fullscreen background
Skip to main content

Spring Quarter

Spring Quarter Underway
Late-Start Classes
Still Available
shopping cart icon0


« Back to Liberal Arts & Sciences

LIT 33 W — An Introduction to Jane Austen

Quarter: Spring
Course Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Apr 17—Jun 9
Drop Deadline: Apr 25
Unit: 1
Tuition: $355
Instructor(s): Ben Wiebracht
Limit: 40
Apr 17—Jun 9
8 weeks
Drop By
Apr 25
1 Unit
Ben Wiebracht

Virginia Woolf once wrote of Jane Austen that “of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness.” Woolf is right. When we call to mind the most memorable moments in Austen’s novels, we are almost surprised at their triviality: a sprained ankle, an apt retort, a missed appointment. And yet in Austen’s hands they are anything but trivial. Few authors have written more eloquently on the nature of social relations or the subtleties and contradictions of the human heart. Her novels are like microchips— marvels of precise and minute workmanship, and yet at the same time almost infinitely capacious, containing worlds of meaning.

In this online course, we will explore three of Austen’s major novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey. Our goal will be to appreciate them both as masterpieces of literary style and as windows into Austen’s world. What can Sense and Sensibility teach us about the relationship between modesty and desire in 19th-century England? How do the social classes blend, overlap, and collide in Pride and Prejudice—and just how much is Darcy’s famous £10,000 a year anyway? Who are the authors that Austen is making fun of in her wonderfully satirical Northanger Abbey? What do all these novels have to say about the grand themes of love, grief, community, and friendship? Often our point of entry into these questions will be a minor, seemingly trivial detail. Students are encouraged to read for these “keyholes” and share their insights with the class during discussion.


  • Course sizes are limited.
    You won't have 5,000 classmates. This course's enrollment is capped at 40 participants.

  • Frequent interaction with the instructor.
    You aren't expected to work through the material alone. Instructors will answer questions and interact with students on the discussion board and through weekly video meetings.

  • Study with a vibrant peer group.
    Stanford Continuing Studies courses attract thoughtful and engaged students who take courses for the love of learning. Students in each course will exchange ideas with one another through easy-to-use message boards as well as optional weekly real-time video conferences.

  • Direct feedback from the instructor.
    Instructors will review and offer feedback on assignment submissions. Students are not required to turn in assignments, but for those who do, their work is graded by the instructor.

  • Courses offer the flexibility to participate on your own schedule.
    Course work is completed on a weekly basis when you have the time. You can log in and participate in the class whenever it's convenient for you. If you can’t attend the weekly video meetings, the sessions are always recorded for you and your instructor is just an email away.

  • This course is offered through Stanford Continuing Studies.
    To learn more about the program, visit our About Us page. For more information on the online format, please visit the FAQ page.

Ben Wiebracht, Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric, Stanford

Ben Wiebracht has taught and studied English literature and composition at Stanford, and he has published and lectured widely on the literature of love. A specialist in 19th-century British literature, he is interested in narrative theory, Victorian politics, the history of love and marriage in England, and, most of all, the crooked parallel of that history—the love plot.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (ISBN 978-0393978506)
(Required) Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility (ISBN 978-0393977516)
(Required) Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (ISBN B006NLUFLO)