Teaching Units and Ideas

Voice, point of view, and narrative technique in Jane Austen's Juvenilia: a multi-text teaching unit

Required: 3-4 copies each of Jane Austen's A Collection of Letters, Love and Freindship, Henry and Eliza, Jack and Alice, Amelia Webster and the Three Sisters, The Beautifull Cassandra, Lesley Castle, Evelyn (fewer titles would work too)

Introductory Lesson: jigsaw exercise to express and discuss responses to Jane Austen's different narrative techniques ( e.g. epistolary, third-person)
Sample discussion topics: Which ways of telling a story/conveying character do you find most intriguing, or most effective, and why? Why do you think Austen used so many different narrative techniques in her juvenilia? Which ones do you find most familiar, based on your reading of other writers?

Sample creative writing assignment: set a personal goal for yourself to experiment with one of the narrative techniques used by Austen. Be prepared to share what you discovered about its limitations and possibilities with your group.

General Outcome 1:
Explore thoughts, ideas, feelings, and experiences
1.1 Discover possibilities
1.2 Extend awareness

General Outcome 2:
Comprehend . . . and respond personally, critically and creatively
2.1: Engage prior knowledge
2.2: relate form, structure and medium to purpose, audience and content
2.3 connect self, text, culture and milieu

General Outcome 5:
Respect, support, and collaborate with others

Possible Follow-up Lessons and Assignments:

A. Explore, analyze, and respond creatively to the illustrations in the books. (This should involve a combination of class discussion, small group discussion, and work by individuals/pairs.)

Sample discussion questions: Which moments did the illustrator choose to illustrate? What style did the illustrator choose to use? How do these choices affect your response to the text? Imagine different choices: a different style of illustration (what?), different "key" moments in the text: how would that affect the reader's response? What kinds of information does an illustrator need to have? Would this require research, and of what kind? These discussions could lead to consideration of such topics as historical and social context, parody, genre, reader response (how we picture characters and events when we read and what influences that imaginative engagement), etc.

Follow-up creative assignment: After close study and discussion of the illustrated dramatis personae of a text such as Lesley Castle, choose a text that does not have a dramatis personae and create an appropriate one. If you can't draw, it's perfectly all right to use photocopies of details from illustrations in the book, to cut out pictures from magazines or comic books, or to use a combination of stick-figure+explanatory text. Be prepared to defend the need for a dramatis personae, the way you have chosen to organize it, and the style of illustration you have chosen.

Follow-up analytical assignment: Write a paper in which you take a position on Joseph Wiesenfarth's argument, made in a recent review, that grotesque characters are inappropriate for illustrations to any work by Jane Austen. You may need to do some research into a) the characteristics of the grotesque and b) the difference between Jane Austen's characterizations in her juvenilia and her mature work. (Margaret Anne Doody's introduction to the juvenilia is an excellent place to begin considering the latter.)

General Outcome 4:
Create oral, print, visual and multimedia texts, and enhance the clarity and artistry of communication

General Outcome 5:
Collaborate with others

General Outcome 2:
Comprehend literature and other texts in oral, print, visual and multimedia forms, and respond personally, critically and creatively

General Outcome 3:
Manage ideas and information

B. Research paper: write an original preface or scholarly introduction

Possible topics for discussion: how do the scholarly introductions and footnotes of these introductions enhance your appreciation of the texts? What purposes do you think they were designed to fulfill? What kinds of readings do they encourage? What kinds of prior knowledge do you think the editors had, and what kinds of research did they have to do? (Consider the works cited.)

Assignment: Critical Introduction

Propose an anthology of 3-4 short works that, in your mind, go well together: your favourite song lyrics; your 3 favourite children's stories; an anthology that presents both juvenilia and mature work for comparison (e.g. poems by Margaret Atwood; short stories by Margaret Laurence or Carol Shields). Write a critical introduction for this anthology. (This could also be a group project involving both a critical introduction and footnotes.) In preparing your introduction, be sure to identify: your audience and your purpose. You will need to do research for your paper: begin by identifying what you (and your audience) need to know; identify potential sources of information; and develop a plan of enquiry that will lead you through collecting information, assessing it, selecting and organizing it, and forming conclusions. Plan for feedback/discussion at various stages: anthology selections: audience and purpose; inquiry requirements and research plan; information and conclusions; organization and tone; grammar and style.

General Outcome 3:
Manage ideas and information

General Outcome 2.3:
Respond to a variety of texts

General Outcome 4.1:
Develop and present a variety of print and nonprint texts

General Outcome 4.2:
Improve thoughtfulness, effectiveness and correctness of communication

General Outcome 5:
Collaborate with others

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