Jane Austen and the Romantic-Era Novel
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Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Undergraduate Studies
Course Number: NLIT 3237
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
- Gender and Sexuality Studies
Somerset Maugham wondered how "the daughter of a rather dull and perfectly respectable father" and "a silly mother" managed to write Pride and Prejudice. In this course, we explore "the mystery" of one of Britain’s greatest writers by reading her novels, including Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion, as well as sections from her Letters. Keeping a historical perspective in mind, we address critical responses to Austen beginning with Charlotte Brontë’s dismissal of her as "a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden." We discuss Austen’s aesthetic genius: her precise prose, her superb use of wit and irony, and her moral certitude combined with a comic use of chance. We examine how the author embraced the female conventions of her day, and how, in more subtle ways, she challenged them. Was W.H. Auden correct in his assessment: "Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass?"