane Austen’s language and style: The narrative voice; Dialogue; Perspective; Inner and outer; How to analyse an Austen novel.
  • Unit 3: Sense and Sensibility: Background: Elinor and Marianne; the epistolary novel; The literature of Sensibility; Romanticism; Siblings in Austen’s work.
  • Unit 4: Northanger Abbey; Background: the Gothic novel and Gothic novel readers; Ann Radcliffe; Pastiche and parody.
  • Unit 5: Pride and Prejudice: Background: marriage and property in Austen’s time; soldiers and militia men; The ‘courtship ordeal novel’; Fashion in Austen’s time.
  • Unit 6: Mansfield Park: Background: The Georgian, the Augustan and the Regency; Imperialism, and Mansfield Park; Mothers and home-makers.
  • Unit 7: Emma: Background: dancing games and puzzles in Austen’s writing; Governesses; Irony; Parents in Austen’s novels.
  • Unit 8: Persuasion: Background: Bath and Lyme; the Navy in Austen’s time; Persuasion and persuasiveness; The cancelled section of Persuasion.
  • Unit 9: Happy ever after?: Austen’s novels: anti-romance?; Love, weddings, and marriage; Austen’s endings; Further reading on Austen.

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