Jane Austen and Material Culture - EN895

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 2)
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7 30 (15) PROF J Batchelor







Austen makes a particularly interesting subject for advanced study because her work is both widely enjoyed and the focus of much specialist academic work. The Austen of the (feminist) academy is often initially unrecognisable to the general (´feminine´) reader, and part of the project of this module is to explore the gap between these kinds of reading through the medium of material culture. ´Material Culture Studies´, focussing on the function and significance of physical objects in literary texts, has been increasingly important to scholars of the long eighteenth century in the last decade, and this approach raises questions that are especially pertinent to readings of Austen´s fiction. Is domesticity a trap or a refuge? Does the female body require liberation or control? Is material wealth the realisation of every woman´s dream or the basis of moral corruption? Is the 'improvement' of landscapes and estates a sign of culture or of arrogance? Approaching Austen´s writing through the objects which populate her fiction, we will situate these questions in relation to modern literary criticism and the unfamiliarity of early nineteenth-century artefacts.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 280
Total Study Hours: 300


Available in Spring term 2019/20

Method of assessment

Assignment (5,000 words) – 100%

Indicative reading

Indicative list, current at time of publication. Reading lists will be published annually

Austen, J. (1811). Sense and Sensibility. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Austen, J. (1813). Pride and Prejudice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Austen, J. (1814). Mansfield Park. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Austen, J. (1816). Emma. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Austen, J. (1817). Northanger Abbey. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Austen, J. (1817). Persuasion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Austen, (1817). Sanditon.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of material culture theory as it has developed in relation to literary study in recent years, with a particular emphasis upon the literary study of the long eighteenth century;

2 Apply debates in literary theory to the reading of Austen´s fiction;

3 Question relationships between materiality and fiction and develop their understanding that fictional objects are qualitatively different from, but related to, historical objects.

4 Demonstrate the ability to argue a point of view with clarity and cogency, both orally and in written form;

5 Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of advanced research skills relevant to the course;

6 Demonstrate their ability for independent critical thinking and judgement.

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