Jane Austen: The Novels, their Contexts and their Adaptations

Module code: EN3158

In this module you will be reading Jane Austen’s novels in their historical and literary contexts, as well as looking at modern screen adaptations. We will be discussing the ways in which Austen represents the dilemmas of being a young woman in the late 18th and early 19th-centuries - what pressures are her heroines under in their formative years? To what extent are they able to determine their own destinies and what do they learn about themselves in the process? How does Austen shape our responses to her heroines’ stories? 

We will look at how a knowledge of the society of Austen’s time and of the writing of her literary contemporaries can change our perception of the meanings of her fiction. For example, we will compare Austen’s fiction with the writing of the first major feminist thinker, Mary Wollstonecraft, and with the work of other female writers of the period. We will also look at how recent film and TV adaptations have, again, reshaped Austen for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Your primary texts will be the novels of Jane Austen, supplemented by extracts from contemporary writers, including Mary Wollstonecraft, and by contemporary screen adaptations. 

Topics covered

  • To what extent and in what ways do they protest against the limitations imposed on those lives?
  • To what extent should Austen be considered a romantic novelist?
  • What picture of masculinity do these novels offer?
  • What is the importance of factors such as social class and wealth in the lives of Austen’s characters?
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