Studying Jane ~

I have a number of half-started posts to share but have not the time – so they remain unfinished  – they run the gamut from book reviews to old S&S movies, to Georgette Heyer, to whether Jane Austen ever rode in a barouche [yes, she did, and laughed the whole way…!] – so I have been busy, just no time to share…

To explain:  for the past few years I have periodically searched to see if there were any Jane Austen courses I could take online – the ones I found never fit my timetable [or pocketbook!], so I was overjoyed last September to find a course offered by Oxford University just on Jane, affordable and in the winter when one really wants to hibernate anyway, so why not a full Austen immersion.  I’ve been out of college for a great number of years, but as a former graduate student of English Literature who took a fork in the road to get an MLS degree instead, I thought I would always keep those skills of reading critically that came so easily back then.  HA! little did I realize how completely real life gets in the way of critical thinking…

I can almost pinpoint the day when I realized that what I really wanted to be when I grew up was be a professional student!, something that struck my father [who lived through the depression] nearly dumb.  But I just loved to read and study and to be doing the “detective” research thing [you know what they say about librarians – they really don’t KNOW anything, but they do know where to find it…].

Interestingly enough, this epiphany happened in math class, 10th grade geometry to be exact.  I loved math, especially geometry, loved drawing all the angles, using graph paper, calculating, but I had this talking out-of-turn problem, and one day the teacher had just had it and sentenced me to write a 1000 word essay on Euclid, I mean THE Euclid, the “Father of all Geometry”! – so off I went after school to hit the encyclopedias – and I discovered there were not a lot of words on Euclid, and I needed a thousand of them in 24 hours.  “Semi-brilliant” [in my own 10th grade mind at least], very annoying teenager that I was, I hit on a plan – “a picture tells a thousand words” – so oft-quoted, but what did it mean? For me it meant I only needed to find a PICTURE of Euclid, which is exactly what I handed to the teacher the next day.  He was not amused, assigned me to TWO THOUSAND words on Euclid, and therein a professional was born, right there in geometry class.  I fell in love with Euclid, Euclidian geometry and RESEARCH.  AND stopped talking in class….

I’ve taken many classes [none in math I might add!] through the years, time permitting, but after all the Austen reading I have done, various Austen-related workshops, weekend gatherings, book groups, JASNA events, what I want is the “fun” of really just focusing on her from an academic standpoint, to give some much-needed direction to my self-study, reconnecting with that critically-reading person I used to be, but really perhaps to just be in a classroom yet again, even if that classroom is sitting in front of my own computer, chatting away with other Austen-lovers from all over the world.  So I did it, signed up for this class – it started yesterday  – and hence the reason that my allotted blogging time will be drastically cut, and why you tonight have to “listen” to my story of Euclid.

So, I am putting you all on high alert that I shall be seriously out of the loop of my usual trying to keep up with “all things Austen” – I will post when I can of something that comes into my view, or something I might want to share about the class. It seems to be a wonderful group, indeed they ARE from all over the world, women and men, a full range of ages and the full spectrum of Austen-knowledge.  It will be great…

I encourage you to look at this Oxford University site – there are a number of other courses offered just in English Literature, as well as in Archaeology, Art, History, Creative Writing, Economics and Philosophy – sign me up, I am hooked… [and I haven’t even done anything yet but figure my way around the website!]

Here are the Literature courses:

Literary Theory: An Introduction: This course is for anyone interested in developing their critical reading skills, learning more about literary theory, and using literary theory to understand and enjoy literature more deeply.

Ancestral Voices: the earliest English Literature:  Old English literature isn’t all about battles and boozing: find out more.

Brontës:  How did three sisters living an apparently secluded and eventless life write some of the most original, passionate and dramatic novels and poetry in the English language?

Contemporary British Fiction:  If you enjoy reading and discussing novels; you read reviews of fiction, you have opinions and ideas about novels; if you have ever thought ‘so many books, so little time’, and wondered how to decide which authors to try…

Critical Reading: an introduction to literary studies:  Learn to analyse, write about, appreciate, and above all enjoy literary texts.

English Poetry of the First World War:  Some of the most powerful and moving English poetry of the modern period was written during or about the First World War.

Fiction by Victorian Women: George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Margaret Oliphant, and others:  Some of the greatest writers of the Victorian period were women. [really?!]

Jane Austen:  There’s more to Austen than bonnets and romance. Much more. [what, no chick-lit?]

Trollope, Eliot, Dickens and Hardy: Reading Victorian Fiction:  Madness, hilarity, doubt and devotion. [Marcia, are you listening?]

[from the Oxford University Continuing Education website]

FYI:  the next Austen class starts April 26 and runs 10 weeks.

I have more to post on other online courses available elsewhere, so stay tuned …. in the meantime, here are those “thousand words” on my buddy Euclid [with the compliments of Wikipedia – a mere science fiction fantasy when I was in the 10th grade!]

[Posted by Deb]