Illustration by C. E. Bock for Mansfield Park, 1907–1908
Jane Austen remains one of the most instantly recognizable names in all of literature, a writer renowned for her contributions to our understanding of social life and women’s identity, among many other key issues. Through a detailed consideration of three of her most memorable works—Mansfield Park, Emma, and Northanger Abbey—explore how she helped reinvent the novel with her powerfully original writing and unique artistic vision. In addition, delve into how and why the life of Jane Austen herself is the subject of continuous fascination—and Hollywood movies. Join Joseph Luzzi, a professor of literature at Bard College, for an in-depth examination of the remarkable career and astonishing life of a woman who overcame countless obstacles to become one of the most revered authors in the literary tradition.
10–11 a.m. Jane Austen: Mapping her Life and Literary World
The main issues and concerns in Jane Austen’s literary universe are introduced, especially her rethinking of the novel form and the dialogue between her life and the worlds she created on the page.
11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Mansfield Park
Special attention is paid to how Mansfield Park provides a lens on such major issues as gender, class, religion, and slavery in 19th-century England.
12:15–12:45 p.m. Break
12:45–1:45 p.m. Emma
The focus on Emma covers its use of literary techniques such as the free-indirect style and its treatment of central themes including the marriageability of women, the interactions between aristocrats and the less privileged, and the role of custom and tradition in regulating social life.
2–3 p.m. Northanger Abbey and Concluding Thoughts
After discussing Northanger Abbey, Luzzi offers insights on Jane Austen’s legacy and why so many readers are spellbound by her fiction. He also explains her reconceptualization of the novel and its artistic possibilities.