ENGL 401 B1: Studies in Authors: The Cultural Politics of Jane Austen

K. Binhammer

Why Jane Austen? Austen, like Shakespeare, is one of the only remaining writers singled out for solo study and her novels mark a rare cross-over between 'literary' and 'popular' fiction. This course concentrates on Austen's novels, reading them beside a few post-1990 adaptations, modernizations and re-mediations of her work in order to think about the cultural politics of narrative forms. What can we learn from the historical juxtaposition of Austen's turn-of-the-nineteenth-century representation of gender, sexuality, class, nationalism, war and empire with re-circulations of her plots at the turn-of-the-twenty-first century? Our readings will attend to the currency of Austen's novels, both in terms of why her plots of marriage and manners remain current and in terms of the economics of cultural production. This is not a course on 'Janeites' or 'Austenmania' but it will invite students to think about what the contemporary phenomenon of Austen sequels and spoofs, films, TV series, vblogs, fanfic, websites, book clubs, travel tours, memorabilia and meet-ups might help us understand about her novels.


Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813); Mansfield Park (1814); Emma (1815); Persuasion (1817)

Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones's Diary (1996)

Jo Baker, Longbourn (2013)

Films: Gurinder Chadha, Bride and Prejudice (2004); Amy Heckerling, Clueless (1995); Patricia Rozema, Mansfield Park (1999);