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Dec 05 2016

Sharing the Love of Austen

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My favorite opportunity for sharing the love of Austen so far.


In the past five years  I’ve been writing, I’ve had a lot of really wonderful ‘Austen-adventures.‘ I’ve met a lot of wonderful friends. Traveled, attended conferences, spoken, costumed and learned to dance. Even better, my wonderful, if more-than-just-slightly-crazy, family has come along for the ride with me. Not even kicking and screaming mind you, but all in for the fun of it.

This week, tough, I have had one of my most memorable adventures.  I got to share my love of Austen very close to home.

This year, my youngest son was scheduled to study Pride and Prejudice as part of his senior English class, so you know I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I sent a copy of Courtship and Marriage in Jane Austen’s World to his English teacher figuring it might help her answer some of the questions that invariable come up. But, when all was said and done she invited me to speak to all the English 4-AP classes!

Wow! Great! Cool! Wait–huh? What did I just get myself into?

I taught university for 16 years, but it’s been quite a while since I taught high school students. Fear and trepidation!

So of course I did the sensible thing, and caught a whopping cold.

Seriously. Great planning huh?

So with nearly no voice, and a cough that sounded like a cat hacking up a world-record hairball, my son escorted me to the high school I graduated from back in the dark ages.

I hardly recognized the place–seriously–wow! Suffice to say that I think the changes are for the better. On top of that, the classes–all six of them–were fantastic. I especially enjoyed the gal who was typing notes on her laptop, engaging the conversation AND knitting all at the same time.  So awesome!

We got to talk about so many of the things that are confusing to first time Pride and Prejudice readers. Things like:

  • What is a gentleman?
  • Can you be a gentleman without an estate?
  • Just how wealthy were Darcy, Bingley and the Bennets?
  • What is a vicar and what is a living?
  • Could women inherit property?
  • What does it mean to have an estate entailed?
  • What did it mean for a girl to be out and why did only one sister get to be ‘out’ at a time.
  • Why did women have dowries?
  • Why was it so bad for a girl to elope?
  • Why would Charlotte want to marry Mr. Collins.

It was so exciting to see the student’s faces as pieces suddenly fell into place and parts of the story that didn’t make sense now did. Makes me really miss the classroom. Thank you so much Mrs. F for the opportunity!

My son’s English teacher and I are already talking about next year, so of course I’m already thinking about the presentation. No, not a little compulsive at all, thank you. 😉

Can you think of any other ‘must answer’ questions to add to the list for next year?

14 comments

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  1. Ann

    What about Mrs Bennet and her need to get her daughter’s married and the options open to a gentleman’s daughter then and now? That is two questions in one Maria
    Really enjoying reading your blog thank you

    1. Maria Grace

      Those are definitely good questions to include! Thanks, Ann!

  2. Meg

    Wonderful that you shared Austen with the English class! Another question- How unusual was it for a woman like Elizabeth to turn down a proposal from a man of Mr Darcy’s standing?

    1. Maria Grace

      Good point, Meg! Thanks! I’ll definitely include that!

  3. June

    What a wonderful opportunity – teach what you love.

    1. Maria Grace

      I had forgotten how much I love the classroom. It was such a treat. Thanks, June!

  4. Carol hoyt

    I would have loved to have been in that class !
    I guess none of the edits of the era was that women couldnt/shouldn’t bank for themselves .
    Fact or fiction?

    Congrats on a job well gone! Hope the cold is gone and you’re feeling better!!

    1. Maria Grace

      The issue about women banking for themselves revolved around whether or not she was married and a legal ‘person’ in her own right. We touched on that a little–you should have seen the girls’ reactions! They were not impressed with the notion of ‘coverture’. Thanks Carol!

  5. Susanne Barrett

    How wonderful!! That’s the one thing I miss this year: I”m teaching all online classes and have no classroom time at all. I also taught at university and then started homeschooling, but I quickly was drafted into teaching the high school writing classes at our home school “Class Day” co-op (about 100 families). This is the first year I haven’t been teaching Class Day since 1997, and I really miss it despite only teaching once class every two weeks with 18 meetings per year.

    I would have so enjoyed seeing the students’ eyes light up as the various pieces of the puzzle fell into place. That’s my favorite part of classroom teaching!!

    Thanks for sharing the lovely time you had teaching the backdrop of Austen!!

    Warmly,
    Susanne 🙂

    1. Maria Grace

      Seeing the proverbial light bulbs going on is one of my favorite things, too! Hope you get the chance to teach classes again soon! Thanks, Susanne.

  6. Julie

    Love this! So happy you had a good experience. When I think about the story, I often wonder about Caroline Bingley – why was she acting as her brother’s hostess? Why did he need one? And why did people come to stay with people for months at a time!

    1. Maria Grace

      Ooo, those are good questions! Thanks, Julie!

  7. Lynn Char

    My husband always takes to task the “lazy” men living only off others (ie gentlemen) and I’d like for the kids to understand the world and how agriculture and land were the “currency” of the day to an extent. Every time I try to explain it, he relates it to today

  8. Sheila L. Majczan

    I agree with Ann that exploring how few options the ladies had back in Austen’s days would be interesting. Did anyone bring up that she didn’t use her name when first publishing? And all the need for a chaperone – the teens today would be mortified to have someone hanging around to watch and listen when they are with their girlfriend or boyfriend. Thank for sharing. Hope you got over your cold quickly.

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