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September 19, 2017

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Jane Austen: Bits to Bytes

Narrative form, style, and language

Sept 19 Class 5 -- Sense and Sensibility

    Austen: Sense and Sensibility (entire)

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    Playing catch up after Hurricane Irma

    Discuss money and economic issues in Austen's time and in S&S

    Evaluate the values of sense and sensibility

Money in Sense and Sensibility

See S& S fact sheet in Canvas

Why or how does everyone know what everyone else is worth in the world of the Dashwoods?

For background information on how incomes could be evaluated more or less in today's economy, see Edward Copeland's chapter in the Cambridge Companion "Money," particularly 127-132.

What is the financial situation of the Dashwood girls at the beginning of the novel? What is an entail? What options does their father have when he comes into his estate and what happens to forshorten his plans? What does he ask of his son, and what happens as a result? Examine the relevant passages.

What do these opening chapters establish in terms of the role that money plays in family relationships? How important is money? How important is the affective bonding? What else is at play?

Examine the discussion of happiness in chapter 17. What is the difference between Elinor's wealth and Marianne's competence?

Why does Willoughby choose Miss Grey? Why does Elinor find Edward guiltless when she believes he has married Lucy Steele?

What is the relative economic position of the sisters at the end of the novel?

Value systems in Sense and Sensibility

Sentiment - mechanical, physiological response of the senses shared universally, a theory that rationality reflects an ideal moral human nature

Sensibility - a variation on sentiment - the quicknes of this sense perception, or a heightened response to the aesthetic that should stimulate the moral sentiments, but no longer is contingent on the aesthetic stimulant.

Austen's novel sets up two categories of aesthetic and moral response in the two main characters, and the plot development involves an examination of the two - sentiment and sensibility.

Examine the discussions of taste and aesthetic response in the novel, in particular Marianne's view of Edward. What is the connection between asethetic and moral response?

Marilyn Butler has made a classic argument that Sense and Sensibility is in the mold of the didactic novel of the late eighteenth century in which the protagonists embody opposing value systems, except that Austen "conscientiously maintains the principle of a didactic comparison... The entire action is organized to represent Elinor and Marianne in terms of rival value- systems," (quoted in Keymer, Cambridge Companion, 33).

Ros Ballaster builds on this to argue that the characters of sensibility in the novel, primarily Willoughby and Marianne, represent a spirit of Romanticism with connotations of individualism and radical freedom, spontaneity, and the disregard for old forms, whereas the characters of sense/sentiment, namely Elinor and Edward (in the extreme), represent the Augustan aesthetic with its respect for tradition, heritage, and the communities with which they have shared an emphasis on order, decorum, and subtlety.

Keymer maintains a different interpretation: "As critics of Butler's position have often maintained, there are several reasons to pause before seeing Sense and Sensibility as an unequivocal replication, as opposed to a subtle complication, of the polarized absolutes of the contrast novel" (35). And even then, he offers plausible evidence to see an endorsement of sensibility over sense. How so?

Does Elinor operate as a role model for the reader? Does this novel criticize the character of sensibility? Does Elinor in fact learn anything, or is she rewareded for her constant good behavior? What evidence is there for or against in the novel?

Evaluate the ending of the novel: "Between Barton and Delaford, there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate; -- and among the merits and happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands."

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