Syllabus: Jane Austen in Manuscript and Print

English 427W
Topics in Romantic Literature
Jane Austen in Manuscript and Print

Michelle Levy
Simon Fraser University

In this course we will read Jane Austen’s six print novels alongside her manuscript writing — her juvenilia, unpublished fiction, and selected letters. Using the newly launched website, Jane Austen’s Fictional Manuscripts, which provides access to high-quality images of original manuscripts whose material forms are scattered around the world in libraries and private collections, we are presented with a unique opportunity formerly available only to select, highly specialized scholars. Specific topics to be covered include: Austen’s participation, both early in her life and throughout her career, in domestic, manuscript culture; her role as a reader and critical commentator on literary trends, including the novel of sensibility and the gothic; her difficult and prolonged efforts to revise her writing for print; her position as a female author, including her efforts to promote (and distinguish herself from) the fiction of other women; her status as a professional author, including her relationships with publishers and patrons; the material form in which her novels were printed, and their dissemination in circulating libraries and book societies; her reception in the early nineteenth century, in periodical reviews and by major writers of the period (including Byron, Scott, Wordsworth, and Coleridge); and her canonization during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the major female author of the period. In addition to immersing ourselves in the world of Austen’s fiction, students will engage with a selection of theoretical readings that address her participation in the material culture of her day.


  • Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (Broadview)
  • Sense and Sensibility (Broadview)
  • Pride and Prejudice (Broadview)
  • Mansfield Park (Broadview)
  • Emma (Broadview)
  • Persuasion (Broadview)

All secondary reading will be available online.


  • Diane Hacker, A Canadian Writer’s Reference (3rd)
  • M.H. Abrams, Glossary of Literary Terms


  • 15% Participation
  • 15% Presentation
  • 10% First essay (5-7 pages) (Due January 31)
  • 15% Revision of First essay (Due February 21)
  • 15% Proposal/Outline and Annotated Bibliography for Research Paper (1-2 pages) (Due March 13)
  • 30% Final Essay (10-12 pages) (Due April 10)


In this course, we are seeking a thorough knowledge of the Romantic literary culture through an in-depth analysis of one of the period’s most famous authors, the novelist Jane Austen. You will be responsible—through your readings, presentations, participation and essays for seriously engaging with the literature and culture of this period.

  • Attendance and Participation:

    Active and engaged class participation is necessary to make this course a success. We meet only 13 times during the semester – you must attend all classes. You are allowed one absence “no questions asked.” Thereafter (that is for any absences beyond the first) you must provide documentation to explain your absence. Without this documentation, your final grade will be reduced one grade for each absence (ie. from B+ to B for one unexplained absence). This is not done to be punitive but because regular attendance and involvement in the class is necessary for the course to be a success.

    You must do all of the required reading. As we will be doing the novels often in quick succession, it is highly desirable that you be finished reading the novel by the beginning of the first class that we are to consider it. Ideally, you will have read one or two of the novels before the start of the class. We are also working at a higher level in this class with more secondary sources, so again, this is a course with a lot of reading—consider yourself warned!

  • Presentations:

    You will make two presentations for the course. The first one, to be conducted in pairs, will count for 10% of your final grade (maximum 30 minutes). This presentation will require considerable outside research, and will be focused on a selected topic related to that day’s secondary reading.

    For your second presentation, to be given on the last day of class, you will be presenting a paper that outlines the major questions and implications of your final paper. The presentation will be at most 10 minutes.

    Additional guidelines for your presentations are provided below.

  • Essays:

    You will write two essays in this course. Detailed guidelines for these papers will be given to you. As this course is writing intensive, we will be spending a lot of time on your writing. You will write two versions of the first paper, receiving feedback on the first version before you revise it. Please note that both grades (on the first and the revised paper) are recorded. The revised essay must be responsive to the criticism and suggestions received on the first version. It is your responsibility to ensure that you understand the suggestions and recommendations I will provide for you.

    The structure for the second paper is slightly different. Here you will submit a proposal, including an outline and an annotated bibliography. Feedback on your proposal will help you as you write your final paper. See below for more details on your essay assignments.

    All papers are due on the dates listed in the class schedule. Late papers will lose one half-grade (one plus or minus grade) for every day they remain outstanding. There are no exceptions.

    All papers must be presented in proper form: they must be typed, double spaced, one inch margins, 12 point font size, with page numbers, and an interesting title. Your name, date and class information must appear clearly on the first page of your paper. I require a hard copy of all papers (i.e. emailed copies not accepted). Please DO NOT use a separate title page; double-sided papers are strongly encouraged.

  • Plagiarism:

    The MLA Style Manual defines plagiarism as “the use of another person’s ideas or expressions in your own writing without acknowledging the source.” Plagiarism is a serious academic offence that will be reported to the Dean of Students, and can result in expulsion. If you plagiarize, you will be given a zero on that paper and may also fail the course. Please ask me if you have any questions about how to document your sources.

Reading Schedule

**all readings from outside the six novels are available either online or at

January 10: Introduction

  • Kathryn Sutherland, “Chronology of composition and publication.” Todd, Janet, Ed. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen: Jane Austen in Context. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP; 2005, 12-22.
  • Volume the First (

January 17: Manuscript Culture and the Juvenilia

  • Volume the Second and Volume the Third (
  • Margaret Ann Doody, “The Short Fiction.” Eds. Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster. The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. 12-31.
  • Debra Kaplan, “Circles of support." Jane Austen Among Women. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1992.
  • Presentation topic: Manuscript Culture

January 24: Northanger Abbey: Women Novelists

  • Northanger Abbey
  • Anna Barbauld, “On the Origin and Progress of Novel Writing,” The British Novelists (
  • Claudia Johnson, “‘Let Me Make the Novels of a Country’: Barbauld’s The British Novelists (1810/1820).” Novel: A Forum on Fiction, 2001 Spring; 34 (2): 163-79. (available online via MLA database)
  • Presentation Topic: Burney, Edgeworth, Radcliffe

January 31: Lady Susan, “The Watsons”: Austen, Style and Form

  • Lady Susan; “The Watsons”
  • Janet Todd and Linda Bree, from “Introduction,” The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen: Later Manuscripts. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008. xxxi-ixxx
  • Nancy Armstrong, “The Rise of female authority in the novel.Desire and Domestic Fiction: a political history of the novel. New York: Oxford UP, 28-58.
  • Mary Poovey, “Ideological contradictions and the consolations of form: the case of Jane Austen.The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984.
  • Presentation Topic: Epistolary Novels (QD Leavis - 'A Critical Theory of Jane Austen's Writings (II): Lady Susan into Mansfield Park' (Scrutiny, 1941/1942))
  • Paper #1 Due in Class

Feb 7: Sense and Sensibility and the Book Trade

  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Ian Watt, “The reading public and the rise of the novel.” The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding. Berkeley: U of California P, 1957. 35-59.
  • James Raven, “Book Production.” Todd, Janet, Ed. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen: Jane Austen in Context. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP; 2005, 194-203
  • Presentation Topic: The Rise of the Novel (Quantified)

(Peter Garside, “The English Novel in the Romantic Era: Consolidation and Dispersal.” Peter Garside, James Raven, and Rainer Schöwerling, Eds. The English Novel 1770-1829: A Bibliographical Survey of Prose Fiction Published in the British Isles. Vol. II, 1800-1829)

Feb 14: No Class—Reading Week (please read ahead)

Feb 21: Pride and Prejudice and Authorship

Feb 28: Mansfield Park and Reading

  • Mansfield Park
  • Alan Richardson. “Reading Practices,” in Todd, Janet, Ed. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen: Jane Austen in Context. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP; 2005. 397-405.
  • Patricia Howells Michaelson. “Women in the Reading Circle.” Eighteenth-Century Life, 13 (1989): 59-69.
  • Presentation Topic: Circulating Libraries

(Barbara Benedict, “Chapter 5: Jane Austen and the Culture of Circulating Libraries: The Construction of Female Literacy.” Backscheider, Paula, Ed. Revising Women: Eighteenth-Century ‘Women's Fiction’ and Social Engagement. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP; 2000. 147-99. (available online at SFU library); Lee Erickson, “The Economy of Novel Reading: Jane Austen and the Circulating Library.” SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 1990 Autumn; 30 (4): 573-90)

March 6: Emma, Mansfield Park and Reception History

  • Emma
  • “Opinions of Mansfield Park”; “Opinions of Emma” (
  • Barbara Benedict, “Readers, Writers, Reviewers, and the Professionalization of Literature.” Keymer, Thomas and Mee, Jon, Eds. The Cambridge Companion to English Literature 1740-1830. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP; 2004. 3-23.
  • William St. Clair, “Reading, reception, and dissemination.” The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. 394-412.
  • Presentation Topic: Novel Reviewing

March 13: Emma and Patronage

  • Emma
  • “Plan of the Novel” (
  • Early reviews of Emma
  • Mary Waldron, “Critical Responses, early,” Todd, Janet, Ed. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen: Jane Austen in Context. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP; 2005, 83-91
  • Janet Todd and Linda Bree, from “Introduction,” The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen: Later Manuscripts. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008. xcix-cv
  • Paper #2 Due Outline and Annotated Bibliography Due in class

March 20: Persuasion, Canonization

  • Persuasion
  • Chapters 10 and 11, Vol. 2 (
  • Ian Watt, “Realism and the later tradition: a Note.” The Rise of the Novel. 290-302.
  • Clifford Siskin, “What we remember: The Case of Austen.” The Work of Writing: Literature and Social Change in Britain, 1700-1830. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1998. 193-210
  • Presentation Topic: Family Memoirs of Jane Austen (“Biographical Notice” (1818) by Henry Austen and James Edward Austen-Leigh)

March 27: Sanditon

  • Sanditon (
  • Michelle Levy, “Austen's Manuscripts and the Publicity of Print.” ELH 77, 2010, pp.1015–1040.
  • George Justice, “Sanditon and the Book,” in Johnson, Claudia L. (ed.); Tuite, Clara (ed.); A Companion to Jane Austen. Chichester, England; Wiley-Blackwell; 2009, 153-162.
  • Janet Todd and Linda Bree, “Introduction,” The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen: Later Manuscripts. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008.
  • Presentation Topic: Completing/Updating Austen

April 3: Letters/ Poems

  • Kathryn Sutherland, “Jane Austen’s Life in Letters,” in Johnson, Claudia L. (ed.); Tuite, Clara (ed.) A Companion to Jane Austen. Chichester, England: Wiley-Blackwell; 2009, pp.13-30
  • Stephanie Moss, “Jane Austen's Letters in the Nineteenth Century: The Politics of Nostalgia”, Lambdin, Laura Cooner (ed.); Lambdin, Robert Thomas (ed.) A Companion to Jane Austen Studies. Westport, CT: Greenwood; 2000. 259-74.
  • Janet Todd and Linda Bree, from “Introduction,” The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen: Later Manuscripts. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008. cv-cx
  • Presentation Topic: Jane Austen Biographies

April 10: Legacy/Popularity

  • Claudia Johnson, “Austen’s Cults and Cultures.” Eds. Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster. The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. 211-226.
  • Deidre Shauna Lynch, “Cult of Jane Austen.” Todd, Janet, Ed. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen: Jane Austen in Context. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP; 2005, 111-120.
  • Final presentations
  • Paper #2 due in class

First Presentation Guidelines

On the first day of class you will be asked to sign up, in pairs, for a presentation topic. All topics are listed on the syllabus. Generally speaking, presentations will be held in the second or third hour of class, though there may be some flexibility with this as we go along.

  • For some topics, I have given specific readings to consider. For others, you can find the secondary sources after consulting with me. It is important that you come to see me well in advance of the presentation date (preferably at least 2 weeks before) to discuss your sources and your approach. A visit during office hours is best.
  • Most presentations will be conducted in pairs, with both students receiving the same grade.
  • You will be expected to conduct some research for the presentation. It is expected that this research will help you with your papers, so you should be thinking ahead towards your papers in deciding what you would like to work on for the presentation.
  • Your aim in the presentation is twofold – to introduce students to the scholarly literature and issues surrounding your topic, and of course how it applies to Austen—and to stimulate discussion. You should aim to begin with a more formal presentation of no more than 20 minutes in length (Be warned: I will cut you off if you go over!). You should prepare on an overhead or handout at least three, well-crafted and focused questions or exercises for discussion, which will continue for another 10-20 minutes. There will also be an opportunity for students to ask you questions about your research. Your presentation grade will be based on both the formal presentation and the extent to which you stimulate discussion, and respond to questions.
  • You are encouraged to be as creative as possible in your presentation. While reading from notes is fine, it would be terrific if you can think of more inventive ways to present your material. Visual and audio aids are great – you are responsible for bringing any necessary equipment to class.
  • The presentation will be worth 10% of your grade. The presentation grade includes both of the in-class oral presentation and discussion, as well as a brief summary of the presentation, with a bibliography, that you will post to no more than one week after the presentation is given.

First Paper Guidelines:

This paper is worth 10% of the final grade. It should be between 5-7 pages in length.

The paper is due in class on January 28.

You are responsible for devising your own topic for this paper. The requirements are as follows:

  1. You should focus on one novel or a few shorter works if that is what you want to work on. Remember it is a short paper; no more than 7 pages double-spaced.
  2. Your essay must consider at least four scholarly articles or book chapters. These articles can be taken from those assigned in class. All articles must, of course, be relevant to your paper.
  3. Your paper must have an argument and this argument should in some way relate your reading of the novel to the scholarship you have read. In other words, you should take a position on this scholarship and situate your reading of the novel within what others have said about it. To do so effectively, you will probably want to address a fairly narrow topic. For example, “Austen and the novel tradition” is far too big; “Austen and the gothic novel” is getting better; “Austen’s reading of Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho” is even better.
  4. You may take any topic, from any part of the class, and apply it to any novel. So, for example, don’t confine yourself to the topic of “reading” in Mansfield Park; reading is important in all of the novels, though in different ways.
  5. Ideally, you will pick a topic that relates to the focus of the course. This isn’t to say that all of the issues Austen’s work raises, such as gender and class, are not important, but, as I would like to see you working with the course readings, try to find a topic that fits with our general investigation into Austen’s role in book culture.

Revision Guidelines

The revision of your paper is due in class on February 21. The revised paper must be stapled to the first version of the paper, with my comments.

Your responsibility

When you hand the revision back in, be sure you also hand in the first marked version with comments on it. Please staple the two versions together.

Our promise

I will assess your revision in light of the first version of your paper and your responsiveness to my comments; my comments on your second version will necessarily be briefer than those on your first.

Why revise?

Writing (and the thinking that goes into it) is a process, and is never really complete. A piece of writing is never perfect, but with work it can improve, becoming clearer, more persuasive, more interesting.

By revising your paper, you are given the opportunity to revisit and improve your paper by rewriting it after having received feedback.

How will the revision be graded?

  • While it is unlikely that your grade will drop, since you were being graded in part on your responsiveness to feedback, if you make no or few changes, it may well drop. If you only make the most basic changes and corrections, as included in your feedback, it is unlikely that your grade will rise.
  • To improve your grade, you will have to do a lot more than fixing a few sentences here and there (including any corrections that have been made on your paper). Unless you did exceptionally well on the first paper—and this represents a very small number of students, you must rewrite your paper. I cannot stress strongly enough that a revision is a rewriting, which means that you must write it again. You may use some aspects of the first paper that did work, but by and large you should start again.
  • More specifically, we are looking for the following:
  • Has the student enhanced or at least maintained what were strengths of the original paper?
  • Has the student addressed the global concerns articulated in the feedback about the paper successfully, especially those mentioned in end comments, and as many of the localized concerns as possible?
  • Has the student worked on strengthening and developing his/her argument and textual analysis? How convincing is the argument and the analysis?
  • Does the revised paper work as a new whole, having unity and coherence?
  • Has the student edited and proofread the revision successfully?

Where do I start?

  • I know it sounds obvious, but, start by reading the comments carefully. It is important that you understand every single mark on the paper—both the end comments and the comments/corrections made throughout your paper. If you cannot decipher or do not understand any of these comment, please ask for elucidation.
  • Note that when we make corrections, particularly on sentence and paragraph level issues (grammatical and other mechanical/stylistic problems), we do not correct (or even note) every instance where there is a problem. We do point out the types of problems that your paper demonstrates, and it is up to you to avoid those problems on the revision. This applies to problems with citations and quotations as well.
  • Again, if you have any questions at all, please speak to your TA. For those of you with more serious writing problems, it is strongly recommended that you seek out the help of a writing tutor.

I have digested your comments and understand them, now what?

  • Most of you have made good choices as to your topic and texts, and many of you had decent arguments. In other words, most of you will not need to start entirely from scratch. However, almost everyone could stand to improve his or her thesis (those of you who did not have an argument, of course, need to find one).
  • Where does an argument come from, you ask? It comes from reading the texts over and over again. An argument does not state the obvious; nor does it skirt the text altogether; nor does it simply repeat what others have said (including what we have said in class). You must be closely engaged with reading a literary work (or adaptation in another media) in order to develop an interesting argument.
  • Support for the argument will come from your textual analysis. All of you need to work on developing your close reading skills. It is not sufficient to quote from the text; you must also properly introduce it and explain how that particular quote supports your argument.

Outline and Annotated Bibliography Assignment

The outline and annotated bibliography is due on March 13th. The outline itself should be 1-2 pages, and the annotated bibliography.

Your proposal should set out the texts you will be examining and an outline of your argument. You should include a brief discussion of the secondary sources you will be engaging with. Of course, none of this is fixed in stone, and the point of the exercise is (1) to encourage you to begin working on your final project due at the end of the term; and (2) to provide you with feedback on your paper ideas.

Your annotated bibliography should contain a brief summary (no more than a paragraph) for each text you have consulted in your research. It should include both primary and secondary material that is relevant to your final paper, and all material that you have read even if you will not be using it in your final paper. Ideally, you will make your annotations as you proceed through your reading, when it is freshest in your mind. You should aim to annotate between 6-8 secondary sources.

Final Paper

This paper is due in class, on April 10th. It should be between 10-12 pages in length. To make sure that you are on the right track, I highly recommend that you come speak to me about your thoughts as soon as possible.

This is a more substantial research paper. In this paper, I would like for you to assess Austen’s novels in relation to a focused topic. I am leaving this very open ended so that you can write a topic that interests you. The guidelines are as follows:

  • You must consider at least two novels, possibly three, and probably no more than four (unless you have a very narrow topic).
  • You may reconsider the novel you dealt with in your first paper, though your focus should be different.
  • As in your first paper, you should engage with the secondary criticism on your topic. You must situate your own argument in the context of what others have said about Austen on the topic you are addressing. You will want to consider at least five scholarly book chapters or articles. Remember that I do not want you to use the criticism simply to support your own readings. Rather, try to engage in a conversation, and ideally a debate, with what others have already said. In the somewhat unlikely event that you are addressing a topic that no one has dealt with, you should speak to me about how to deal with this.
  • In this paper, I would like for you to attempt to address some of the more challenging aspects of Austen’s novels. So, make sure you select a topic that interests you and that you feel is sufficiently complicated to challenge you. A very simple, or overbroad topic (i.e. “education” in Jane Austen) will probably not yield the best paper.

Second Presentation Guidelines

During our last class meeting on April 10, you will be asked to prepare a short (no more than 5 minute) précis of your final essay, to be followed by 5 minutes of questions from the class. This précis should include your major argument, the textual evidence and secondary sources you used to support your claim, as well as any unresolved issues and questions you still have.