This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is Books that Would Be on Your Syllabus if You Taught [your subject of choice]101. I have Jane Austen on the brain because of Roof Beam Reader’s Austen in August event, so I thought I’d create a syllabus for that. It’s a course I’d love to take myself — wouldn’t you?
Emma by Jane Austen
A Visit to Highbury by Joan Austen-Leigh
Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken
2015 is Emma’s 200th birthday, so what better time to read her story? I’ve paired it with a couple of retellings from the point of view of other characters (Mrs. Goddard in the former, and the eponymous Miss Fairfax in the latter), which should give rise to good discussions and perhaps some controversy over the secondary authors’ interpretation.
Jane Austen: A Life by Carol Shields
Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin
The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne
These three recent biographies are all excellent, and I would recommend tackling them in this order. First, Carol Shields’s pithy introduction from then Penguin Lives series; then Claire Tomalin’s more expansive account; finally, Paula Byrne’s riff on the theme, which is arranged topically rather than chronologically.
Jane Austen’s England by Roy and Lesley Adkins
Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels by Deirdre Le Faye
Jane’s Fame by Claire Harman
The Adkinses draw on primary sources to give us a unique perspective on the period, peeking into the lives of people from social classes both high and low. For a more visual approach, Deirdre Le Faye’s book can’t be beat as a gorgeously illustrated overview of Austen’s life and work. And Claire Harman takes us on a fascinating tour of the rise and fall and meteoric rise of Austen’s reputation as an author, with a number of surprises along the way.
Is Heathcliff a Murderer? and Who Betrays Elizabeth Bennet? by John Sutherland
Sutherland’s “literary puzzle” books are great fun, and these two include a question derived from Emma (Why are apple trees blossoming in June) which readers of that novel should enjoy pondering. Austen in August “students” are encouraged to come up with their own solutions — and further puzzles!