Course: The Comedy of Jane Austen

HC 421H

Professor: Henry Alley

The texts are Austen's five major novels, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion, all works of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Through close reading and discussion, the course will examine the works of the greatest comic novelist in English. The dramatist Richard Sheridan, who was a central influence on Austen, will serve as a means of understanding the principles of comedy, before we move on to the novels themselves. While discussing her work, we will not only look for these hallmarks of humor and laughter, but also at her timeless themes—the quest to find a suitable mate, the struggle to know the world while avoiding cynicism, the challenge of advancing beyond one's immediate family and one's own point-of-view, and the search for privacy while still maintaining connection with a social world and being useful within it. Time permitting, we will also study D. H. Lawrence's short story, "Daughters of the Vicar" (1914), as a work which takes its departure from Austen and leads into the twentieth century.

There will be two short papers and one long one. A reading journal will be optional. There will be a strong emphasis on discussion, and on listening to recorded passages from the books to appreciate tone, voice, and point of view. Videos of all the novels will be available.