Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Jane Austen's Fiction


Austen’s carefully crafted novels were unlike any previous fiction, offering an intensely realized instance of literary originality. Austen wrote her major work in less than ten years, before her untimely death in 1817. These novels -- including Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park and Persuasion -- have had a profound, even defining impact on the development of the novel as an artform. Our two goals will be simple: to closely read each novel (looking at the major interpretative and aesthetic questions that it generates) and to track the dialogue that takes place across her novels when they are read together. At the same time, reading these works by Austen is a way of entering into the discipline and possibilities of literary criticism. We’ll look at how critics and scholars have engaged her work, and at how her novels have been “read” – or reinterpreted – in twentieth and twenty-first century culture (including film adaptations). What would it mean to bring the same ambition, intelligence and inventiveness to our reading of Austen that she brought to the writing? 

Meet the Instructor(s)

Alex Woloch

"I teach and write about nineteenth and twentieth century literature, with a focus on narrative theory and the history of the novel. I’m also really interested in close reading (what it is, what it can do) and thinking about the process and experience of reading novels. Austen has always been a literary touchstone for me, and I’ve written about her work in articles and as part of my first book, The One vs the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel. While I’ve taught different Austen novels in many courses, both graduate and undergraduate, this is the first time I’m teaching a single author seminar on her fiction. Single author courses are a unique way to engage literature, allowing everyone – teacher and student alike -- to gradually, collaboratively, explore a major body of writing."