English 190

Research Seminar: Walter Scott and Jane Austen


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Fall 2011 Duncan, Ian
Duncan, Ian
TTh 11-12:30 301 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Austen, J.: Northanger Abbey; Austen, J.: Persuasion; Austen, J.: Mansfield Park; Austen, J.: Emma; Scott, W.: Waverley; Scott, W.: Redgauntlet; Scott, W.: The Antiquary; Scott, W.: Guy Mannering

Description

The two major British novelists of the Romantic period were reading each other: warily, in Austen’s case—“Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones. I do not like him, and do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but fear I must”—and with a franker enthusiasm, in Scott’s: “Also read again, and for the third time at least, Miss Austen's very finely written novel of Pride and Prejudice. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvement and feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with.” In her lifetime Austen’s novels met with a modest commercial success, and were praised by a discerning few; Scott, who wrote the only substantial contemporary review of Austen’s work, was the most famous and influential author of the first half of the nineteenth century. By the end of the Victorian era, their achievements were viewed as equal and opposite: “between them they cover almost the entire possible ground of prose fiction,” wrote George Saintsbury in 1913. By the mid-twentieth century the drastic decline of Scott’s reputation measured Austen’s seemingly unstoppable rise to mass cult status and critical adulation. We will read four major novels by each author, and consider representative criticism of their work, the influential theories of the novel that have grown up around them, and the curious trajectory of their reputations.

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