Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG323H1S L5101

ENG323H1S   L5101   M6-9
Austen and Her Contemporaries
Instructor: A. Howard
Office Address: Jackman Humanities Building, Room TBA
Email: alexandra.howard@mail.utoronto.ca  

Brief Description of Course:
In a letter to her nephew, Jane Austen famously described her writing as an act of ornamentation, rather than bold imagination: the page, she explains, is “the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush,” producing “little effect after much labour.” Despite the gentle irony of this self-deprecating portrait, similar sentiments continue to characterize Austen’s popular legacy to this day. By returning her fiction to the revolutionary atmosphere in which she lived and wrote, this course will consider the broader political and literary implications of those “two inches” of ivory – the novel of domestic manners. Reading Austen’s novels in dialogue with the prose of her Romantic contemporaries, we will consider her contributions to the period’s most pressing debates: on economic inequality and radical politics; on war, empire, and globalization; on landscape and the environment; on gender roles and responsibilities; on women’s sexuality and the legitimacy of desire – and, perhaps most importantly, on the moral and aesthetic purposes of the novel form itself.

Required Reading:
 • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (Oxford University Press, ed. Fiona Stafford)
• Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (Oxford University Press, ed. Jane Stabler)
• Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (Oxford University Press, ed. Claudia Johnson)
• Jane Austen, Persuasion (Oxford University Press, ed. Deidre Lynch)
• Ann Radcliffe, A Sicilian Romance (Oxford University Press, ed. Alison Milbank)

Required course texts will be made available at the University of Toronto bookstore and on course reserve at Robarts library. All my page references in class will be to these editions. Selections from Edmund Burke, Helen Maria Williams, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Maria Edgeworth will be posted to our Blackboard portal.


First Three Authors/Texts: TBA.

Method of Evaluation: • Regular, respectful, and engaged class participation (10%); first essay (20%); critical review (10%); final essay (35%); exam (25%).

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