The Jane Austen Circle
The Jane Austen Circle meets on eight Mondays to discuss Austin's masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice. Start date, early this fall: TBD.
Students practice how to read closely and annotate chapters in a complex text. We examine the means whereby an author creates: How does Austen set up the world? What are the places in the world? What do we learn about the characters, and what do we learn? What are their traits? How do they perceive and speak? What are the incidents and events? How do the characters come to learn about their own pride, and their own prejudices? How does Austen convey through tone? What are the author’s concerns and themes? Students note the elements of story -- narration, protagonist, antagonist, setting, plot and incident, characters, climax and theme. Students learn about literary devices, and why an author uses figurative language.
Words are to a writer what colors are to a painter. Each week students add words to their palette -- or vocabulary. We discuss the definition and students create speed sentences and practice using the new word. (The following sentences are sample sentences written by members of JAC during a session.)
"The new boy in our school is odious," Caroline S.
"When my dog was sick, I was solicitous of his health," Julia C.
"I forgot my jacket! In my head, I importuned the dark clouds to lug their wet burden a little longer," Eleanor H.
During each session, students write sentences using the words discovered that day. By speaking and writing sentences, students gain confidence in the currency of what I call Silver Dollar words, (others call them SAT words). Words, like, acquit, affront, blasé, complacency, conciliatory, countenance, ductility, exultation, filial, mien, obscure, panegyric, probity, procure, raptures, scruples, supercilious, veracity, sardonic -- among many, many others. Towards the end of the class, students compose a story of their own using words of the day. Writing and rewriting and sharing, these weekly activities give students practice in the craft of writing -- its challenges and rewards.
The Jane Austen Circle is lively and accomplishes many things. Students also learn that Jane Austen is not some alien, ancient, dead and formidable author of thick books composed of small print and paragraphs packed with long words to be avoided at all costs. Instead, Austen is an amusing and insightful individual of genius, one with an interest in many of things that interest us: what it means to be in a family, in relationships, in society, in love.
The Jane Austen Circle is a screen-free zone. Students write by hand, in notebooks which I provide. There will be scones! Towards the end of each session, as students write, I bake scones. We munch on these with jam as students share their stories aloud.
We have a wonderful time: reading, writing and learning. During such meetings I have been so happy to hear students exclaim: "I love this book!" I love literature. I am dedicated to helping students become sophisticated and appreciative readers, articulate and insightful responders, and to encourage their own fluency in writing stories of their own. This is what we do in the Jane Austen Circle. Join us!
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