Skip to main content Skip to navigation

EN3A4 Austen in Theory

We're now updating to reflect the 2019-20 academic year. Students wishing to read ahead may definitely start with the novels and with Marilyn Butler's book; other readings may change through the month of June.

Seminars: scheduling TBD

CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION VIDEO

austenmoney

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. Evaluation 50/50: choice of two papers (3,500 words for honors-level and 4,000 words for finalists) or one paper (3,500/4,000 words) and one exam. Seminars meet once a week for 90 minutes.

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 (on order at bookstore):

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

Northanger Abbey

Marilyn Butler, Jane Austen and the War of Ideas; Barbara Johnson, "The Divine Miss A"

Also, my teaching today is going to touch on the Meno; it's not required reading, but you may wish to have a look around before I go into it.

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:

Sense and Sensibility

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"; and Gayatri Spivak, "Four Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism"

2:

Emma

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

3:

Emma

Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, Part One

4:

Emma

Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, Part Two

5:

Persuasion

Things and commodities: Arjun Appadurai, "Commodities and the politics of value"; Bill Brown, "The Idea of Things and the Ideas in Them"

7:

Persuasion

Performative feminism: Judith Butler, "Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions"

8:

Persuasion

Postcritique: Sharon Marcus and Stephen Best, "Surface Reading"; Sharon Marcus, "Introduction," from Between Women

9:

Lady Susan

Slavoj Zizek, from The Sublime Object of Ideology

10:

Sanditon

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