WiSe 15/16: PS-Surveying English Literatures II: Jane Austen
Andrew James Johnston
No other writer from English literary history enjoys the same present-day success as Jane Austen - with the exception of J. R. R. Tolkien, perhaps. Pride and Prejudice especially has become something ... Lesen Sie weiter
No other writer from English literary history enjoys the same present-day success as Jane Austen - with the exception of J. R. R. Tolkien, perhaps. Pride and Prejudice especially has become something like an all-time favourite and has spawned a whole industry of rewritings and cinematic adaptations. Such popularity comes with its own disadvantages: the novel is frequently reduced to its romance-like plot and readers quickly find themselves identifying with the leading characters. Thus, the novel's very success often prevents it from being understood as the highly complex and self-conscious piece of narrative art it is, and modern readers are prone to overlook the novel's dark ironies, the social brutality of the story and the terrifying gender relations that shape the protagonists' world.
This course seeks to take a closer look at Pride and Prejudice in order to analyze the novel's complexities, its narrative art, its negotiations of ideological problems and the contextual issues it addresses either directly or indirectly. Our attention will then shift to another novel by Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, a book that appears to form the starkest possible contrast to Pride and Prejudice but is just as sophisticated, or possibly even more so.
The seminar is designed not simply to teach Jane Austen but also to provide a practical guide to literary criticism. There will be a strong focus on the nitty-gritty of the business of interpretation. We will, therefore, find ourselves digressing frequently from the novels themselves in order to discuss the fundamental problems involved in understanding literary texts.
Our discussions will be based on the Penguin Classics editions of Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. Students are expected to have read both texts before the class begins.