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Austen 2014: Reading Schedule & General Introduction

Now that the holidays are over, the decorations have been put away, and the resolutions have either been committed to or forgotten, it's time to focus on what really matters in 2014: reading all of Jane Austen's major novels. Partially because her work is so much more familiar to people generally, and partly out of a selfish desire to write fewer, but higher quality, posts, we're going to handle this read-a-thon slightly differently from the way we have the previous two. Only slightly, however--I'm not reinventing the wheel here.

So, we begin with Northanger Abbey which was (possibly? I'll do a note before we begin each discussing the problems of dating the first three novels) completed first, but wasn't published until after her death, when it was packaged together with her last novel, Persuasion, in 1818. Indeed, the "definitive" modern editions of her novels, those published by Oxford University Press and edited by R.W. Chapman, still follow that precedent and include them in the same volume. (Incidentally, these will be the versions I use for any quotations, etc. throughout.) Northanger was written in two volumes, giving us the perfect chance to do two readings on it. (All dates below indicate when I expect to post my blog entry about that topic. Subject to some variation. If you want to follow along with any, or all, of the readings use these dates as your "completed by" goals.)

Introduction to Northanger Abbey: Coming soon!
NA Volume 1: February 2, 2014
NA Volume 2: February 23, 2014

Next we will tackle Sense & Sensibility. originally published in 1811, through written significantly earlier--likely before the turn of the century. It was published in three volumes.

Intro to Sense & Sensibility: March 1, 2014
S&S Volume 1: March 22, 2014
S&S Volume 2: April 15, 2014
S&S Volume 3: May 5, 2014

Then, we'll progress to the last of Austen's "early" works--her most famous novel, Pride & Prejudice. As with the previous two novels, it's hard to date the writing of this work, and it may actually have been completed first, depending on how you read the evidence. However, it was published in 1813, and as such, just celebrated its 200th anniversary, and there was quite the to-do. It was published in three volumes.

Intro to Pride &Prejudice: May 15th, 2014
P&P Volume 1: June 5, 2014
P&P Volume 2: June 25, 2014 
P&P Volume 3: July 15, 2014

Austen took a significant break from writing between the early and the late novels, but the publishing dates don't necessarily reflect that. As such, in 1814, came Mansfield Park, one of her more challenging novels and the one that has bedeviled Austen fans for 200 years. It was published in three volumes.

Intro to Mansfield Park: July 25, 2014
MP Volume 1: August 5, 2014
MP Volume 2: August 25, 2014
MP Volume 3: September 12, 2014

Then, just two years later, in 1816, came Emma. Emma is, for me, the most daunting of her novels, because it is, to my mind, the smoothest of her works. Most novels, even by great authors, have jagged bits--little parts that stick out and provide a foothold for the person trying to grapple with it. Emma strikes me as having very few, if any, jagged bits. It does, however, have volumes--three of them, in fact.

Intro to Emma: September 19, 2014
E, Volume 1: September 29, 2014
E, Volume 2: October 15, 2014
E, Volume 3: November 5, 2014.

Last comes Persuasion, which Austen was working on shortly before her death. Some scholars claim, in fact, that Austen, had she lived, would have made another round of revisions to the text. That's possible, I suppose, but I don't think it's evident to the average reader what would have changed. In an case, it was published posthumously, in 1818, along with Northanger Abbey, in two volumes.

Intro to Persuasion: November 15, 2014.
P Volume 1: November 25, 2014.
P Volume 2: December 10, 2014.

Interspersed throughout this calendar, I also anticipate doing supplemental posts on some of the various film adaptations, the texts that Austen assumes the reader to be familiar with if they're to fully appreciate her work (Gothic novels for Northanger Abbey, Lover's Vows for Mansfield Park), her juvenilia and uncompleted works, her reception over time, the question of her feminist standing, and whatever else might strike my fancy.

Lastly, in the introductory post to each novel, I will include more detailed information about where the volume breaks are, because not every edition follows the original divisions. Indeed, I own three copies of Pride & Prejudice, and while the texts are relatively uniform, the volume divisions are not. Such is life in the public domain.

Follow on Twitter! @Austen2014, and #Austen2014.

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