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Authors in Context: Special Topics I

Jane Austen and her Contemporaries

The first volume of a book by Jane Austen

Even if you haven’t read a Jane Austen novel before, you’ve probably seen a movie adaptation of one of her works – Austen’s stories seem to have a timelessness to them that reach from the eighteenth century to our day. And yet Jane Austen was writing in a very particular time – what could we learn from considering her historical and political context, the novels Austen herself may have been reading, and the artistic sources that found their way into her books? This course will put Austen back into conversation with her contemporaries, by discussing her as part of the Romantic period, influencing and influenced by other writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

For example, we will read Austen’s first novel, Northanger Abbey, and then take the time to learn about the Gothic novelistic tradition that she is parodying (in writers such as Ann Radcliffe). We will also read Persuasion and look at how it engages with the Romantic poets, as well as with the political context of a post-Napoleonic world. Additionally, this course will involve some discussion of film adaptations of Austen, and of Austen’s interest in the arts, such as music, dance, and portraiture.



  • Northanger Abbey
  • Persuasion

Both books by Jane Austen


Assessments will consist of:

  • Participation (biweekly comprehension quizzes)
  • short essay
  • final assignment (either a standard essay or an alternative creative option)
  • final exam


  • Level 2 or above

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153



Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.