Jane Austen uncensored : a critical and pedagogical study of Austen's letters for the college classroom
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A vast amount of literary critical and scholarly work on Jane Austen's writing, including her juvenilia, has been published. However, insufficient attention has been paid to her extant letters and their significance. This dissertation redresses the imbalance and is the first extensive critical, scholarly discussion of Jane Austen's correspondence and their pedagogical applications. In order to rectify the disparity, this dissertation examines Jane Austen's surviving letters to determine how to contextualize them historically and biographically and in relation to her fiction for college composition and undergraduate literature courses. Background information on letter writing in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century provides context for Austen's letter writing, comparing her content and style to common practices. This study also investigates the world of Austen's letters, focusing on historical and biographical context, and scrutinizing the letters as a source of information about middle-class Regency England; Austen's family and social circles; and the author herself, including her personality, attitudes toward current events, views on works of literature, and references to her writing and publication processes. Moreover, Austen's letters would be beneficial as a theoretical pedagogical tool for teaching not only the novels but the world of her novels through an examination of her letters. Throughout my dissertation, previous work on teaching Austen and teaching with letters (both as a teaching tool and as a writing method) is incorporated, analyzed, and adapted. My own strategies for teaching Austen incorporate carefully selected excerpts and complete letters (as applicable), her published novels, and media representations and adaptations. The letters have immense value in the college composition classroom, and they help contextualize Austen's novels with students in the undergraduate college literature classroom. Also addressed is how to incorporate media representations of the author and her fiction as multimodal teaching tools. Recent media adaptations emphasize Austen's relevance for undergraduate college students and demonstrate why Austen's works and life continue to be depicted in media. In the end, Austen's fiction remains popular because of the universality of its themes and the kinship readers feel with its author, and students of both composition and literature would benefit from analyzing Austen's letters in the college classroom.