EN 354R, Jane Austen, Skidmore College Dashboard



Portrait of Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen, ca. 1810

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen (1775-1817) is a keenly satiric writer whose work, deeply rooted in her time, resonates in ours. In this research-enriched course, we will read Austen’s six novels in their order of publication:  Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1816), Persuasion (1818), and Northanger Abbey (1818).  Through virtual excursions and close reading, we will enter Regency ballrooms, country estates, and genteel parlors as we examine Austen’s voice as a writer and pressing issues that she actively critiqued, such as the economics of marriage, social class stratification, primogeniture, entailment, and slavery. To situate Austen in her historical moment, students will write four of six briefs (short papers on each Austen novel), a Regency life report (PowerPoint and oral presentation), and our IdeaLab project that will be displayed on the Collaborative Organization for Virtual Education (COVE).  The course will culminate in a research paper on two or three Austen novels. Students should be prepared to read deeply, craft critically (for the IdeaLab component), participate actively, research deeply, and write analytically.

We will ground the novels of Jane Austen in her Regency world by practicing critical crafting and creating a gallery of our material objects on the Collaborative Organization for Virtual Education (COVE). Our two galleries will be on material objects of the Regency age--letter writing and silhouettes.  Letters play a key role in most of Austen’s novels, but particularly in Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. Using antique and reproduction pens from my personal collection and materials from the IdeaLab, students will use dip pens to write with ink, practice cross-writing (a cost saving measure where one turns a letter 90 degrees and writes over it), fold a letter (rather than use an envelope), and affix a wax seal. Like letters, portrait miniatures were popular Regency tokens of affection for Jane Austen’s family and her characters, who cherish, display, flaunt, and envy these items. Using materials in the IdeaLab, we will craft a portrait miniature/silhouette, which features prominently in Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion. To transform these tokens of affection into lasting mementos of our study of Jane Austen, we will turn to COVE. We will create two gallery exhibits—one on letter writing and another on portrait miniatures/silhouettes. Each student will design a virtual “case” for one of these two galleries.


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Individual Entries

Posted by Hannah Taylor on Saturday, November 11, 2023 - 13:24
Posted by Chloe Hanrahan on Thursday, November 9, 2023 - 21:47
Posted by Laura Hoffman on Thursday, November 9, 2023 - 12:18

The city Austen uses to contrast the country life of the Bennets, London is mentioned throughout Pride and Prejudice.  "The united efforts of his two unfeeling sisters and of his overpowering friend, assisted by the attractions of Miss Darcy and the amusements of London might be too much, she feared, for the strength of his attachment" (Chapter 23).  A place for business and capital, London is where Mr. Darcy and the Bingleys often reside when they are not in the country for a break from the busy city.  Jane Bennet travels to London in her quest to profess her love to Mr. Bingley, yet she fails to meet him there.  

Posted by Molly Jordan on Monday, November 6, 2023 - 16:31
Posted by Anesu Mukombiwa on Tuesday, October 17, 2023 - 14:54

Gretna Green is a town famous for its clandestine marriages and elopements for centuries. It’s the town to which Lydia and Wickham were believed to have been headed in an effort to “seal the deal” and marriage in secret, in Pride & Prejudice. Gretna Green first gained its reputation for quick marriages for underage lovers when, in 1754, England passed a law “requiring all marriages to be recognized by the church and that couples under 21 have parental consent.” Scotland was more liberal at the time; couples as young as sixteen could marry freely simply by having their marriage proclaimed in front of two witnesses, no clergy needed at all. This caused a veritable stampede of anxious young lovers, spurring on their horses only as far as the first town across the Scottish border, where they could marry safely and consummate their unions with a clear conscience (AM).

Posted by Bridget Keeler on Monday, October 16, 2023 - 15:13

In Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon's estate, Delaford, is in Dorsetshire. Colonel Brandon offers it to Edward Ferrars, and Elinor and Edward move in there when they get married. At the end of the novel, Marianne marries Colonel Brandon and becomes the mistress of this estate, keeping the sisters close together. 

Posted by Charlotte Mahn on Saturday, October 14, 2023 - 12:11

In Mansfield Park, Fanny Price is sent from her home in Portsmouth to live with her aunts and uncles in Mansfield Park in Northamptonshire. Fanny's nine siblings still reside in Portsmouth, and her contact with most of them (excluding her older brother, William) is limited. When Fanny denies Henry Crawford's offer of marriage, she returns to her home in Portsmouth, with Sir Thomas Bertram hoping it will make her reconsider Mr. Crawford's offer. When she returns home, a home she had not seen since the age of 10, she is shocked to discover it is worse than she remembers. Charlotte Mahn

Posted by Tess Gordon on Thursday, October 12, 2023 - 10:23

In Pride and Prejudice, Brighton serves as the location of an important turning point. It is a coastal town in the UK that was known for its rich entertainment and social scene during the Regency period. Lydia Bennet is invited to Brighton by Mrs. Forster, which gives her an excuse to spend more time with the military officers she has her eye on. Her stay in Brighton allows her to act without the control of her family and concludes when she elopes with Mr. Wickham. This scandalous behavior threatens to ruin her family's reputation, but her actions push the plot of the novel further and play a role in building the relationship of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Brighton also serves a significant role in Mansfield Park, as it is a location in which the actions of characters have large affects on their lives and the overall storyline. Similar to the scandal within the previous novel, Brighton is the destination where Maria and Mr. Rushworth go for their honeymoon with Julia...