Jane Austen’s Persuasion: A Soaring Novel of Second Chances

THREE WEDNESDAYS, APRIL 5, 12 AND 19, 6:00–7:30 P.M.


Less well known than her iconic Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s final novel, Persuasion, shows her at the height of her powers. A second-chance narrative, Persuasion engages with ideas of loss and memory while featuring Austen’s most thoughtful and indeed intellectual heroine, who is about to age out of the marriage plot at the age of 27. A hymn to the British navy, and in particular to the domestic virtues of sailors and officers, the novel moves away from the concerns of the landed gentry to focus on an emerging professional class with new ideas about gender, work, and marriage.

This three-session course led by Helena Michie will focus both on Austen’s novel and on its film adaptations, including the controversial and unabashedly modern version from 2022 directed by Carrie Cracknell, which breaks the fourth wall and is accused of turning the story into an episode of “Fleabag.” In the final session about the films, we will be thinking through the following questions together: What makes a good adaptation? What does “fidelity” to a text mean, and is it always a good thing? Why since the 1990s have there been so many Austen films—and why has Persuasion lagged behind in the number of its adaptations?

Participants are encouraged to have read the novel before the first session and to have watched a film adaptation before the third.

Helena Michie is a professor of English at Rice University and is the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor in Humanities. She teaches courses in feminist theory, literary theory, and Victorian literature and culture. Professor Michie is also the director of Rice University’s Center for Women, Gender, and Sexuality and the author of five books in Victorian Studies and the study of gender and sexuality.


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