Forget the heat: Scholars' days consumed by Jane Austen

Saturday, June 30, 2012 | 4:00 p.m. CDT; updated 9:03 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 30, 2012

COLUMBIA — While temperatures — and tempers — rise over heat advisories and the recent health care ruling, Jane Austen rules the conversation among 18 scholars in Tate Hall at MU.

"Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries" is a five-week seminar led by MU English professor Devoney Looser and a graduate student assistant and run by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

This is the first NEH seminar that MU has hosted since the 1990s.

"Not only is Jane Austen a pleasure to read, she's a pleasure to re-read," said Looser, who is a member of the Central Missouri Jane Austen Society. In particular, she appreciates Austen's wit, humor and social criticism.

Just as Austen wasn't the only female writer of the late 18th century, she isn't completely dominating the seminar. The "her contemporaries" part of the seminar title refers to the works of less well-known writers such as Anna Maria Porter, Jane West and Mary Brunton. They also will be read and discussed.

The 16 participants, all university teachers except for two graduate students, come from across the country with their own projects and specific interests having to do with Austen and the life and literature of her time.

Most of the participants are living together in TRUE Scholars House, further encouraging the conversation and mutual learning that Looser said is the seminar's main goal.

The participants will work on research projects for the duration of the seminar. They will present these projects to the public at 10:30 a.m. July 18 and 20 at Ellis Library. 

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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