Christian Schloe, Portrait of a Heart

Jane Austen and the Problem of Other Minds

Instructor: Rebecca Ariel Porte
The Workmen’s Circle
247 West 37th St, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10018

Jane Austen’s novels, ceaselessly adapted to other discourses and media, have proven objects of enduring popularity—not only as literature, film, and television, but also as fodder for evolutionary theory, colonial and postcolonial discourse, feminism, game theory, neuroscience, and a host of other species of social theory. Reading Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, we’ll ask: what is historically, aesthetically, formally, and politically significant about Austen’s fine-grained fiction. How are satire and sentiment, attachment and detachment, irony and sincerity developed in Austen’s work? As representations of the formalities, contingencies, and absurdities of organized “society,” to what extent is Austen’s fiction an examination of a central problem of social interaction: knowing about, knowing for, knowing with, and knowing against the minds of others?

In addition to Austen’s novels, we’ll read a host of supplementary texts, including works by J.L. Austin, Ann Radcliffe, Frances Burney, Stanley Cavell, Edward Said, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. As we explore Austen’s treatment of the problem of other minds, we’ll ask a number of related questions: how, exactly, did Austen’s fiction change the form of the novel, which exploded into popularity in the late 18th century? What does Austen’s writing, often charged with narrowness and triviality, have to say about conceptions of Austen, the female author, and the wider world in which she lived—its literary values, politics, economics, gender dynamics, and class hierarchies? And why in the world—this one—right now—are still we still reading her?

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm
June 04 — June 25, 2018
4 weeks


Registration Open

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