Studying Jane ~

I have a number of half-started posts to share but have not the time – so they remain unfinished  – they run the gamut from book reviews to old S&S movies, to Georgette Heyer, to whether Jane Austen ever rode in a barouche [yes, she did, and laughed the whole way…!] – so I have been busy, just no time to share…

To explain:  for the past few years I have periodically searched to see if there were any Jane Austen courses I could take online – the ones I found never fit my timetable [or pocketbook!], so I was overjoyed last September to find a course offered by Oxford University just on Jane, affordable and in the winter when one really wants to hibernate anyway, so why not a full Austen immersion.  I’ve been out of college for a great number of years, but as a former graduate student of English Literature who took a fork in the road to get an MLS degree instead, I thought I would always keep those skills of reading critically that came so easily back then.  HA! little did I realize how completely real life gets in the way of critical thinking…

I can almost pinpoint the day when I realized that what I really wanted to be when I grew up was be a professional student!, something that struck my father [who lived through the depression] nearly dumb.  But I just loved to read and study and to be doing the “detective” research thing [you know what they say about librarians – they really don’t KNOW anything, but they do know where to find it…].

Interestingly enough, this epiphany happened in math class, 10th grade geometry to be exact.  I loved math, especially geometry, loved drawing all the angles, using graph paper, calculating, but I had this talking out-of-turn problem, and one day the teacher had just had it and sentenced me to write a 1000 word essay on Euclid, I mean THE Euclid, the “Father of all Geometry”! – so off I went after school to hit the encyclopedias – and I discovered there were not a lot of words on Euclid, and I needed a thousand of them in 24 hours.  “Semi-brilliant” [in my own 10th grade mind at least], very annoying teenager that I was, I hit on a plan – “a picture tells a thousand words” – so oft-quoted, but what did it mean? For me it meant I only needed to find a PICTURE of Euclid, which is exactly what I handed to the teacher the next day.  He was not amused, assigned me to TWO THOUSAND words on Euclid, and therein a professional was born, right there in geometry class.  I fell in love with Euclid, Euclidian geometry and RESEARCH.  AND stopped talking in class….

I’ve taken many classes [none in math I might add!] through the years, time permitting, but after all the Austen reading I have done, various Austen-related workshops, weekend gatherings, book groups, JASNA events, what I want is the “fun” of really just focusing on her from an academic standpoint, to give some much-needed direction to my self-study, reconnecting with that critically-reading person I used to be, but really perhaps to just be in a classroom yet again, even if that classroom is sitting in front of my own computer, chatting away with other Austen-lovers from all over the world.  So I did it, signed up for this class – it started yesterday  – and hence the reason that my allotted blogging time will be drastically cut, and why you tonight have to “listen” to my story of Euclid.

So, I am putting you all on high alert that I shall be seriously out of the loop of my usual trying to keep up with “all things Austen” – I will post when I can of something that comes into my view, or something I might want to share about the class. It seems to be a wonderful group, indeed they ARE from all over the world, women and men, a full range of ages and the full spectrum of Austen-knowledge.  It will be great…

I encourage you to look at this Oxford University site – there are a number of other courses offered just in English Literature, as well as in Archaeology, Art, History, Creative Writing, Economics and Philosophy – sign me up, I am hooked… [and I haven’t even done anything yet but figure my way around the website!]

Here are the Literature courses:

Literary Theory: An Introduction: This course is for anyone interested in developing their critical reading skills, learning more about literary theory, and using literary theory to understand and enjoy literature more deeply.

Ancestral Voices: the earliest English Literature:  Old English literature isn’t all about battles and boozing: find out more.

Brontës:  How did three sisters living an apparently secluded and eventless life write some of the most original, passionate and dramatic novels and poetry in the English language?

Contemporary British Fiction:  If you enjoy reading and discussing novels; you read reviews of fiction, you have opinions and ideas about novels; if you have ever thought ‘so many books, so little time’, and wondered how to decide which authors to try…

Critical Reading: an introduction to literary studies:  Learn to analyse, write about, appreciate, and above all enjoy literary texts.

English Poetry of the First World War:  Some of the most powerful and moving English poetry of the modern period was written during or about the First World War.

Fiction by Victorian Women: George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Margaret Oliphant, and others:  Some of the greatest writers of the Victorian period were women. [really?!]

Jane Austen:  There’s more to Austen than bonnets and romance. Much more. [what, no chick-lit?]

Trollope, Eliot, Dickens and Hardy: Reading Victorian Fiction:  Madness, hilarity, doubt and devotion. [Marcia, are you listening?]

[from the Oxford University Continuing Education website]

FYI:  the next Austen class starts April 26 and runs 10 weeks.

I have more to post on other online courses available elsewhere, so stay tuned …. in the meantime, here are those “thousand words” on my buddy Euclid [with the compliments of Wikipedia – a mere science fiction fantasy when I was in the 10th grade!]

[Posted by Deb]

7 thoughts on “Studying Jane ~

  1. Sounds like fun! For anyone interested in an Austen course closer to home and face-to-face, my “Austen, Page and Film” course begins January 20 at University of Vermont, so there is still time to register. If you do not wish to take the course for credit, don’t forget that you can always audit the course (i.e. you will not have to do any homework assignments; just read the novels and share your thoughts!).

    PLUS Vermont residents 65+ can enroll in this course for FREE! Contact UVM Continuing Education to learn how.

    Register today at or contact UVM Continuing Education at: 800-639-3210 or 802-656-2085

    Austen, Page and Film
    Wednesdays, 4:05-7:05pm
    (Jan 20-April 28 :No class March 10)

    After nearly two centuries in print, Jane Austen’s works continue to enthrall us, whether in their original form or in the numerous television and film adaptations created since 1938. This course examines the role Austen played during her own time as well as the role she continues to play within our contemporary cultural imagination by analyzing four of Austen’s novels (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma) and by viewing faithful adaptations, reinterpretations and modernizations of each novel. We begin by placing each novel within its social and historical context, by defining themes that may help explain Austen’s modern appeal, and by creating our own vision of the action and characters. We then turn to the adaptations and investigate the historical moment of production, analyze changes to script and character, and read several essays that raise questions about how prose fiction differs from film in an attempt to understand the screenwriter’s choices and our current love of anything Austen. Course requirements include lively participation, a presentation, reading quizzes, various response assignments, and a final essay.


    • Yes, Rebecca, I wrote about your upcoming class in the previous blog post on “Austenesque Vermont” – wish we ALL could sign up for this!

      Thanks for visiting and letting us know about the class.


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