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Online course

Jane Austen: Myth, Reality and Global Celebrity

Discover the fascinating story of author Jane Austen, from her own life in Hampshire to what she means to a global audience today.

Jane Austen: Myth, Reality and Global Celebrity

Discover the life and impact of Jane Austen

Jane Austen went from being a moderately successful anonymous novelist in her own time to a global celebrity in ours. On this course you will explore how that happened, exploring Austen’s own literary influences, and her reputation over time.

You will learn about her origins in Hampshire, uncovering her formative years, and the society she lived in, asking how Austen’s location, background and reading influenced her novels. You will also consider the ways her own contemporaries read and responded to her, and her place in the modern canon of world literature today, 200 years after she died.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 4 secondsJane Austen born in 1775 died in 1817 aged 41. In life she had modest success as a novelist from this village, Chawton, in Hampshire.

Skip to 0 minutes and 24 secondsNow she's a global literary celebrity her novels have been adapted for stage and for screen and have provided inspiration for sequels, prequels, mashups, blogs and video games.

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 secondsThere are countless biographies and a seemingly endless appetite for collections of essays, articles and book-length studies of the six novels that are now known, by title at least, across the world. Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion whose plots are familiar and whose characters seem like friends.

Skip to 1 minute and 8 secondsBut how did one Hampshire born clergyman's daughter travel from near obscurity to become a novelist who leads an international fanbase. A fan base who, inspired by her novels learn country dancing, eat the cuisine of the day and wear Regency period fashions. How did someone who celebrated writing herself in to 250 pounds become a marketing tool for everything from literary tours to toothpaste, action figures to gin. Just after Jane Austen has appeared on the Bank of England ten pound note join us for a fresh look at her novels her life and her legacy

What topics will you cover?

  • The Austen myth: who is she and what does she mean to people around the world?
  • An 18th century education: Jane and women’s education and reading
  • Austen’s literary and family influences
  • Austen’s ‘dirty walks’: gardens and landscapes in Austen’s writing
  • The marketing of Jane Austen at home and abroad – how her legacy has endured and built her celebrity
  • Austen’s afterlives: adapting Jane Austen for the modern age in film, TV
  • Austen as a commodity: portraits, hair and merchandising

When would you like to start?

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Develop knowledge and understanding of the historical and literary contexts in which Jane Austen was writing
  • Investigate virtually the important locations associated with Jane Austen and their impact on her writing
  • Assess and discuss the impact of Austen’s society on the depiction of arts and reading in her novels
  • Explore some of the myths surrounding women writers of the long eighteenth century
  • Identify the challenges of adapting, translating and interpreting Jane Austen’s works and how this affects global understanding of her work
  • Evaluate the marketing of Jane Austen in her own time and now

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone with an interest in Jane Austen, including the members of Jane Austen Societies in North America, Japan, Brazil and many European countries. You will need a basic knowledge of her novels.

Learners may be interested in the Master of Arts in Jane Austen offered by the University of Southampton.

Who will you learn with?

Gillian Dow

Associate Professor in English at University of Southampton, & Executive Director of the Library at Chawton House. I research & teach Jane Austen & her contemporaries in Britain & France. @gdow12

Kim Simpson

Chawton House Postdoctoral Fellow (2016-19). I also lecture in eighteenth-century literature at the University of Southampton. @AmatoryAnon

Who developed the course?

Southampton is a place for ambitious people keen to stretch their intellectual abilities and help change the world.

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  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes

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