My Schedule for Reading Jane Austen

In my quest to uncover the secrets of Jane Austen I have come up with a reading plan. I consulted some electronic and real-person sources to lay out Austen’s six novels in the order in which they were generally written. Perhaps reading the novels in that order will tell me something about the evolution of the writing.

The Tentative Schedule

Here is a tentative list (as of January 12, 2009) of the order and general time frame that I will be reading Austen’s novels:

Sense and SensibilityJanuary 2009, approximately 2 weeks of reading. Goal: full text plus viewing/criticism of a film adaptation.

Northanger AbbeyJanuary 2009, approximately 2 weeks of reading. Goal: full text after a reading of Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian, plus supplementary texts.

Pride and PrejudiceFebruary 2009, approximately 3 weeks of reading. Goal: full text plus heavy supplementary texts and criticism of at least 2 film adaptations.

Mansfield Park February 2009, approximately 2 weeks of reading. Goal: full text plus criticism of a film adaptation.

EmmaMarch 2009, approximately 3 weeks of reading. Goal: full text plus supplementary texts.

PersuasionMarch 2009, approximately 2 weeks of reading. Goal: full text.

So, from the above list, you can probably tell that I expecting to have some overlap. I am also concentrating (by way of a closer reading and more supplementary materials) on Pride and Prejudice. My goal is to finish the reading by April 1, 2009. I will continue commenting and exploring thereafter, of course, but this timeline is meant for the 3-month period through January and March 2009.

At the time of this reading, I have secured supplementary texts for Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey (including Radcliffe’s The Italian, which I intend to read as a bit of background into the type of literature I know Northanger to be referencing). Regarding the film adaptations, I may reroute those goals to fit a timeframe separate from the original 3-month reading timeframe; I hope this will be nailed down by the end of January.

I welcome any comments or suggestions. In particular, I am looking for literary or social criticism of Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion, and any film adaptations that may be floating out there that have want for my word-daggers.

The Project Artifact

I will be creating an “artifact” as part of my 3-month crash-course study of Jane Austen. I am still trying to work out the details of how this works, but generally an artifact is a novel creation—physical or electronic—that can serve as a exemplifying feature of my work, or perhaps a demonstration of something that I have learned.

For this project, I am still considering options, but I want to finalize the idea by February 1, 2009. Maybe it’s an electronic list? Maybe it’s a trinket that displays “Handsome” or “Not handsome” upon pressing a button?

Let me know if you have any ideas about what I can create as an artifact for Reading Jane Austen.

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6 Comments on “My Schedule for Reading Jane Austen”

  1. Kira Says:

    If you have time in that impressive reading plan, you might want to read the play “Lovers’ Vows”, which plays a big role in “Mansfield Park”. It’s not that difficult to read and rather short (and can be found online).

  2. Kaye Dacus Says:

    The Norton Critical editions of the novels have wonderful supplementary information, including commentary and criticism.

    Two books that I have read cover-to-cover several times when researching J.A.’s work for theses were Jane Austen: A Companion (Josephine Ross) and The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen.

    Film adaptations:
    Since the BBC/PBS recently released new adaptations of almost all of the novels (P&P and E excepting), it might behoove you to find one of the older films of each to contrast against the newer. My suggestions for viewing the films:

    S&S: Emma Thompson’s theatrical version (1995) and the new mini-series version (2008)

    P&P: 1981 Masterpiece version, 1995 A&E Version (considered by most to be the definitive version); an interesting contrast is the 2005 theatrical-release version with Keira Knightley

    NA: There is an older version from the 1980s that’s somewhat hard to get your hands on (though they do have it on Netflix if you’re a subscriber). The recent version is quite good, and would be interesting to see how it compares to the book (it’s been quite a long time since I’ve read the book, so I didn’t try to compare the film to it).

    E: Two versions came out in 1995/96—the one starring Gweneth Paltrow that was a theatrical release and an A&E version starring Kate Beckinsale. They’re very interesting to contrast to each other; another film to add to this would be the Alicia Silverstone film Clueless, which is a modern-day retelling of the story.

    MP: The “definitive” version is part of the 1980s adaptations. The filmography isn’t great, but it follows the novel pretty well. If you’re really wanting to see a complete mishandling of the story, by all means get the new version starring Billie Piper. There’s a late 1990s version starring Frances O’Connor as Fanny that is an interesting study in how the filmmaker picked up on a very tiny piece of information in the novel and turned it into a huge conflict.

    P: My favorite of all the novels. The best film version is the 1995 theatrical release starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. There is an old BBC/Masterpiece miniseries (from 1971) that is relatively faithful to the novel. The newer version, starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones is another one to study to see how the filmmakers chose to adapt the story.

    Hope those suggestions help.


  3. Kira,

    Thanks for the suggestion about “Lovers’ Vows.” I’ll look into it and give it consideration.

    Kaye,

    Some of the adaptations you mentioned I haven’t heard of. I especially am intrigued by your comment about the Sally Hawkins version of Persuasion: I am fascinated by adaptation studies. Regarding Sense and Sensibility, I’ve picked up the Thompson version and am just waiting to finish the book! I recorded Olivier’s old version of Pride and Prejudice, and will no doubt have access o the 1995 miniseries.

    I’ll look for the 1980s version of Northanger Abbey, but if Beckinsale is anything like she was in Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, I’ll have a hard time swallowing that version of Emma. Thanks for the notes on the “definitive” versions.

    You mentioned the Norton Critical editions; two of my Austen books are of that publisher.

    Keep in touch.

    – joseph

  4. Kaye Dacus Says:

    Yes, Olivier’s version of P&P is quite interesting with some of the liberties they took with the characters/storyline (not to mention costuming that is completely wrong for the era).

    I’m quite enjoying reading your thoughts on the books. I’ve been so familiar with them for so long, it’s refreshing to experience someone else’s first exposure to them.

  5. Ruth Says:

    Hi Joseph,

    I found your website through a link on my friend Kaye’s blog – I can see I’m going to have to catch up on your posts!

    I just have to say, the first time I viewed the Olivier P&P I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The costuming is so wrong for the time period it’s ridiculous, but I really enjoyed Olivier and Garson’s portrayals of the leads – I think their on-screen chemistry makes it work (liberties w/ characters and the storyline notwithstanding).

    The Sally Hawkins/Rupert Penry-Jones adaptation of Persuasion is interesting. Personally I really enjoyed that version, in spite of the liberties taken with the storyline and the compression of events in order to fit into a 90 minute time frame.

  6. Sylwia Says:

    I agree with Kaye on many points, but I have some bits to add…

    S&S: Both are good. I watched the recent one with my boyfriend and he loved it too.

    P&P: The 1981 version – I couldn’t stand it. To me it’s a primary school teacher explaining the book to 5th graders, and mostly missing its message at that. The Olivier version is funny, but it’s practically a totally different story. The 1995 is the most faithful one, and really good, my boyfriend’s fav as well. The 2005 one – I wanted my money back. The music is good though.

    NA: I have the 1980s version and I love it! In a way it convinced me to the book, because NA was generally my least favourite of Austen’s. But I quite liked the recent one too.

    E: I like both versions.

    MP: The 1980s – it may be a “definitive” version but I wouldn’t know. It’s so boring it to put me to sleep at my every attempt to watch it. In fact MP doesn’t have a good adaptation. The 1990s one is a good film, but it’s as far from MP as the Olivier’s version from P&P. They simply shouldn’t be watched as adaptations of the novels. The recent one with Billie Piper is so bad that it’s ridiculous. It had me laughing out loud when it came to the proposal.

    P: I liked the old version quite well, and I didn’t mind the new one. The latter is interesting because it tries to use the cancelled chapters, although it quite fails in it.

    So for your reading purposes here are The cancelled chapters of Persuasion. Also, I’d suggest reading Austen’s Lady Susan – a short epistolary novel with a female libertine as a character. Perhaps you should even begin from that, because it exercises the use of various characters’ perspectives in a very clear manner.

    For a completely different Austen I would recommend reading her Juvenilia. Often people miss Austen’s irony because they don’t believe that the proper Miss Austen could really mean it, but when you read Juvenilia you’ll learn the extent of it.

    Well, does this strike you as the authoress of such a proper novel as “Sense and Sensibility”?

    “I murdered my father at a very early period in my Life, I have since murdered my mother, and I am now going to murder my sister”

    Or don’t you love this:

    Pistoletta: Pray papa, how far is it to London?
    Popgun: My girl, my darling, my favourite of all my children, who art the picture of thy poor mother who died two months ago, with whom I am going to town to marry to Strephon, and to whom I mean to bequeath my whole estate, it wants seven miles.

    In Juvenilia Austen touches upon topics that she only alludes to in her serious novels: alcoholism, murder, sexuality, theft etc.


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