Jane Austen has long been the most popular novelist in the English language. Since her novels were published in the early nineteenth century, they have never gone out of print. Her novels helped to establish the novel form as the definitive way the 19th century represented social reality so that it could be the locus of both intellectual analysis and narrative enjoyment. To develop this new technology of narrative, Austen drew on novelistic genres she inherited from the 18th century: most notably the gothic novel, the vogue for the sentimental, and the novel of conduct and courtship. By recasting these genres, through the use of a style of telling named “free indirect discourse,” Austen developed a method of narrative that allowed the reader to enter the mind of the main character, without becoming subject to the biases of viewpoint made explicit in the novel of letters or the first person memoir. What resulted is a style of novel writing that manages, through the power of her writing, to be both authoritative and light in its touch. To explore Austen’s innovative novel writing we will read her last 3 novels, and those that are most complex and mature: Mansfield Park, the first of her novels that goes for the complex social representation that will be fundamental to the Victorian novel, ,Emma, a canny exploration of the pleasures and dangers of plotting the lives of others; and Persuasion, her last and in many ways her most scathingly satirical but also touchingly romantic novel.
We will be using the BROADVIEW editions of these novels, which have been ordered at the UCEN Bookstore:
Mansfield Park ISBN 9781551110981
Emma ISBN 9781551113210
Persuasion ISBN 9781551111315