The New York Times has just published an article looking at how to teach students about Austen in the modern era. They asked for teachers to comment on how they teach Austen to their own classes, but they also published a great list of their own suggestions.
Study the word choices
“Have students read ‘The Word Choices That Explain Why Jane Austen Endures,’ and study the graphic (featured below). Then, invite them to take whatever Austen novel they are reading, choose a passage, and highlight words and phrases that illustrate the findings, just as the author does in the piece with lines from “Emma” and “Persuasion.”
How do “these distinctive words, word clusters and grammatical constructions highlight her writerly preoccupations: states of mind and feeling, her characters’ unceasing efforts to understand themselves and other people”? How do they show her “acute emotional intelligence”?”
Ask the students to draw parallels
What connections can students make between any of the Austen novels and their own lives?
What are the rules, written and unwritten, that govern courtship, love and marriage in Jane Austen?
What are the rules, written and unwritten, that govern courtship, love and marriage today?
Study the adaptations
Always a popular option. Have students choose an Austen update to compare and contrast with the original, and write essays in which they decide how well it has recast the original’s ideas, characters, themes, plot, setting, tone and language. Or, invite them to create their own adaptations.
There are far more suggestions in the article on how to teach Austen than we have space to list here, but if you’d like to read them all you can find the full article here. Or you might prefer to try their other idea…
The other thing which the Times had to offer in its article was an utterly delightful, free board game. The Janeiac Game is a variation on Ludo and Snakes and Ladders.
The object of the game is to snare Mr Darcy (of course!) and players do this by each selecting a Lizzy Bennet and then moving around the board, moving clockwise from their Lizzy’s home position, until they get back to their home position and can move up the remaining three squares to the centre of the board and into Mr Darcy’s arms.
It has lovely details such as information on all the different squares on major Austen events in the news in recent years, and also a few with fun imaginary scenarios on. For example: “Your 3-year-old picks up new picture book “Mr Darcy the Dancing Duck.” Future Janeite born.”
The game was created by Mary Jo Murphy and Jennifer Schuessler. The original illustrations that go with it are the work of Peter and Maria Hoey. Great work! A great way to teach Austen!
As part of a fund-raising effort to restore a First World War memorial chapel in time for celebrations to mark the centenary of the Armistice, the chapel of St Mark’s in Farnborough, in Hampshire, has organised an Austen readathon.
The chapel houses more than 190 plaques commemorating men and women who died in the war, and the congregation would like to restore them so they are readable once more.
We are asking people to come along and donate a ‘Jenner’ — a Jane Austen tenner — to our appeal. We want to restore the plaques in our beautiful chapel which many years ago were stained in a dark woodstain so they are now impossible to read. We want people to see the tributes once again.
The Readathon will start with Northanger Abbey on Monday 11 December, and end with Pride and Prejudice on 16 December. A crowdfunding appeal has been set up on the JustGiving website under St Mark’s, Farnborough.
We reported in a recent issue of the Jane Austen News that Whitehill in East Hampshire would soon have a Jane Austen Close. Well, Linda Kennedy writing for the Macau Daily Times has also noted this new street, and goes on to highlight how rarely women are honoured by having a street named after them.
We hadn’t noticed before, but once it was pointed out we started to look for it and noticed how right she was. The majority of streets, if named in honour of someone, are named after great male figures. However, in some cities this is changing. In Glasgow a proposition was put to the city council to redesignate main thoroughfares such as Ingram Street and Argyle Street after women like Mary Barbour or Jean Roberts. (Barbour led protests against private landlords in 1915. Roberts was the first female Lord Provost in 1960.) Meanwhile in the Spanish city of León, citizens were asked to vote for a number of leading women to name streets after, including Rosa Parks, Frida Kahlo, Jane Austen and local inventor Ángela Ruiz Robles.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more cities decided to promote great female figures this way?
Linda’s full article can be found here.
We’ve had how to teach Austen, a way of ‘playing’ Austen, a piece on reading Austen, and a piece on honouring Austen. Now we come to our plans for celebrating Austen!
As we do every year at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, we’re preparing to celebrate Jane Austen’s birthday on the 16th of December, and this year’s plans are well underway. As well as spreading the news around Bath of why the 16th is such a special day, we’re also planning to create an delicious celebration for our Centre guides as well. We may also be catching up with a couple of rather wonderful Regency characters as they explore the streets of Bath…
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