Jane Austen’s novels are works "in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, [and] the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language" (from Austen’s Northanger Abbey).

This course explores the many dimensions of three novels--Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma--in the literary and historical context of their time. Beneath the "light and bright and sparkling" surface of Pride and Prejudice, Austen alluded to the political and philosophical debates of her day. In Mansfield Park she refashioned contemporary drama and Shakespearean references to create a newly interior mode of fiction. In Emma she created word games and plots for her characters and readers to play with, while also commenting on class and national character.

Literary historians credit Austen with helping to create the very form of the realist novel and have proclaimed her one of the greatest stylists of all time.

Major topics:

  • Austen's stylistic mastery
  • Marriage and the market
  • Fairy tales and moral quandaries
  • Transforming drama into fiction
  • Playing with words
  • Plotting and politics