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Barrett lecture explores relevence of Jane Austen

February 11, 2010

Elizabeth Langland, dean of Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, will explore British novelist Jane Austen’s relevancy today, nearly 200 years after her death in a Barrett Honors Lecture titled “Jane Austen Goes to the Movies.”

The discussion takes place Feb. 18 on ASU’s West campus, 6-8:30 p.m., in the University Center Building (UCB), room 241. A reception featuring light hors d’oeuvres and dessert will immediately follow Langland’s presentation. Admission is free and the event is open to the public.

“It is fascinating to me that over and over again, we get remakes of Austen’s novels,” said Langland, who was appointed ASU vice president and dean of New College in 2007. “Why do the works of a spinster living in a remote village in the early 19th century remain so relevant to us today? This is the substance of what we will explore.”

Austen’s novels, set against the backdrop of England’s gentry, earned her standing as one of her country’s most widely read and beloved writers. Among her classic works are “Sense and Sensibility” (1811), “Pride and Prejudice” (1813), “Mansfield Park” (1814) and “Emma” (1815). Two novels were published following her death in 1817 at the age of 41, “Northanger Abbey” and “Persuasion.”

According to the Web site, “Her fans today number in the millions and since the advent of motion pictures, her novels have been turned into film at an almost regular pace. … Today, Jane Austen is as popular as ever and revered as much as any literary figure in history.”

Langland will present a variety of film clips featuring Austen’s works during the evening.

“Austen is one of my favorite writers,” said Langland, a scholar specializing in Victorian literature, feminist and gender theory, cultural studies, and theory of the novel, who has authored or edited eight books exploring the intersections of gender, class, race, ethnicities and nationalities in Victorian literature. In her first book, “Society in the Novel,” Langland devotes a chapter to “Social Contexts for Judgments in Austen.” 

“I can read her works over and over again and never tire of them," she said. “I hope the audience will take away a deep appreciation of why Austen remains so relevant to readers today.”

Andrew Kirby, associate dean of Barrett the Honors College at the West campus, said the Barrett Honors Lecture Series provides an up-close-and-personal experience for students and community members.

“Our goal with the series and Dr. Langland’s presentation is to allow our students and the community an opportunity to listen to and also talk with some of the many interesting scholars on campus in a formal but not intimidating setting," he said.

“We hope to see students and members of the West Valley community join us for what promises to be an interesting presentation.”

For more information on “Jane Austen Goes to the Movies,” call (602) 543-3410.

ASU’s West campus is located at 4701 W. Thunderbird Road in northwest Phoenix.