University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
English 350:
Literary Study Tour: 

Jane Austen

Spring Interim 1998
Prof: Julie Shaffer

austen group

the group in front of Austen's house

Office: Radford 208
Phone: 424-7288

Office Hours (Feb 2-May 15): Monday 2-4
Tues and Thurs 11:20-11:50

Course Description, Assignments, and pre-trip Schedule; Biographical Information; Texts;
Composition and Publication Chronology; Information on her Family; Miscellaneous Facts

Links to Tour Schedule and to Study Sheets for Journal Writing, with Information and Background
on Austen's Culture and on Each Novel (1998 Jane Austen Study Tour Index)

The tour part of this class will take place during and slightly after the Spring Interim 1998 period; we leave for England on May 26th and return to the U.S. on June 11th. You should all by now have the schedule, as it currently stands (as of the beginning of the regular Spring 1998 semester); before we leave, you will have an updated schedule and all information as to hotels at which we will be staying in each location. 

We will do much of the non-site-specific work for this course before we leave. As sheets on Jane Austen and her publishing I will give you and that will be posted on the web make clear, you will be reading Austen's 6 main novels during the course of the regular Spring 1998 semester, keeping notes, a writing journal, and answering questions on these so that we can discuss them efficiently in the first week of Spring Interim, during which time we will be meeting on campus at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, at times and locations to be determined and to be provided to you as they become known. In these sessions, we will discuss the novels and a lot of the literary and extraliterary themes pertinent to them. We will also gain knowledge of other disciplines pertinent to Austen's writing and the period in which she lived through lectures provided by my colleagues on music, art, and politics. In order to use this time well, we must already have read Austen's novels; there is no way you can read them in this week before we leave for England and be ready to discuss them, so do find time to read them some time between February and mid-May. Please read them in the order specified on the following sheets. 

Meeting times during Interim, before we leave, will probably be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the week before we leave. Before that time, we will have meetings to go over background information on Austen and to let you know everything you need to know about the trip beforehand as well. We will be organizing getting passports, choosing roommates, getting information on insurance, and covering any other questions you might have.

Reading may involve critical, cultural, and historical material in addition to Austen=s 6 novels.

In addition to your reading journal, you will keep a travel journal, sometimes with guided topics.

Grades: To pass with a C, you must attend all pre-trip sessions, all scheduled visits on the trip, and complete all travel writing and reading and writing journal for 4 novels. For or B, you must complete work on 5 novels. For an A, you must do assigned work on all the novels and write a paper or complete a project, to be approved by me. Subject to change!

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Brief Biographical Information on Jane Austen

Born Dec. 16, 1775, in Steventon, Hampshire.

From 1785 until Dec. 1786, she and Cassandra attended the Abbey school in Reading but leave when scarlet fever breaks out; thereafter, they were educated primarily by their father.

She began writing very early, composing stories, story fragments, plays, currently collected primarily in her Juvenilia (currently in publication); in this work is her "Love and Friendship," an early parody of novels of sensibility. She also wrote drafts of most of her novels quite early - before she was 25! but then ceased writing for almost 9 years, returning to her early drafts and composing new works too from the period of 1809, when her family moved to Chawton, until her death at the age of 42 on 18 July, 1817, of Addison's Disease.

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We will read the novels in the order of publication, rather than in the order of composition, in part because revision of the original drafts of many of the novels went through continued revision; final publication of the novels for the most part reflects Austen's progression as a novelist. I would like to think of the novels in part as each picking up on or answering a problem raised in the previous novel, and hence would like you to read them in the following order, using Oxford University Press versions except where notated:

Sense and Sensibility (1811)

Pride and Prejudice (1813) [we're using the Norton version]

Mansfield Park (1814)

Emma (1814)

Northanger Abbey (1818) [we're using the Broadview version]

Persuasion (1818)

We will not be reading the Juvenilia (written to 1793, when she was 18) or novel fragments she left unfinished at her death.

 I will provide you with a set of questions to consider as you read each novel, and some to consider once you're done reading each novel; these will also be posted on the web (see Index). Some questions will pertain to all the novels; I will also give you a set of questions for each particular novel. Write answers to these questions as you read the novels over the course of the regular Spring semester. Keep notes for these so that we can have intelligent, effective discussion during the first week of Interim, before we head to England, so that you need not read and have to refer to each of the novels at that time - keep in mind that there is no way you can read all the novels over that first week. You can then bring these notes, along with notes from our pre-trip week of discussion, to England, obviating the need to carry the novels with you on the trip.

Selection of particular texts to read: to a great extent, any good reprint publication would be acceptable; those include editions by Oxford, Penguin, Broadview, and Norton. I have generally chosen Oxford editions because these seem to be the only ones that stick to the volume and chapter numbering found in the originals (most of Austen's novels were originally three volumes long, with chapter numbering beginning anew in each volume. We will see what these volumes look like in our visit to the British Library). Oxford editions also retain the original spellings. For the most part, these stem from authoritative collations of texts provided by R. W. Chapman - this means that he looked at the various editions published in Austen's lifetime, checking differences, deciding what differences Austen may have authorized herself, and then preparing what appeared to be the version into which Austen would have had the most input, with obvious spelling and punctuation errors noted. Penguin and Norton to not break the novels down by original volumes but use instead consecutive chapter numbering; I prefer not to use these because modern readers cannot get a sense of the way original readers would have experienced the novels. I have chosen the Norton version of Pride and Prejudice, however, because it has useful material in the appendices. Broadview Press editions have perhaps the most useful appendices but as of yet, its edition of Northanger Abbey is the only one already published. I have thus chosen Oxford editions for the remaining 4 novels. Sticking with these will keep you up with the rest of the group on correct page and chapter numbering as well as providing you with extra material that the rest of the group will have and that will enrich your reading and comprehension experience.

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 Composition and Publication Chronology

Chronologies of her life and composition, revision, and publication of her novels can be found in any of her novels in good reprint publications but here is one you can keep handy without having to leaf to the front of whichever novel you are reading:



"Elinor and Marianne" written, an epistolary work (novel written in letters)

Lady Susan possibly also written at this point.



"First Impressions" (later to become Pride and Prejudice) begun.



"First Impressions" finished


Sense and Sensibility begun, revision of "Elinor and Marianne"
"First Impressions" rejected, sight unseen, by Cadell (publishing firm).


"Susan" (later revised as Northanger Abbey) written.


Austen moves with family to Bath, which she hates; beginning of supposed fallow period.


"Susan" sold to Crosby and Co. (publishers); never published by them, however.


Austen's father dies; she perhaps writes Lady Susan now and starts on "The Watsons," unfinished at her death.


Austen, her mother, and her sister Cassandra move to Clifton; their total income per year is 400-450 pounds, 210 coming from Mrs Austen's and Cassandra's income, the rest made up of brothers' aid; the income they share was considered minimal for one woman of their class, not three.


They move to Southampton


They move to Chawton, to a cottage provided them by Edward, whose wife had died in childbirth.



Mansfield Park begun.


Sense and Sensibility published at Austen's expense - Austen's first published novel.



1000 copies of Sense and Sensibility sold; Austen nets 140 pounds.


Pride and Prejudice sold to Egerton (publishing house) for 10 pounds.



Pride and Prejudice published - Austen's second published novel.


Mansfield Park finished.


2nd edition of Sense and Sensibility and of Pride and Prejudice.



Emma begun.


Mansfield Park published - Austen's third published novel.

The chaplain of the Prince Regent writes to her asking her to write about a man such as himself. She disapproves of the Prince's treatment of his wife but eventually dedicates Emma to him; obviously, some knew that she had authored her novels, even though her name did not appear on their title pages.


Persuasion begun.


Emma finished.


Emma published - Austen's fourth published novel.


Austen regains her manuscript "Susan," renames her heroine Catherine.


Persuasion finished, with first ending.



starts "Sanditon" (unfinished at her death)


Austen apparently finished revising Persuasion.


Austen dies.


Posthumous publication of Northanger Abbey (originally "Susan") and Persuasion (Austen's fifth and sixth - and last - published novels), with biographical notice by her brother Henry; this is the first any of her novels are identified as penned by Austen, the first published simply as "by a lady" and each of the following published as "by the author of..."

Austen's total earnings from her novel publication: about 700 pounds, less than 2 years' worth of income on which she, her mother, and her sister lived.

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 Austen's Family

The family is not of but related to landed gentry:

Father: the Reverend George Austen, Rector of Steventon until retirement in 1800.

Mother: from the Leigh family.

Their children:


James; educated for the clergy.


George; subject to fits, did not live with the family.


Edward; adopted by relatives, the Knights, whose name he takes and whose property in Kent he inherits - Godmersham, currently a business park; he provides the cottage in Chawton for his sisters and mother to inhabit in 1809 and after.


Henry, perhaps her favorite brother, the one who helped her see her works into print. He was a soldier, banker, bankrupt, clergyman; he married their cousin Eliza de Feuillade, widow of a French nobleman who had been guillotined during the aftermath of the French Revolution.


Frank, admiral in the navy (Admiral of the Fleets)


Charles, admiral in the navy
[both made their position, as do the military in Persuasion, through merit in war time]





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Other bits of information

The family's family arms are a stag on a crown.

Three of Jane Austen's sisters-in-law died in childbirth.

Her nephew makes clear that servants and visitors did not know she wrote, though she shared her writing with her immediate family, not all of whom approved her writing. As Deborah Kaplan says in Jane Austen Among Women (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1992),

Frank was in favor of maintaining secrecy [about her writing]. James' discomforts with his sister's work are expressed in "Venta," a poem that he composed after she died. It acknowledges an Austen family "prejudice" against "fair female fame," referring to family members who

Maintain that literary taste
In womans [sic] mind is much misplace,
Inflames their vanity & pride,
And draws from useful works aside.

And it defends her against this prejudice: although she was a novelist, she was "ready still to share / The labours of domestic care." This defense, however, does not refute the "prejudice." Instead, the clergy's praise sounds like an apology for Jane Austen's literary career. (97-98)

Her actual writing table, not currently in her home in Chawton, was a gift when she was 19: a small metal box, it opens to be a writing surface and will return to Chawton when Austen's great-great-grandniece dies.


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go to the 1998 Jane Austen Study Tour Index
go to Julie Shaffer's courses taught page
go to Julie Shaffer's home page

go to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh English Department Home Page
go to Marguerite Helmers' The Great War Study Tour Page