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Study information

Jane Austen: In and Out of Context

Module titleJane Austen: In and Out of Context
Module codeEAS3414
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Henry Power (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will give you a sense of how Austen’s fiction came into being. We will examine Austen’s engagement with other writers and poets of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. We will think about how she engages with the political, social, and cultural landscape of the period. We will look closely at her style—and think about its influences, and the way it develops over the course of her literary career. But we will also explore the various other contexts into which Austen’s fiction has been (or might be) transplanted: How do Austen’s novels appear in the light of current discussions about race, empire, gender, and class? What do recent adaptions and reworkings of Austen’s fiction tell us about our own world—and how can they help us to understand the novels on which they are based?

Module aims - intentions of the module

Over the course of this module you will gain an excellent knowledge of Austen’s six novels, and of the various contexts—literary, biographical, and political—which inform them. You will also get to know some of her less well-known work: her letters, her juvenilia, and the works left unfinished at her death.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a close and thorough knowledge of Austen’s writing
  • 2. onstrate an ability to relate Austen’s writing to other textual forms and media, and to its historical and philosophical contexts.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Demonstrate an advanced ability to understand literary texts and to set their concerns and modes of expression within their historical context
  • 4. Demonstrate an advanced ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history
  • 5. Demonstrate an advanced ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas and to apply these ideas to literary texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 7. Demonstrate the ability to communicate original research clearly and effectively.
  • 8. Through research for seminars and essays, demonstrate advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.

Syllabus plan

Over the course of the module, we will study all six of Austen’s completed novels, as well as her letters, and her teenage writings. Rather than moving sequentially through Austen’s life, we will look at different aspects of Austen’s work and its reception each week—often our discussion will involve several texts, from different stages of her career. The different approaches we will take to Austen’s novels might include (but are not limited to): considering their engagement with contemporary political events; reading them through the lens of twentieth-century political moments; analysing their narrative technique; relating them to the eighteenth-century novels from which Austen drew inspiration; exploring the ideas of nationhood they present. We will consider Austen not just as a novelist but as an experimentalist alive to the possibilities of multiple forms including, for example, the letter, as both a fictional device and a work of life writing, the parody, and the poem. We will also spend time considering recent adaptations of Austen’s work. These might include (but are not limited to) Amy Heckerling’s Clueless (1995), Patricia Rozema’s Mansfield Park (1999), and Autumn de Wilde’s Emma (2020)

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Lectures111 hour sessions, lectures with opportunity for student q and a
Seminars222 hour interactive sessions, led either by Henry Power or Daisy Hay

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Critical commentary151000 words1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8Written feedback, with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Video essay (+ accompanying text)306 minutes (+ 200 words)1,2,3,4,5,7,8Whole cohort feedback, with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Essay553500 words1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8Written feedback, with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Critical commentaryCritical commentary1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8August Ref/Def
Video essay (+ accompanying text)Video essay (+ accompanying text)1,2,3,4,5,7,8August Ref/Def
EssayEssay1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

On this module we will study all of Austen’s published novels (Northanger AbbeySense and SensibilityPride and PrejudiceMansfield ParkEmmaPersuasion). In addition, we will look at her Teenage Writings, ed. Kathryn Sutherland and Freya Johnston (Oxford, 2017), at her Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye, 4th edn. (Oxford, 2011), and at Catharine and Other Writings, ed. Margaret Anne Doody (Oxford, 2009)

Indicative Secondary Reading:

Marilyn Butler, Jane Austen and the War of Ideas, 2nd edn. (Oxford, 1987).
David Nokes, Jane Austen: A Life (London, 1997).
Janet Todd (ed.) Jane Austen in Context (Cambridge, 2005).
Devoney Looser, The Making of Jane Austen (Johns Hopkins, 2017).
Tom Keymer, Jane Austen: Writing, Society, Politics (Oxford 2020).


Key words search

English, literature, Austen, novel, prose

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date