Jane Austen’s Persuasion
This seminar will be a perfect choice for anyone who has ever wondered why Jane Austen is such a big deal. The seminar will focus on Austen’s last completed novel. This is the book that many scholars (and the instructor) consider to be her best. Unlike Austen’s more famous works, Persuasion focuses on older, more settled characters. (The heroine is in her late twenties, and she’s convinced that love and life have passed her by.) This book has a happy ending – don’t worry about that – but the really interesting question is how Austen gets us there. How does she rescue her heroine from a life of disappointment and regret? And what insights (moral, psychological, social, and political) does she offer to her readers along the way? Participants will learn about Austen’s life and times, and they’ll also have a chance to think about how literary works are adapted for the screen. By the end of the week, with any luck, participants should have gained a clearer sense of what makes Austen such a brilliant and influential writer.
Required Reading: Persuasion by Jane Austen, any edition. The instructor recommends Penguin, Oxford World’s Classics, and Norton Critical editions.
Tim Spurgin teaches at Lawrence University, where he’s Associate Professor of English and the Bonnie Glidden Buchanan Professor of English Literature. He went to college in Minnesota (at Carleton) and earned his Ph.D. in Virginia (at UVa). Since coming to teach at Lawrence in the fall of 1990, he has taught works by Jane Austen many, many times – always with great enthusiasm. At Lawrence, he has received the Young Teacher Award (1993), the Freshman Studies Teaching Prize (1994), and the Award for Excellence in Teaching (2014). He has also presented two courses in the Great Courses series: The English Novel (2006) and The Art of Reading (2009). Both of those courses, needless to say, also feature examples from the work of Jane Austen.