Jane Austen and Popular Culture
This course provides students with an introduction to English through the study of a single author: Jane Austen. At once acutely aware of popular culture and a product of it, Austen read and wrote in popular forms, from Gothic horror to raucous satire. Her love of popular theater enters into her work constantly, her facility for writing dialogue making possible successful screen adaptations of every one of her novels.
During the semester, we'll read four or five of Austen's novels, certainly Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion. We'll also see approximately eight films, from faithful adaptions of her novels to films like Clueless and Brigette Jones' Diary. In the first few weeks of the course, we'll read Austen in the context of the popular culture of her own time -- in the circulating libraries of resort towns like Bath, on the London stage, and in response to the twenty-three year war with France that dominated nearly all of her adult life. The second part of the course will then turn, particularly though not exclusively through the medium of film, to Austen as contemporary cultural phenomenon -- from the soldiers during the first world war who read her obsessively in the trenches, to the fans who made the Austen film industry possible, to the authors and directors who have found inspiration in her work, to the fan fiction that displaces her author to heroine of her own work. Required work: three responses, two essays, and a final examination.