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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Jane the MOOC-er

Janeites tend to know quite a bit about Jane Austen: her books, her characters, her family, her life and times. But hey – there’s always more to learn, right?

Next Monday sees the launch of “Jane Austen: Myth, Reality and Global Celebrity,” an online course developed by the University of Southampton in England and co-taught by Gillian Dow, a university English professor who is executive director of the library at Chawton House.

The class – a so-called MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course – requires a modest commitment: three hours a week for two weeks. No college credit is involved, but if you fork over $49, you can take tests and receive a “Certificate of Achievement” if you pass. Or you can just watch the lectures for free.

The instructors – Dow and Kim Simpson, a Southampton University lecturer who is currently a Chawton House postdoctoral affiliate – promise to cover a wide range of topics, from the social and historical context of Austen’s work to the marketing of Austen as a contemporary pop celebrity. Judging from the course’s promotional video, participants will also be treated to some lovely shots of iconic Austen-related locations.

The only prerequisite is “a basic knowledge of [Austen’s] novels,” which shouldn’t pose much of a problem for your average Janeite.

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