Studies in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature: Jane Austen & the Invention of the 'Modern' English Novel

Course Number: ENGL 232
Prerequisites: Graduate Standing
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Check on GOLD
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 232
Quarter: Fall 2011
Instructor: Warner, William
Day(s): M
Time: 5:00 PM - 7:50 PM
Location: SH 2617

Content of the course will vary from quarter to quarter and these courses may be repeated for credit with consent of the chair of the departmental graduate committee. In the past few decades, scholars have begun to appreciate the pivotal role of Jane Austen in the invention of the ‘modern’ novel. Between the 18th century ‘rise’ of the novel to a newly influential form of print entertainment and the literary hegemony that the novel achieved in the 19th and 20th centuries, there come the innovations of Jane Austen’s six novels: Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion.
How can we overcome our over-familiarity with Austen? My first strategy in this course is to read ‘all’ of Jane Austen: her six novels, as well as the most significant juvenilia and letters. We can defamiliarize this corpus in other ways: 1) By studying her language: her characteristic diction and rhetoric; her narrative technique (free indirect discourse), her tone (detachment, sympathy), her generic blends (satire & sentiment), and her style (irony, understatement, etc.); 2) by contrasting her novels to some of those written before and after; 3) by tracing the connections between her novels and the complex and heterogeneous network out of which they emerged: the gentry estates of the ‘home’ counties of England, the private oral reading of the Austen family, the business of early 19th century publication and criticism, etc.; 4) by developing an historical analysis of the distinctive fascination her books have excited in avowed fans (i.e. ‘the Janeites’) as well as modern critics.
What is it that makes a Jane Austen novel distinctive? Why have her novels come to appear ‘classic’ and normative for novels that would be ‘realistic’ or ‘English’? How might we visualize her novels as communication systems? How, in short, might we do an actor-network theory analysis of all that unfolds under the name ‘Jane Austen’?
Requirements: 2 short oral presentations to the seminar and one seminar term paper. Auditors are welcome.

NOTE: This course's time and room have been changed from W 900-1100 SH 2714 to M 500-750 SH 2617.