English and Film Studies

ENGL 567 B1: The Cultural Politics of Jane Austen Then and Now

K. Binhammer

This course constellates Austen’s novels with post-1990 adaptations, modernizations and re-mediations of her work in order to read 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, and empire with re-circulations of her plots at the turn-of-the-twenty-first century? What does the comparison make strange and what are the points of continuity and recognition? What insight into contemporary cultural politics might we gain by attending to historical difference? Through close reading and narrative analysis, the class will focus on the cultural politics of sexual difference, conspicuous consumption, war and violence, religion, sexuality, domesticity, and the nation. In particular, we will explore the question of literary style and gender, whether women writers have a ‘style’ and, if so, how that style tracks across literary history. 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’ as it is not primarily interested in the contemporary phenomenon of Austen fandom, its sequels and spoofs, films, TV series, vblogs, fanfic, websites, book clubs, travel tours, memorabilia and meet-ups. Reader reception and materialist analysis of the culture industry will be two of many analytical modes we will engage, but not the primary ones.

 

Tentative Text List:

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility (1811); Pride and Prejudice (1813); Mansfield Park (1814); Emma (1815); Persuasion (1817); Northanger Abbey (1817)

Contemporary Fiction: Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996); Karen Joy Fowler, The Jane Austen Book Club (2007); Joanna Trollope, Sense and Sensibility (2013); Jo Baker, Longbourn (2013);

Contemporary Visual Texts: Amy Heckerling, Clueless (1995); BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (1995); Patricia Rozema, Mansfield Park (1999); Rajiv Menon, Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000); The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-2013)

Selected Theory/Criticism from cultural materialism, narrative theory, feminist and queer theory, historiography, including essays by Pierre Bourdieu, Claudia L. Johnson, D.A. Miller, Edward Said, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.