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Sense and Sensibility, Austen’s first published novel (1811), follows the fortunes of the sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood as they navigate fallen fortunes, departure from their childhood home, and romance.  The novel traces their lives as they respond to new locations, new acquaintances, and new love interests in almost opposite ways, reflecting the dichotomy articulated in the title.  I hope our discussion will focus on this dichotomy:  Elinor as the representative of ‘Sense’, rationality, cool judgment; Marianne as the votary of ‘Sensibility’, acute feeling, romantic response to nature and people.  We might want to consider whether Austen articulates a clear allegiance to one side, and to what extent the novel is a critique of romantic ideas.  We might also want to talk about the extent to which this novel can be read as feminist or proto-feminist in its representation of social conventions, and perhaps also about the kind of heroes and villains it portrays.

Tara Ghoshal Wallace is Emerita Professor of English at George Washington University, specializing in 18th– and 19th-century British literature.  Her books include Jane Austen and Narrative Authority, Imperial Characters:  Home and Periphery in Eighteenth-Century Literature, Women Critics, 1660-1820 (co-editor, with the Folger Collective), and Frances Burney’s A Busy Day (editor).  Recent articles include pieces on Austen, Burney, Alexander Pope, Walter Scott, and Mary Wollstonecraft.  Her current book project is on Walter Scott’s representations of monarchy.

During her long tenure at GWU, Tara Wallace has served as Associate Dean for Graduate Students, as the English Department’s Director of Graduate Students, and as Chair of the Committee on University Honours and the Faculty Senate’s Committee on Libraries.

Read the book or watch one of the movies based on this book before the discussion. Only register if you did not register for the previous discussion on Northanger Abbey.

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