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EN2J3/EN3J3 Austen in Theory

 

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austen in piccadilly it's lit

This module pairs slow and sustained readings of Austen’s primary novels with extended readings in the culture of what we call “theory,” both eighteenth century and contemporary (mostly post-1995). Beginning with Marilyn Butler’s Jane Austen and the War of Ideas (1975), we will situate Austen’s novels securely within intellectual history. A particular focus will be how novels can be sources of freestanding ideas; and then, in turn, how freestanding ideas can give structure to plots and characters within the novel itself.

More information: full-year module, 30 CATS. Seminars meet once a week for 90 minutes.

Assessment:

Intermediate Year students:
100% assessed (2 x 3500-word essay)

Final Year students:
100% assessed (2 x 4000-word essays)

Essays that you develop yourselves as independent research projects.

Outline Syllabus:

Dear students: Please note that you will be responsible for bringing a legible version of these texts to class with you, and on something larger than a cell phone screen. I would also recommend buying your own copies of the Hume and Smith--these are dense books, which you will need to read slowly and carefully. Locke's Enquiry on a bookshelf will impress visitors to your home for years to come: I recommend the stern-looking Nidditch edition.

Mandatory Primary Texts, recommended editions:

Austen, Jane. Persuasion (OUP, 2004).

---. Mansfield Park (OUP, 2008)

---. Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon (OUP, 2008)

---. Pride and Prejudice (OUP, 2008)

---. Sense and Sensiblity (OUP, 2008)

Butler, Marilyn. Jane Austen and the War of Ideas (OUP, 1987).

Term One: Austen in Theory, 1790-1810

Term One: Austen and Eighteenth-century Philosophy

Week

Primary Text

Secondary Reading

1

Lady Susan (in Oxford Northanger Abbey collection, or online)

Marilyn Butler, Jane Austen and the War of Ideas

2:

Northanger Abbey

John Locke, "The Epistle to the Reader" and "Book I, Chapter II: No Innate Principles in the Mind" (from the Essay Concerning Human Understanding)

3:

Northanger Abbey

John Locke, "Book III, Chapter I" and "Book III, Chapter V" (from the Essay Concerning Human Understanding)

4:

Sense and Sensibility

David Hume, "On the Origin of Ideas" (from the Enquiry)

5:

Sense and Sensibility

Hume, "On the Standard of Taste"

7:

Pride and Prejudice

Adam Smith, from the Moral Sentiments

8:

Pride and Prejudice

Smith, from the Moral Sentiments

9:

Mansfield Park

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, first half

10:

Mansfield Park

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1-74

 

Term Two: Austen in "Theory"

Week

Primary

Secondary Reading

1:

Mansfield Park

Postcolonialism: Edward Said, from Culture and Imperialism, particularly "Jane Austen and Empire"

Recent readings in Austen and slavery: Tricia Matthew, "On Teaching, but Not Loving, Jane Austen"; Jasmin Malik Chua, "The Battle Over Jane Austen's Whiteness"

2:

Emma

Michael Rothberg, The Implicated Subject, "Introduction"

3:

Emma

Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings, "Tone"

4:

Emma

Structuralism and high deconstruction: Ferdinand de Saussure, "The Object of Study"; and Jaques Derrida, "Structure, Sign and Play in the Human Sciences"

5:

Persuasion

Bill Brown, "The Idea of Things and the Ideas in Them"

7:

Persuasion

Judith Butler, "Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions"

8:

The Watsons

Slavoj Zizek, from The Sublime Object of Ideology

9:

Juvenilia (as much as you wish)

Question: can we use the juvenilia to theorise Austen's major fictions?

10:

Sanditon

D.A. Miller, Jane Austen; or, the Secret of Style

Sample first paper, 2018/19: