Was Jane Austen a Feminist?

Ref: C2345398

Long thought to have been a woman whose traditional values of country, church and domesticity dominated her life and writings, Jane Austen has come under scrutiny in recent years as a 'Secret Radical'. It's worth studying the novels and letters again for evidence of her real feelings about the position of women in late Georgian and Regency England, the proto-feminist arguments she - and they - may have encountered, and the compromises all were forced to make. Nothing will be easy to prove, which always makes for lively discussion of a kind Elizabeth Bennet would have relished.

Course aim

This is a course for Jane Austen readers and a chance to consider her six major novels again in a different light.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers
  • It will be assumed that you have a broad knowledge of, at least, 'Pride and Prejudice', 'Emma' and 'Persuasion', though reference will be made to all six novels during the course.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Give a brief outline of the position of women between 1790 and 1817, and some of the ideas then current about the legal and social relationship of the sexes.
  • Discuss events in Austen's life that may have influenced particular events in the novels.
  • Investigate the relationships between men and women in the novels, and between women and women, in order to weigh the evidence for Austen's views. (Study dialogue in particular).
  • Discuss how Austen's popularity in the 21st century reflects on these questions. (Is it down to nostalgia? Or her essential modernity?)
  • Give your final informed view on Austen's 'feminism', with some supporting detail.

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

Helen Kelly's 'Jane Austen, The Secret Radical' would be excellent preparation for this course, whether you agree with her or not.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Was Jane Austen a Feminist?


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Not sure or have further questions? Contact courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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