“Love and Freindship” in the Classroom 1
I have already made it amply clear that I believe Austen’s juvenilia deserve reading and studying. But given the constraints of time in courses on literature, “Do Austen’s juvenilia belong in the classroom?” is a legitimate question. If you have a chance to teach Pride and Prejudice or Mansfield Park, dare you jettison it for a selection of items from Volumes the First, Second, and Third? Put this way, the question possibly requires the answer “No.” I am too confirmed an admirer of the six great novels to miss any opportunity of teaching them when it arises. I have taught Pride and Prejudice to grades 10 and 12 and to first-year university students, and Emma in survey courses on the English novel. And from time to time I have been fortunate enough to teach all six novels in a specialised upper-level course, or in a graduate course. In these last cases, I make time for some of the juvenilia, and particularly for “Love and Freindship,” as a way into the novels. Graduate students, who have some knowledge of the sentimental tradition that it parodies, are bowled over by it. And even in teaching Austen at the lower and less specialised levels, I usually get in “Love and Freindship,” if only in the form of some selected readings, as a way into the Austen novel at hand. An instructor who worked with me in editing Austen’s juvenilia for the Juvenilia Press regularly teaches “Love and Freindship” to first-year students before she launches them into Pride and Prejudice: She has found it a way to get past their nervousness at encountering so daunting a canonical work as the great novel which most have heard of but few have read. “Well, what do you know! The great Jane Austen didn’t know how to spell “friendship”! – and they proceed encouraged.