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Jane Austen and Adaptation

ENGL 101.601
Thursday 5-8:00
fulfills requirements:
Sector III: Arts & Letters of the College's General Education Curriculum


Jane Austen’s works have enjoyed immense popularity through the ages. This is reflected not only in readers’ continued engagement with her novels but also in the numerous adaptations and a popular fan fiction market that continues to expanded exponentially. In this course we will combine attentive study of Austen’s novels with a consideration of how they have been adapted for later audiences. As we read her major novels we will reflect on Austen’s use of literary conventions of her time, such as the epistolary form, the novel of sensibility and the gothic. We will locate her ostensibly domestic dramas within the cultural and political moment in which they were produced as a way to probe the tension between the universal appeals of her work and their historical rootedness. We will also have occasion to talk about Austen’s position as a female writer in nineteenth century England, the dissemination and circulation of her texts and her participation in the material culture of the day. Moving on to adaptations, we will consider literary responses to Austen such as Jo Baker’s Longbourne, period films such as Ang Lee’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility (1995), Pride and Prejudice (2005) starring Kiera Knightley and Patricia Rozema’s adaptation of Mansfield Park (1999). In addition to these we will also study updates such as Clueless and Bridget Jones’ Diary as well as new media manifestations, like the Youtube series The Lizzie Bennett Diaries. We will pay attention to how these adaptations try to reconcile the tension between preserving historical accuracy and the desire to translate to new audiences what’s enduringly vital about Austen’s work. What accounts for Austen’s persistent popularity through the ages? And what might her popularity teach us about our own practices of valuing and evaluating literature?