Class #52

Austen & Pym: Emma & Excellent Women

Marilyn Johnson

August 4 - August 10


instructor imageIn this class, novels by two authors who are often compared to each other will be discussed. The first author, Jane Austen, is “universally acknowledged” as one of the masters of English prose. Her works have remained in print for over two centuries and appear on nearly all must-read lists. The other author, Barbara Pym, is much less well-known. Though she has experienced occasional bursts of recognition and has been proclaimed the 20th century’s Jane Austen, many well-versed readers struggle to identify her.

The Austen work—Emma—often arouses antipathy toward its heroine. Emma Woodhouse, “handsome, clever and rich” having lived so far “with very little to distress or vex her,” is the embodiment of entitlement. She can be supercilious, bossy and unaware of others’ needs. Yet Austen succeeds in making Emma a far more complicated and interesting character.

The heroine of Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women—Mildred Lathbury—is as different from Emma as possible. She lives nearly 150 years later, is neither rich nor poor, and is neither beautiful nor sure of her own cleverness. Yet both characters will face some of the same dilemmas. Both will become entangled with the wrong man, but neither novel should be written off as “chick lit.” Austen and Pym use these stories to talk about the world in which their characters live—worlds that turn out to be not so very different from our own. Questions of class, gender, economics and even politics are central to Emma and Mildred’s lives and to the novels’ themes.

Please bring copies of Emma by Jane Austen and Excellent Women by Barbara Pym to class.

Marilyn Johnson has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but pursued a career in the financial services industry, trading fixed income securities for firms in Minneapolis and Milwaukee. After retiring, she began work on a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in their cross-disciplinary liberal arts program. In 2007, she collaborated with the Milwaukee County Historical Society to produce a book, Milwaukee at Mid-Century, based on a collection of 50,000 historical photographs she and her husband collected. Through it all, she has maintained a passion for 19th and early 20th century fiction. She has taught classes on Victorian fiction at The Clearing and at the University of Milwaukee’s Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning.

Marilyn will contact students prior to class.

Level: All Levels

Pricing (per person):
$1045 Dorm Room Package*
$1145 Two-Person Room Package*
$1705 Single-Person Room Package* (limited availability)
$615 Commuter Package** (limited availability)

*package includes tuition, lodging & 16 meals
**package includes tuition & 7 meals