English 100

The Seminar on Criticism: Styles of Austen and Wilde

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Fall 2022 Eisenberg, Emma Charlotte
TuTh 11-12:30 Dwinelle 279

Book List

Austen, Jane: Emma; Austen, Jane: Lady Susan/The Watsons/Sanditon; Wilde, Oscar: De Profundis and Other Prison Writings; Wilde, Oscar: The Major Works


Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde are nineteenth century style icons. Wilde was a celebrity in his own time and Austen has had avid fans, imitators, and adaptors for centuries. But what exactly are the styles of Austen and Wilde? What is style? Using Austen and Wilde as case studies, this seminar will ask students to engage in different methods and theories around style as a critical object. “Style” has been a productive literary term due to its application at multiple scales (individual, group, period, national styles) and in relation to different categories of value (moral, social, aesthetic). To study style is to already have defined it – but these definitions, and their ideological freight, can often be obscured. To uncover these implications, we will frame our primary texts with criticism that approaches Austen and Wilde's styles through classical rhetoric, nineteenth century reviews, sociology, and queer theory. In early assignments, students will practice their own “stylistics," which might include extrapolating descriptions of Austenian and/or Wildean style through close reading, as well as testing those accounts on the authors’ more unusual works and against other critics' descriptions (~10 pages of writing across a few short exercises). The class will culminate in a more formal 8-10 final essay that engages with other scholars.

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