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Jane Austen News – Issue 94

teach austen via a game

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  


How To Teach Austen

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…

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 94

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Jane Austen News – Issue 92

Jane Austen fans might like to see the new Howard's End production

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  


Mr Darcy and Mary Crawford Unite in Howards End

Jane Austen fans are often fans of other classic authors too. If you like Jane Austen, chances are you also like the works of a Bronte or of Hardy, etc etc. This is a bit of a generalisation, it’s true, but all the same we thought that a fair few of our Jane Austen fans might like to know that the BBC is about to air a new four-part, classic costume drama.

The new production is a new adaptation of EM Forster’s novel, Howards End, and will star Matthew Macfadyen (who played Mr Darcy in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice), and Hayley Atwell (who played Mary Crawford in the 2007 ITV production of Mansfield Park).

We know that some might say classics stories like this one, and equally the novels of Austen, have been adapted enough and we don’t need anymore period dramas, but Mr Macfadyen has made an incredibly salient point about why new adaptations like this one are still popular and worth watching:

I can see why people sometimes say, “Oh, not another period drama”, but that’s only because some period dramas aren’t done very well, or they’re done in a boring way.
This one is eternally relevant. The social mores might have changed, but people’s behaviour hasn’t. It has money and class, the battle of the sexes, society and sex and family. Human behaviour is the same whether you’re wearing a frock coat or a hoodie. These issues endure.

Well said! We’re certainly looking forward to seeing it when it airs this Sunday (12th November) at 9pm on BBC One, and we’re sure that a few other Jane Austen fans like us will be too!


Sponge Cake “Baffles” Cassandra Austen

Jane Austen, being the very sensible woman that she was, had a great love of food. She often included details about the lovely food she’d been eating, or looking forward to eating, in the letters she wrote to Cassandra.

It’s been mentioned a few times recently that she was the first writer to use the term “dinner party” in a book – in this case in Mansfield Park in chapter 41, but we didn’t realise, until this week, that she also has the honour of being the person to whom the first recorded use of the term “sponge cake” can be attributed.

In an article for the Telegraph, the QI Elves (the researchers behind the hit UK panel show QI) shared some of their favourite weird facts that they’d found out while researching for the show, but which had sadly not made it onto camera. This fact about Jane being one of them.

7. The first recorded use of the word “sponge cake” was by Jane Austen.

Andrew: It was in a letter to her sister. I’m not sure we have her response, but it was presumably complete bafflement.

A couple of the other facts we enjoyed learning about were: that the world’s leading fortune-cookie writer has retired after 30 years – because of writer’s block, and, a scientist called Neil Gemmell is going to look for the Loch Ness Monster’s dandruff.

As fun as these are, we’d rather stick with Jane and have sponge cake than fortune cookies or monster dandruff! (She knew where her priorities lay.)

If you’d like to bake your own Regency version of pound cake (which is the sponge cake Jane was referring to) you can find our recipe here.

If you’d like to read the full QI Elves article, that can be found here.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 92

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