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English 2307E - Lecture 1.docx

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Western University
English 2307E
Krista Lysack

English 2307E Thursday January 9 Lecture 1 Pride and Prejudice Notes: • The in-class essay is coming up at the end of the month o It will have the same format as the last in-class essay This term: • We are looking at the period between the 18 and 19 centuries Jane Austen 1775 – 1817 • Jane Austen’s novels have a lot in common with the 18 century • At this time, the novel started to emerge as an identifiable genre • Jane Austen spent her life in the kind of world she depicts in her novels • She lived in a small English countryside • She didn’t travel very much, and didn’t have a lot of direct experience with anything outside village life in England • She didn’t have the advantage of a university education, but this wasn’t unusual for women at this time • Austen was middle class, and formally went to school until around the age of 9, and then spent the rest of her education at home • She began to write when she was a teenager • She died quite young and doesn’t have a lot of novels that were published (5 novels in all) • Austen wasn’t paid very much for these novels (a small, lower middle-class income), though she didn’t do it for the money • She didn’t publish the novels with her name on the cover page – she would write ‘by a lady’, or ‘by the author of Pride and Prejudice’ for the novels that came after it o It was sometimes seen as improper for women to write o As her novels were being published, the novel was coming of age and people weren’t sure what it was (there were racy novels being published, and novels had a reputation of having scandalous content) o The idea was that the novel was a lesser literary form than poetry, which required a higher education *Note: You don’t have to memorize this biographical information on Jane Austin, it is meant to serve as some background information. Pride and Prejudice (1813): Austen’s World • Some think of the characters being contained in their own little world, worried about marriage and relationships • There are certain moments that are like valves, opening us up to a different world o Wickham is a soldier who is a reminder of the Napoleonic wars, the ongoing rivalry between France and England (history exerting itself on the people) • England is still in a time of many changes and upheavals, but Austen talks about a world that is still intact, talking about different villages • She doesn’t talk about the railway coming to crowd out people, people seem to live in their own little bubbles • In a few years, the power will be transferred from the people who hold land to the people who have a vote and a say in British Parliament o They will alter what the land looks like (cities popping up), and political changes • In Pride and Prejudice, there is still a rigorously maintained class system with a hierarchy in place • Austen’s strengths or interests are in relating the insularity of this world o She works on a small, detailed scale o She is very interested in dialogue • In any Jane Austen novel, you get the sense that you are opened up to a little world with all of these details, instead of a grand picture • She argues that the close, everyday things matter – these are the ways people work out their lives and their power struggles • You get a sense that Austen is light and funny, and she uses gentle irony o She uses ‘comedy of manners’ The Bennet Family • This is a family with a particular financial situation – the way that the estate is set up (marriage property laws), it can only be given to a male heir, and the family consists of all females (5 daughters) o What there is when Mr. Bennet dies will go to the closest male relative • Page 65: The money is entailed, and the estate can’t be altered (the fortune is tied up) – this was usual of the times o Until about 1870, a woman in England who became married would have to
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