Annotated Bibliography on the Scholarship of Teaching Jane Austen
Arizona State University
Arizona State University
Alexander, Joy. “Anything Goes? Reading Mansfield Park.” Use of
English 52.3 (2001): 239–51. Print.
This article was inspired by the author’s identification of a common problem in the literary classroom: how to allow for subjective reading along with the objective meaning of a work. Alexander engages in a few brief close readings to show how the perception of certain characters in the novel controls a reader’s response to the whole. She argues that teachers must direct their students to certain conclusions from Austen’s text or they will otherwise misguidedly misinterpret them. The article advocates for the importance of teachers showing students how to read.
Amano, Miyuki. “A Cross-cultural Approach to Jane
Austen's Novels.” Hectate 34.2 (2008):
Starting from the global popularity of Austen inside and outside of the classroom, this article argues that her work should be approached cross-culturally, in order to help undergraduates better understand British culture and inspire a greater interest in literature. Amano developed this approach to teaching Austen’s novels with students in Japan who struggled with the text in its original English. In order to help them better understand the text, Amano developed two thematic teaching devices, explored in detail in the article: the picturesque in Northanger Abbey and humor in Emma.
Arriola, Joyce. “Introducing the ‘Women’s Film’ in
Teaching the Works of 18 and 19 Century Women Novelists in English:
The Case of Jane Austen and Her Predecessors.” Unitas 77.4 (2004): 455–75. Print.
This essay looks at film adaptations of Sense and Sensibility and Emma (including Clueless ), placing Austen in historical context and the films in the context of the New Post-Classical Hollywood. Arriola suggests that the classroom could serve to break down the divide between Austen the canonical author and Austen the pop icon of romantic film comedy.
Austen, Jane. Pride and
Prejudice. Ed. Janice Greene. Irvine, CA: Saddleback
Pub., 2003. Print.
This book contains a study guide component for younger audiences with a variety of resources, including chapter summaries, a literary glossary, and quizzes. All activities are aimed at teaching reading skills and vocabulary, designed for students to carry to other novels and reading assignments.
Barlow, Adrian. World and Time:
Teaching Literature in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge UP,
One chapter of this book deals with contexts and the novel, using Austen’s Emma and Persuasion to demonstrate the gendered perspective of the texts and how they represent the larger theme of individual perception. The word “handsome” is explored as an example of a word that must be defined in is historical context (“good looking and tall”) in order for Austen’s meaning to become clear. The narrator of such characters’ descriptions is also mentioned as a topic worthy of study, because in those two novels, they often “Photoshop” others, to better serve their own appearance. As a result, they are unreliable. Barlow author argues that this is an intentional narrative style that forces the reader to look more closely at the text, both in its immediate location and in relation to the novel as a whole.
Brownstein, Rachel. “Personal Experience Paper.” In
Personal Effects: The Social Character of
Scholarly Writing. Ed. Deborah Holdstein and David
Bleich. Logan, UT: Utah State P, 2001. 220–31. Print.
Brownstein argues that the phenomenon of developing a personal relationship with Austen and her texts is indicative of how there is more at stake in reading literature than textual interpretation. Austen has been considered the epitome of taste, an identity she consciously constructed and one that is evocative of the personal interpretations many readers bring to her works. This article "examines how taste operates” in both Austen’s narratives and in the personal opinions and lives of her readers: as part of a shared social world that literature invites us to participate in, as told through anecdotes about Brownstein’s class.
----. Why Jane Austen? New
York: Columbia UP, 2011. Print.
This book opens with a brief summary of Austen’s contested place in feminist theory across its history, combining literary and cultural analysis with personal accounts in order to probe the interconnectedness of readers of Austen. The chapter “Why We Read Jane Austen” details student reactions to various Austen novels, as observed over the course of Brownstein’s teaching career. It details questions she used in her own class to address the themes of Austen’s novels.
Demory, Pamela. “Jane Austen and the Chick Flick in
the Twenty-first Century.” Adaptation Studies: New
Approaches. Ed. Christa Albrecht-Crane and Dennis R.
Cutchins. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2010. 121-49.
This article questions why Austen’s novels (particularly Pride and Prejudice), but not the film adaptations, are considered appropriate reading for men and women. Demory proposes examining this 21st-century phenomenon and how it functions as part of a larger intertextual canon, rather than seeking to measure how faithful the adaptations are to the novels. Breaking Pride and Prejudice adaptations into three strands of a "tapestry," she sets out to determine why the films are gendered as “chick flicks” and what this says about women’s roles today.
Deresiewicz, William. “A Jane Austen Education.”
Chronicle of Higher Education (6 May
2011): B10–12. Print.
This essay opens with a personal account of the author’s introduction to Austen with Emma, and describes the passionate and devoted professor who fostered his relationship to her, and to literature in general. Later, when Deresiewicz became a teacher himself, Northanger Abbey became a guide on how to instruct. This involved being quirky, foolish and sly, in order to inspire serious independent thought in others, as hero Henry Tilney does in that novel and Austen did in her fiction.
Diana, M. Casey. “Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility as a Gateway to Austen’s Novel: A
Pedagogical Experiment.” Topic 48 (1997):
This essay debates the pros and cons of showing film clips of Austen’s work in conjunction with the texts, either before or reading the novel itself. Diana tested this by teaching her introductory English course in two groups, one of which viewed the Academy Award-winning version of Sense and Sensibility in its entirety, and the other which only read Austen’s novel. The groups were then reversed. She gathered results from comprehension quizzes, an essay, and a questionnaire, which revealed that those who viewed the film first followed the novel’s plot more closely, were more involved in the story and its characters, and recalled more plot details. Appreciation for Austen’s novel was greater after viewing the movie, and Diana believes that better engagement can be gained from a screening of the film before the text itself is read.
Draxler, Bridget, Misty Krueger, and Susan Allen Ford, eds. “Teaching Austen and Her Contemporaries,” a special issue of Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal On-Line 34.2 (Spring 2014): n. pag. Web.
This special issue of Persuasions Online consists of a short introduction by Devoney Looser (“Discovering Jane Austen in Today’s College Classroom”) and eight essays on teaching Austen at the college and university level, by Misty Krueger (“Teaching Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey as a ‘Crossover’ Text”), Daniel Schierenbeck (“Teaching Two Janes: Austen and West in Dialogue”), Danielle Spratt (“Taking Emma to the Street: Toward a Civic Engagement Model of Austen Pedagogy), Olivera Jokic (“Teaching to the Resistance: What do Do When Students Dislike Austen”), Andrea Rehn (“‘Hastening Together to Perfect Felicity’: Teaching the British Gothic Tradition through Parody and Role-Playing”), Bridget Draxler (“Teaching Jane Austen in Bits and Bytes: Digitizing Undergraduate Archival Research”), Jodi L. Wyett (Jane Austen Then and Now: Teaching Georgian Jane in the Jane-Mania Media Age), and Cheryl Wilson (“Dancing with Jane Austen: History and Practice in the Classroom.” The contributors have included sample syllabi in an appendix following the essays.
Dryden, Robert G. “Reading and Teaching Our Way Out
of Jane Austen Novels (Naval Options).” Persuasions 27 (2005): 208–18. Print.
The argument of this article is that Austen’s novels are valuable for their historical context as well as for their contributions to literature. Dryden argues that Austen’s middle class characters often challenge the more wealthy and established families in ways that mirror real life in post–French Revolution England. He documents a new historically based course he taught, “Jane Austen’s Great Britain,” in which students investigated the connections between her works and the history of the period, as well as examined closely the allusions to the Napoleonic War, Industrial Revolution and age of Revolution hidden beneath the marriage plot.
Duquette, Natasha Aleksiuk. “Laughter over Tea: Jane Austen and Culinary Pedagogy.”
Persuasions Online 29.1 (2008).
This article details the author’s decision to host a garden tea at her home during an Austen summer course, in order to better introduce students to the types of interactions that would have occurred at such an event in Austen’s time and to the preparation and consumption of a Georgian or Regency tea. Over time, this became a tradition with an expanded guest list, and further promoted the goals of the event: to give a more tangible sensory experience to Austen and early nineteenth-century England. Other themes, such as domesticity and hospitality, gender, masculine privilege, social class, and feminism, were brought up in reflections on these events.
Easton, Celia A. “Dancing Through Austen's Plots: A
Pedagogy of the Body.” Persuasions 28
(2006): 251–54. Print.
Easton presents her own experience of learning English country dance in order to better understand Austen’s dance scenes as metaphors and social markers. She sees them more broadly as a method of learning in which readers must use their entire bodies to experience literature. One method of this teaching process involved volunteer students literally standing in for Austen’s heroines in the novels and walking the classroom in a physical representation of how the characters moved around in physical space in the narrative. Easton looked at how those movements could be compared to those in other Austen novels and in the construction of prose in general.
Educational Outreach Department of WGBH (Masterpiece / PBS). The
Complete Guide to Teaching Jane Austen. 2010.
This guide was designed to be used in conjunction with various Masterpiece films, as well as the television version of Emma (2010) and The Complete Jane Austen (2008) film series. The use of the films is justified with the claim that they offer new avenues into Austen’s world. The guide contains biographical information, before-and-after viewing questions, and activities broken down by film/novel. Additional online and print resources are suggested at the conclusion of the guide.
Eggleston, Robert. “Emma, the Movies, and First-Year
Literature Classes.” Persuasions
Online 3 (Fall 1999): Web.
This essay introduces Emma’s film adaptations as an example of how recent film and TV versions hinder students’ abilities to engage with the printed text fully, as well as prompting confusion between the plots of the original text and the movie versions. Eggleston’s students ultimately disliked Emma as a novel because they did not want to put in the effort required in reading. He argues that they expected the text to be more entertaining, leading the author to have a viewing of A&E version of Emma in class. Although the film version did not reinvigorate the class as he hoped, it did cause some students to reconsider the written text. Still, it made little overall impact, leaving Eggleston to assert that Austen has become a collaborator, not a novelist.
Favret, Mary A. “Reading Jane Austen in Wartime.” Romantic Circles Pedagogy Commons (2008 Aug). Web.
This essay argues that although Austen never took readers to a battlefield in her works, she accurately represents how those at home responded to war, inspiring the question of why we often choose to sit home and read during times of crisis. Favret offers evidence in support of Austen as wartime novelist who helped form modern opinions of war as more than just dates of battles fought and explains how this insight can be taught in the classroom. She also gives attention to how Austen demonstrates that the lasting effects of past events can influence current lives.
Flavin, Louise. Jane Austen in the
Classroom: Viewing the Novel / Reading the Film. New
York: Peter Lang, 2004. Print.
This book that presents an approachable way to teaching Austen through identifying the issues in each novel that relate to contemporary readers. Flavin offers them as studies of human behavior, which, she asserts, makes the film versions of the novels invaluable. Flavin breaks her book into separate sections about teaching the novels and teaching the films. Detailed questions for the classroom are provided, as well as a list of all existing adaptations, designating those the author finds most useful in the classroom.
Folsom, Marcia McClintock, ed. Approaches to Teaching Austen’s Emma. New York: Modern
Language Association, 2004. Print.
The essays in this collection are grouped into five sections: social and political context, literary context, class and gender, language, and specific moments in the text, all foregrounding different theoretical perspectives and/or close readings of Emma. The book hopes to offer new ways of teaching a text that many students rebel against, due to the perception that the narrative is void of action. Its essays serve to help teachers prompt their students to re-evaluate the events of the text.
---. Approaches to Teaching
Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. New York: Modern Language
Association, 1993. Print.
This book offers sixteen essays on teaching Pride and Prejudice, considering biographical and historical backgrounds for the novel, ways to connect the work to Austen’s unpublished writing, the literary context, use in teaching structure and theme, and how to appreciate the language used in the novel. The structural coherence of the novel is a significant area of focus, as is its habit of reviewing past events in detail.
---. “The Privilege of My Own Profession: The Living Legacy of Austen
in the Classroom.” Persuasions
Online 29.1 (2008). Web.
Folsom address the prevalence of Austen in modern culture and how invoking Austen’s name creates the perception of a “whole world,” which is often seen as formulaic and dry. In order to combat this, Folsom focuses her teaching on the more inventive and experimental techniques of Austen’s prose, as well as comparing and contrasting certain themes throughout multiple works. The article uses Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion as an example.
Folsom, Marcia McClintock and John Wiltshire, eds. Approaches to Teaching Austen's Mansfield Park. New York: Modern Language Association, 2014.
This volume in the MLA Approaches to Teaching World Literature series consists of nineteen essays by noted teacher scholars, including Dorice Williams Elliott, Julia Prewitt Brown, Peter W. Graham, Penny Gay, Lisa Kasmer, and Sarah Emsley. Their essays focus on issues of gift theory, desire, speculation, landscape, readerships, nationalism, geography, and reading aloud, among other topics. As with all of the volumes in this series, the book includes information on editions, reference works, and online resources, as well as syllabus suggestions.
Fulk, Mark K. “Feminist and Queer Values in the
Southern Conservative Christian Classroom: The Case of Jane Austen’s
Teacher 14.3 (2003): 248–60. Print.
Fulk details how he bypassed restrictions placed upon him by a small, Christian university in the South through a feminist unit on Emma, a text largely considered heterosexual “safe reading.” Using close reading in conjunction with theories by Adrienne Rich and Mary Louise Pratt, Fulk aimed to keep students’ repulsed reactions to Emma and Harriet in check and to invite queer readings of the text, although he did not identify them as such. More specific details on how this can be accomplished are examined using chapters one and two of Austen’s novel as a guide. Fulk demonstrates how discussions of power and gender in Emma can address sexuality in the text without risking reprisals from conservative audiences.
Gottlieb, Evan. “Sir Walter and Plain Jane:
Teaching Austen and Scott Together.” Approaches to
Teaching Scott’s Waverley Novels. Ed. Evan Gottlieb and
Ian Duncan New York: Modern Language Association, 2009. 97–104.
This essay argues that teaching Austen and Scott together serves two purposes: one for the student and one for the teacher. For the student, Austen is a familiar name whose novels may be used to introduce the lesser-known works of Scott. For teachers, the pairing is useful for drawing historical, stylistic and theoretical parallels. Gottlieb connects Waverley with Persuasion, and The Antiquary with Northanger Abbey.
Hansen, Serena. “Rhetorical Dynamics in Jane Austen's Treatment of Marriage
Proposals.” Persuasions Online
21.2 (2000). Web.
This essay summarizes the approach of using Pride and Prejudice’s marriage proposals from Mr. Collins as a method of teaching different kinds of rhetoric and argument. Hansen teaches eighteenth-century theories of rhetoric through Austen as studies of persuasion. In doing so, Hansen defends a common critique of the author—that she is too vague and distant in her proposal scenes—by separating her novels into two categories based on how the proposals are framed and reported. The article contains brief summaries the rhetorical theories of Francis Bacon, George Campbell, and Hugh Blair.
Horniman, Val. “Teaching Jane Austen in Communist
China, 1990-1996.” Global Jane Austen: Pleasure,
Passion, and Possessiveness in the Jane Austen
Community. Ed. Laurence Raw and Robert Dryden. Palgrave
Macmillan, 2013. 221-37. Print.
This essay documents how teachers struggle to elevate Austen as a worthy author—in a time and a country where a Marxist textbook lumps her together with “Some Women Writers”—by teaching Pride and Prejudice. Particular focus is given to scenes in which the narrator subtly reveals the true feelings of the characters, comparing the novel to Jane Eyre. Horniman also details how Austen can be used for the students as a pleasurable juxtaposition to political turmoil of the time, providing a subtle critique of the education system.
Jones, Chris. “Teaching & Learning Guide For:
Jane Austen and the Public Sphere.”
Literature Compass 4.4 (2007): 1339.
This essay is a brief but useful compilation of books, web sources, films, and a special journal issue recommended by the author for teaching Austen.
Jones, Vivien. How to Study a Jane
Austen Novel. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave
Macmillan, 1997. Print.
Written in a casual, conversational tone, Jones’s text provides the reader with a general guide to all of Austen’s novels, using individual passages to inspire analysis. This book also offers summaries of the criticism of Austen and her family, historical context, and gender, in chapters that teach students how to utilize previous scholarship. The final section of this book offers advice on how to write a literary essay.
Kaplan, Laurie. “London as Text: Teaching Jane Austen’s ‘London’ Novels in
Situ.” Persuasions Online 32.1
(Winter 2011): Web.
Kaplan recounts her experience teaching Austen in London, where analysis of the novel was improved by physically exploring the parts of London mentioned in Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Emma, particularly those that retained their nineteenth-century qualities. Doing so provided students with greater access to the context of the novel’s objects and scenery, as well as offering insight into the experience of living in and interacting with these spaces and objects.
Krueger, Misty (2015) "Mansfield
Park Comes to Life: Teaching and Staging Elizabeth
Inchbald’s Lovers’ Vows in an Austen
Course." ABO: Interactive Journal
for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830: Vol. 5: Iss. 1, Article
Krueger describes how she uses a readers’ theatre format in her senior seminar, by incorporating a reading of Elizabeth Inchbald’s Lovers’ Vows (1798), the play that was to have been performed as a private theatrical in Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814). Krueger addresses the private theatrical episode in Mansfield Park and the ways her students created their own “little theatre”—quoting Austen's character, Tom Bertram—at her university. She describes how they became their own version of "The Mansfield Players," ending the piece with conclusions about what students stand to learn about drama by using this teaching method.
Kubitschek, Missy. “Truths Universally
Acknowledged: Stereotypes of Women in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813).” In Women
in Literature: Reading Through the Lens of Gender. Ed.
Jerilyn Fisher and Ellen S. Silber. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press,
2003. 237–39. Print.
This essay acknowledges the common contemporary criticism of Pride and Prejudice—that it features stereotypical female characters obsessed with marriage—arguing that this was a historically accurate representation by Austen. Those characters of greater moral worth, Jane and Elizabeth, marry the best husbands, while those of lesser merit are united accordingly. Kubitschek asserts that individual fault, rather than a larger system, dictates the fortune of the characters. It is the teacher’s job to show students how this system of values functions before they give generic negative labels to the text. She offers strategies for accomplishing this, including examining female/female relationships, identifying stereotypes, and examining those characters who pretend to have desirable feminine characteristics in order to gain power.
Leal, Amy. “Dressing Literary History.” Chronicle of Higher Education (3 August 2007),
The author discusses her own hobby of making historically accurate clothing from the nineteenth century and the stereotypes and challenges she faces from both academic and popular communities in doing so. Leal says she handmakes all of this clothing because she is fascinated by capturing some part what it felt like to live during a different time. This is part of her philosophy in approaching literature as a sensory experience, where history and fictional narrative can be better experienced and taught by trying to embody some aspect of the past.
Lescinski, Joan M. “Austen and Eliot: A Chance in
Teaching Approach.” Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the
College English Association. 27-29 March 1992. ERIC Number 350602.
In this article, Austen and Eliot are paired for their status as major female British authors of the nineteenth century who disguised critiques of society within seemingly normative novels. Lescinski says that this theory is heavily dependent on feminist criticism, and she uses Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss as her examples. Particular attention is given to the female characters within these novels who appear to bend to societal norms, when in fact they are bringing attention to the injustice of such restraints and making choices in order to survive.
Levine, Gloria, and Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: Teacher Guide.
San Antonio, TX: Novel Units, 2000. Print.
This book is designed for instructors teaching younger readers of Austen. It contains sections for developing vocabulary, as well as breakdowns of each chapter and accompanying activities and discussion questions. Ideas for incorporating art and music into lesson plans are also included.
Lima, Chris. “Is Jane Austen out of date for the classroom?” British Council Voices. British Council. 13
August 2013. Web.
Lima advocates for teaching Austen in English language classrooms, claiming that her language is neither too hard for students to understand nor irrelevant to modern experience. Lima most frequently teaches Pride and Prejudice, and in so doing, utilizes resources that can be found on the TeachingEnglish website, as well as both the 1995 BBC and 2005 film versions of the novel.
Mangiavellano, Daniel R. “First Encounters with
Pride and Prejudice in the Composition
Classroom.” Pedagogy 12.3 (2012): 550-555.
This author uses Pride and Prejudice to introduce various prose strategies that students can implement in their own writing and as a discussion starter on how clarity and coherence inform communication. In his teaching of the novel, Mangiavellano presents the first line of Austen’s novel as a thesis statement of sorts, calling on his students to see all prose as rhetorically based. Further examples for classroom analysis include the novel’s first chapter, Mr. Collins's introduction letter, Darcy’s decisive letter to Elizabeth, their first encounter at the ball, and Charlotte’s decision to marry Collins.
Marais, Trudi. “Northanger
Abbey in the ‘80s.” Crux 14.3
(1980): 42–43. Print.
The author describes her experiences marking and evaluating 130 essays on Northanger Abbey written by secondary school students. She describes the shortcomings of student writing in meaning, language, and style.
McLean, Barbara. “Women Writing, Women Teaching:
Speculating on Domestic Space.” Canadian Woman
Studies 17.4 (1998). LION: Literature
This article summarizes how Austen's fiction can be used as an example of women’s writing dealing with power relations and domestic space. McLean also uses pictures of houses and the rooms inside them that Austen would have been exposed to, questioning how both these real life and fictional spaces become beautiful. (Who cleans them? Where did the money to create them come from?) Austen is useful for this conversation not only because of the great detail in her work, but also due to her acknowledgement of how these spaces confine female occupants.
McLeod, Alan M., ed. Books Still
Worth Reading. Virginia Association of
Teachers of English and Language Arts [NCTE Affiliate]
33.1 (Spring 1983). Print. ERIC. ED 228 656.
This work contains essays promoting the timeless merits of a variety of books, particularly Emma, which the author argues is Austen’s finest novel. He reports finding his students surprisingly receptive to the novel, delighting in the exploration into the past it allowed them. The detail within Austen’s prose allows for easy identification with characters and a clear example of narrative point of view, he suggests.
McMaster, Juliet. “Teaching ‘Love and Freindship.’”
Jane Austen’s Beginnings: The Juvenilia and
Lady Susan. Ed. J. David Grey. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI
Research, 1989. Print.
This book chapter documents the author’s experience teaching Austen’s juvenilia in upper level courses, as a lead-in to her novels, although McMaster also addresses the possibility of teaching “Love and Friendship” as a stand alone component of the syllabus. This essay details three different approaches to the text: emphasizing the burlesque element, examining “Love and Friendship” as a text itself, and seeing it as a precursor to Austen’s later work. A helpful addition to the study of this text is a family and relationship tree of all the characters in the narrative.
McMaster, Juliet and Victoria Kortes-Papp. "Teaching Austen by Editing: From Juvenilia to Emma." Persuasions
Online 21.1 (2000) Web.
A professor and PhD candidate discuss their experiences annotating and editing Austen’s Juvenilia as a pedagogical experience, emphasizing the personal growth it provided them, as well as the learning potential of such an assignment. They note the continued presence of parody throughout Austen’s writing and describe the connections they found between her early work and later novels.
McMaster, Juliet, Tobi Kozakewich, and Kirsten
Macleod. “Editing Jane: Austen’s Juvenilia in the Classroom.” Lumen 19 (2000): 187-201. Print.
The authors describe their collective work in editing and transcribing Austen’s juvenilia for a Juvenilia Press volume of her work, A Collection of Letters. They describe deciphering handwriting, deciding on stylistic practices, and comparing copy text with previous editions, as well as composing their “Note on the Text.” They conclude that this experience in the classroom was practical but also provided them with the opportunity to re-evaluate the printed text. The experience of editing Austen’s letters made it impossible for them to view any printed text as an unadulterated reproductions of an author’s original draft.
Mayer, Laura Reis. A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics
Edition of Jane Austen’s Emma. New York:
Penguin, 2012. Web.
This 22-page .pdf guide to teaching Austen’s Emma provides a list of characters and a synopsis of the novel, as well as pre-reading, during-reading, and after-reading activities for the classroom teacher. The “During Reading” section offers prompts for individual and group resonse, and the “After Reading” section provides ideas for writing and for individual and group projects. Penguin has also prepared similar guides for Pride and Prejudice (Posey) and Persuasion (Mitchell); see below.
Meihuizen, Dorothea. “The Relevance and Importance
of Emma to Matric Pupils.” Crux 21.4 (1987): 24–32.
This essay identifies Austen’s novels as falling into one of two categories: those containing grave, less obvious humor (Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Persuasion) and those with witty but imperfect heroines (Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Emma). However, in the latter group, Emma stands out for its significantly less likeable heroine and titular character. Meihuizen argues that it should be taught for its valuable lesson on perceptions of marriage during the period. Other topics of importance to be emphasized are interference/intervention and deception, which, when joined with the topic of marriage, create a reflective, dense text that is ultimately about Emma’s journey to self-discovery, a journey that the author argues is worthy of study by readers of all genders.
Milligan, Ian. Studying Jane
Austen. Harlow, Essex, England: Longman, 1988.
This book presents each of Austen’s novels in conjunction with a different theme that connects modern readers to the text by presenting “real issues” that lie at the heart of her novels. Formulated as a handbook for reading Austen, this book provides brief summaries of each novel before discussing the work in connection to other Austen novels. Milligan states that this book is particularly useful for students studying for exams or preparing an essay.
Mitchell, Diana. A Teacher’s Guide to the Penguin Edition
of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. New York:
Penguin, n.d. Web.
This 17-page .pdf document to teaching Austen’s Persuasion provides teachers with chapter summaries and discussion questions, as well as before-reading, while-reading, after-reading, and extended learning activities. Signet has also prepared similar guides for Pride and Prejudice (Posey) and Emma (Mayer); see above and below.
Morgan, Alice. “On Teaching Emma.” Journal of General
Education 24 (1972): 103–08. Print.
Morgan recounts the difficulties she faced in teaching this novel to a freshman English class, who largely found the text repulsive. They criticized the characters as snobbish and hypocritical, ignored the still-relevant problem of social status, and found trouble with the plot in general, due to ignorance of the period in which it is set, the author argues. In an attempt to remedy these problems, Morgan engaged the class in defining terms and recognizing how modern society deals with things like wealth and background, although she reports that the best discussion came not from the examination of the novel itself, but rather from the issues it highlights.
Nachumi, Nora. “’I Am Elizabeth Bennet’: Defining
One's Self through Austen's Third Novel.” Pedagogy 4.1 (2004): 119-124. Print.
This essay offers a personal reflection on teaching Austen to female students at an Orthodox Jewish university, describing how the author’s assumptions about teaching gender were challenged and altered by the experience. Initially, the students were nervous to voice their true opinions about Pride and Prejudice, but journal and paper assignments gave Nachumi an insight into their thoughts. She found that many women students identified with Austen’s heroines, because their own culture placed significant importance on courtship and marrying at a young age. The students expressed admiration for Elizabeth Bennet’s ability to remain mentally independent and live within societal norms, proving that literature can inspire readers to examine their own lives more closely.
Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in
Tehran: A Memoir in Books. New York: Random House, 2003.
This book documents the experiences of one professor, the struggles she faced teaching during the revolution in Iran (1978–1981), and the establishment of a book club in the nineties where women met each week to discuss Western literature. Austen was included in the reading list for this book club, where the readers related to the tension and the longings of desire in Pride and Prejudice, as well as to the pressures of making a proper marriage. The book describes more generally how Nafisi created a sense of bonding and fun within in the club.
Phiddian, Robert. “Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice: Teaching Verbal Irony.”
The Use of English 57.3 (2006):
The essay promotes teaching irony for its ability to develop “independent moral agents” capable of recognizing complexities in a literary text. Phiddian believes students today have read less than previous generations and that what little is read differs from person to person, unlike the shared reading experiences of previous decades. The author uses a popular book for young readers, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, alongside a once popular book, Pride and Prejudice, to teach playful comedy and irony. He compares J. K. Rowling’s character Rita Skeeter and Austen’s narrator, with both portrayed as unreliable, sarcastic commentators, in order to show how modern and historical texts can exist in one syllabus.
Pirani, Alix. “Northanger
Abbey and the New Fifth,” Use of
English 24 (1972): 117–21; 126. Print.
Pirani highlights the importance of adolescent students’ freedom to respond to texts however they would like—as long as good reading strategies are taught and applied—using Northanger Abbey as an example. The essay argues that this novel is particularly effective for its focus on the importance of knowledge and the learning of expected social habits, while still remaining relevant and intriguing to younger readers.
Posey, Nancy. A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics
Edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
New York: Penguin, 2009. Web.
This 30-page .pdf guide to teaching Austen’s Pride and Prejudice provides a list of characters and a synopsis of the novel, as well as pre-reading, during-reading, and after-reading activities for the classroom teacher. The “During Reading” section offers discussion questions, and the “After Reading” section provides ideas for individual and group projects. Reader response is emphasized. Penguin has also prepared similar guides for Persuasion (Mitchell) and Emma (Mayer); see above.
Pucci, Suzanne R., and James Thompson, eds. Jane Austen and Co.: Remaking the Past in Contemporary
Culture. Albany: State U of New York, 2003.
Using contemporary Austen adaptations to explain desires to remake the past while remaining nostalgic for it, this book examines the cultural, social, and pedagogical atmospheres that arise when these variations are produced. Examples are not confined to Austen alone, although all of the book’s chapters use her work and adaptations as a model for how contemporary culture enters into the past. The book offers new ways to engage students in literary study. The book is divided into four parts, each of which offers a site of “reading” that considers one issue in the representation in culture: “In the Classroom” (pedagogy), “In the Nation” (history and politics), “At Home” (intimacy) and “In the Bedroom” (gender and sexuality).
Roth, Phyllis and Annette LeClair. “Exhibiting the Learning: Austen's Legacy on Display.”
Persuasions Online 29.1 (2008).
This essay analyzes how the popular industry, critical response, and literary output of Austen can be combined with the novels themselves in the classroom. Roth and LeClair place emphasis on the importance of working in collaboration with librarians on creative projects, such as exhibits of Austen’s legacy. Students learned to create compelling, educational displays that contained a visual thesis with evidence.
Salusinszky, Imre. “Deconstruction in the
Classroom: Jane Austen's Persuasion.”
Bridging the Gap: Literary Theory in the
Classroom. Ed. J. M. Q. Davies. West Cornwall, CT:
Locust Hill, 1994. 167–79. Print
Salusinszky uses Austen’s Persuasion as an example of how feminist, Marxist and historicist theories can be united into a “New Moralism.” This essay summarizes not only the development of New Moralism as a literary theory but also shows how Persuasion serves as an exemplary text to utilize this new theory in the classroom, as a way to critique the ways ideologies are learned.
Simon, Richard Keller. Trash
Culture: Popular Culture and the Great Tradition.
Berkeley: U of California, 1999. Print.
This book is based on the theory that moving between high and low culture can teach students to approach all writing as worthy of analysis. Part of this method of teaching requires the instructor not to label one as more difficult or important than the other, instead moving from old to new in order to demonstrate how presentation of a work can have an impact on its reception. Cosmopolitan magazine and Jane Austen are paired as coming-of-age texts for women and as texts that offer opportunities to study the use of parallels and juxtapositions.
Spacks, Patricia Meyer. “Emma’s Happiness.” ADE Bulletin
84 (1986): 16–18. Print.
Spacks attempts to offer a solution to the common reader response of disliking Emma as a character by promoting the novel as a study of happiness and the pursuit of it. She emphasizes to her students that Emma is not a real person but a carefully constructed character who misreads the situations in the plot much in the same way the reader might misinterpret Emma. Close examination of various passages of the novel examine the shifting definitions of “happiness,” and why those moments of contention are important to understand it as ironic commentary on the importance—and often confusion—of intention and interpretation. Spacks argues that the novel can be read as an exploration on the importance of imagination to happiness, and how fragile that construction can be.
Stewart, Garrett. “Teaching Prose Fiction: Some
‘Instructive’ Styles.” College English 37
(1975–76): 383–401. Print.
Stewart utilizes Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Great Expectations to teach students about a difficult topic—prose style—for their authors’ mastery of innovative techniques of narration. Students are asked to complete a series of assignments, beginning with identifying the meaning of one word as it occurs throughout the text, then in an extended passage or paragraph, and finally in comparing two passages from different parts of a novel. Austen functions as the “sensitivity training” introduction to the first part of this sequence, offering a clear example of a text where words and phrases hold meanings of their own. In Stewart’s experience, students quickly identify Austen’s prose style as confident and calm, capable of carrying hidden meanings. The “recognition scenes” in this novel examined for such moments are those that mirror a “sketch” or “portrait,” a theme carried throughout the story and that helps unite it as a whole.
Sullivan, Zohreh T. “Theory for the Untheoretical:
Rereading and Reteaching Austen, Brontë, and Conrad.” College English 53.5 (1991):
Sullivan argues that teaching styles must be modified over time in relation to the historical and cultural atmosphere of that moment, meaning that novels must be reread constantly. Doing so will promote the discovery of new interpretations and stimulate innovative techniques with which to view the world. By using feminist and Marxist theorists to explain the ending of Pride and Prejudice, the modern reader can better make sense of how an ironic text on romance ends with that very thing. Sullivan therefore moved from teaching Austen’s novel as an education to a deconstructive historical text where money marries love in a reflection of real life relationships at the time where “propriety and property” reign.
“Teacher’s Notes: Austen's Emma: Social
Realism and the Novel.” The British
Library: Discovering Literature. n.d. Web.
This note offers a lesson plan focusing on how Emma helped shaped the modern novel as it is recognized today. It also compares it to Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho to show how different female authors approached writing, illustrating for students how readers from different time periods can respond to texts.
“Teacher’s Notes: Austen's Persuasion:
Status, Rank and Class.” The British
Literature. n.d. Web.
This essay offers a series of activities designed to teach the students not only how Austen’s contemporaries gained status and recognition during their lifetime, but also the importance of wealth and position, as they guided society during the period. It serves to educate students how Austen herself viewed the society in which she lived and the practices and etiquette that shaped her life and others. Materials include The Navy List, draft copies of Austen’s manuscript, and manner guides.
“Teacher’s Notes: Austen's Pride and
Prejudice.” The British
Literature. n.d. Web.
This collection of resources is meant to illuminate the students' understanding of how Austen managed to comment on and critique her world while remaining morally respectable. It places emphasis on her portrayal of class in the nineteenth century and is complimented by excerpts from Sir Walter Scott’s praise for Austen’s originality.
Trilling, Lionel. “Why We Read Jane Austen” ,
in The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent: Selected
Essays. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000.
This essay details the motivation behind the author’s decision to teach Austen in a small, seminar-type class setting, rather than a lecture format. Students showed such a high interest in the class that the author had to handpick its members. Trilling believes that Austen was appealing to so many young people because she offers a repose from a modern world they feel out of place in, with her genteel visual-based world, and construction of characters to whom they can relate. He draws the conclusion that, despite all of the unfamiliar aspects of the Romantic period and Austen’s world, humanism is what ultimately creates the bond between the modern reader and Austen, an idea expanded upon in this article to include other authors and texts.
Wallace, Robert K. “Teaching Music and Fiction:
Austen and Mozart, Brontë and Beethoven.” Ars
Lyrica 6 (1992): 18-24. Print.
Wallace promotes teaching the artistic shift from classical to Romantic in both music and literature through the work of Emily Brontë, Jane Austen, Beethoven and Mozart using concepts of tempo, melody, and rhythm. Wallace discusses his decision to include these artists instead of others, and explains what resources he used to complete the class goals. He also details assignments and reading suggestions garnered from the experience of teaching the course multiple times.
Watkins, Margaret. “Persuasion and Pedagogy: On Teaching Ethics with Jane
Austen.” Teaching Philosophy (2008):
Watkins suggests that the best way to teach complex characters in a moral philosophy course is through the study of novels, and particularly of Persuasion, for its detailed and complex descriptions. Doing so emphasizes philosophical examples, revealing the text to be one of interdisciplinary ethical engagement. To overcome students' tendency to focus on plot only, Watkins introduced the novel at the end of the class, in order to ensure that the students have had a solid philosophical background from which to draw their analysis, in addition to short readings that accompany the various chapters of Austen’s work. Persuasion serves the ethics class more readily than other Austen novels because of its accessible heroine, lack of distortion of the story by a Hollywood movie version, and emphasis on pride and virtue.
Westman, Karin E. “Perspective, Memory, and Moral
Authority: The Legacy of Jane Austen in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter.” Children's
Literature 35 (2007): 145-65. Print.
Comparing Harry Potter to one of J. K. Rowling’s self-proclaimed favorite authors, Austen, makes parallels between the two authors' narrative style and the journey of learning and self-discovery in moral education become visible. Teaching Austen and Rowling together reveals how both authors focused their plots around one character’s perspective and encourage imagination, and this article demonstrates how Emma and Mansfield Park in particular are useful to this method.
Zaal, J. “Is Emma Still
Teachable?” Crux 22.3 (1988):
Zaal begins with analysis of the sophisticated strategies Austen employs in the main movements of the novel and the character construction of Emma. The essay suggests ways to introduce the text to a modern audience through two key questions: should marriage partners be chosen based on social status, and is it ever okay to conceal one relationship by hiding behind false feelings for someone else? Teachers can gain additional benefits by using the Socratic method, engaging in close reading of the text, and having prepared questions. Zaal also says that Austen’s humor is so intertwined with other subjects in the book that it should not be given separate treatment.