Three hours’ tuition a day will adopt a thematic approach, rather than covering the novels one-by-one. Students are expected to have read “Sense and Sensibility”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Northanger Abbey”, “Mansfield Park”, “Emma” and “Persuasion” before they arrive. Further reading material will be provided.

The course aims to place Austen in her historical and literary context, so as well as discussing the novels and analysing film adaptations we’ll talk about the French Revolution and the threat of invasion which hangs over all of Austen’s characters. We’ll read early reviews and look at some of the books and poetry Austen enjoyed – prose writers such as the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, popular novelists of the period like Charlotte Smith, Fanny Burney, and Ann Radcliffe, author of The Mysteries of Udolpho – and act out extracts from the play the characters perform in Mansfield Park. We’ll talk about class and money, disentangle those entails, and find out why marriage mattered so much for women.

The course ranges from Austen’s first teenage works to Sanditon, left unfinished at her death, taking in slavery, dances, parliamentary enclosure, soldiers, sailors, sea-bathing, Colin Firth, and zombies along the way.

Topics Covered

  • Biography, family and context
  • Language, style and structure
  • How to read an Austen novel
  • Pastiche and parody
  • Irony
  • The Gothic novel
  • Families
  • The role of women
  • Love and marriage
  • Fashion; dancing, pastimes and games
  • Houses
  • The clergy
  • The army and navy
  • The law

What have former students said about this course?

“Helena was a great tutor with such a deep knowledge of all things Austen.  I thought I was well-informed but I learnt a lot from my two weeks with Helena.  My classmates were marvellous, interesting, and motivated – a privilege to spend time with them.”

“Going to ORA was a holiday like no other – we were so fortunate to experience this fortnight in Oxford.”

“The camaraderie between the students was remarkable in such a short time and we miss the pleasant chats in the quad.”

“Counsellors were excellent, very friendly and helpful.”

“The Jane Austen class with Helena at its head was informative, stimulating, and something I looked forward to with anticipation every day. The field trips were good and a real addition to what we were learning in class.  It is difficult to imagine how one might improve on anything about this.”

Back to top

Course Timetable

Topics Description
Week 1
Day 1 • Introductions – to the course and to Austen
• Austen biography and biopics
• What happened during Austen’s life?
In this session we will find out what members of the class already know about Austen’s novels, life and times, and then we will examine some facts and some myths.
Day 2 • Writers and writing
• What was Austen reading?
• How should we interpret her references to other texts?
We find out what readers read, and how they read, in Austen’s lifetime, and we’ll discuss how the novel was viewed and how we should understand references to other writers in her own novels.
Day 3 • Readers and reading
• How do Austen’s contemporaries read her? Early reviews
• How should we read her?
Today we’ll read some of Austen’s correspondence with her publishers, and what that tells us about her view of herself as an author. We’ll also do some detailed close reading of the text and discuss different ways of reading her.
Day 4 • Trip to Bath
• Walking tour of the city
• Tea in the Pump Rooms
A wonderful day out to this beautiful city in the West country, with some free time in the afternoon to explore the historic buildings, the excellent shops, or to chill out at the highly-rated Spa!
Day 5 • Austen’s writing
• Juvenilia
Sanditon, The Watsons
We will look at works from either end of Austen’s life – the juvenilia and the unfinished works.
Week 2
Day 1 • Landscape and the English countryside
• The picturesque
• Agriculture and enclosure – what are Austen’s landowners doing with their land?
This session looks at landscape and countryside. Many of Austen’s heroes are landowners and the way Austen talks about their estates tells us a great deal about the characters.
Day 2 • Careers
• Crime
• Family law – divorce, entails, etc.
If you weren’t a landowner, what career was open to you? We will look at what careers were open to both male and female characters in Austen’s novels, and explore what happened if you couldn’t – or wouldn’t earn a living.
Day 3 • Trip to Hampshire
• Visits to Steventon, Chawton and Winchester
This day trip takes us to Jane Austen’s birthplace in Steventon, before moving on to visit Chawton House Library and the Jane Austen Museum at Chawton Cottage, before finishing in Winchester Cathedral, where she is buried.
Day 4 • Colonialism, empire and abolition
• How should we read Mansfield Park?
• Debate – is Austen a conservative writer?
The class starts with an examination of slavery and colonialism, and how Austen chooses to deal with them, and finishes with a debate around whether or not she can be classed as a conservative writer.
Day 5 • Afterlives – Austen in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
• Austen adaptations, sequels and ‘mash-ups’
• Look back over the course
Finishing off the course, we’ll look at what has happened to Austen since her death – patronised by Victorian successors and then seen in the first half of the 20th century as a quintessentially and soothingly English writer, and in the second half, as a critic of her society. And how is she situated now?

Our Teaching Faculty

At Oxford Royale Academy we are committed to providing our students with the most qualified and high-calibre teaching faculty available. In 2013, over 70 per cent of our faculty was educated or had worked at either Oxford or Cambridge Universities. All Oxford Royale Academy teachers are passionate about their subjects, and are looking forward to passing their knowledge on to their students this summer! For full details of last summer’s teaching faculty, please click here

Helena Kelly Pale Bar Verticle.jpg

Tutor Profile: Helena Kelly

Helena Kelly studied Classics and English at Oxford, followed by an interval at law school in London. She then completed her doctorate, back in Oxford, and has taught a wide range of subjects, from Classics all the way up to modern novels and gender studies. Her primary area of interest is eighteenth and nineteenth century English literature, within which she is interested in the social history of the period – particularly in representations of the landscape- and in women writers. Jane Austen is one of Helena’s favourite authors, and she is delighted have the opportunity, again, to spend a fortnight sharing her enthusiasm with students at Oxford Royale Academy.


Course Reading list

Students are expected to have read all of Jane Austen’s major works before the course starts.

If time permits, students may also like to explore the following:

The Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) publishes a journal called Persuasions Online –http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/ – which is available to all on the internet and contains a variety of essays by authors ranging from non-academics interested in Austen to English professors, and all points in between. The papers obviously do vary in quality, but I really recommend it as an approachable, readable introduction to the latest theory on Austen.

Ed Copeland, Juliet McMaster (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen (1997) – a series of introductory critical essays, some focusing on particular works, other on broader themes, but all designed for use by undergraduates.

Claudia L. Johnson, Jane Austen: Women, Politics and the Novel (1988) – getting on for 25 years old, but still one of the very best feminist readings of Austen’s work; Johnson is also very interested in other female novelists of the period.


Guest Lectures and Debates

At ORA, we go the extra mile to enhance the study abroad experience of our students with a range of talks and lectures of general interest.  These range from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to the life of English poet John Milton to a discussion of the relationship between religion and psychology.  See Tea Time Talks for more information.

Dates, Fees and Locations

Course Length Course Dates Course Fees Location
2 weeks
  • 3rd – 16th August
  • 3,595 GBP

How to Register

If you are ready to register now, the quickest and easiest way to secure your place on Oxford Royale’s Summer School for Adults for 2014 is online. You will need to know which subjects you would like to study (a first choice and a reserve choice is required for each list), as well as a valid credit or debit card to submit the deposit payment of GBP 495.00 (we regret that we are not able to accept American Express as a form of payment).

If you prefer, you can complete our paper application form, which is available for download by clicking here. You can then return this to our offices by one of the following methods:

  • Scan and e-mail to admin@oxford-royale.co.uk
  • Fax to +44 (0) 845 130 01 22
  • Post to the address below

For enrolments via the paper application form, we are able to accept the GBP 495.00 course deposit by credit or debit card, bank transfer or cheque. Please see the form for full details.

Further Information and Documents

If you would like to consult with one of our Registrations Team members before making a booking, we would be delighted to hear from you.
admin@oxford-royale.co.uk +44 (0) 845 130 60 21