Instructors’ Teaching Experience

I have had success with this novel, but be warned that many students dismiss it as “hard” or “old-fashioned.” It often takes work on the instructor’s part to convince students that the relationships of the text, while incased in the society of nineteenth-century England are not all that far removed from their own relationships with significant others and family. Possible Themes: gender issues, familial issues, the influence of society on the individual, round/flat characters, the novel. [Ann Pleiss Morris,]

In my classes, Pride and Prejudice was a text that divided the class: some students loved it, while others disliked it. Specifically, many of the men perceived it as a novel that was only about marriage and other “girl stuff,” in spite of my efforts to convince them otherwise. Another challenge: some students found the book difficult to understand (“Old English,” from their perspective). On the first day, I went over the characters and their relationships to one another, as well as the economic issues that are going on (including explaining what an entailment is, and why it matters). After those things were established, the students had a much easier time. [Joanne Janssen,]

I have had a lot of success with this text. Several students reported that this was their favorite text we read and they were proud of themselves for navigating a “classic.” Some students still reported being bored by it, but I think in a class where we read quite a bit of late 20th century texts, having at least one older text is important and offers students variety (whether they ask for it or not!) I made sure to set the tone from the beginning of the novel that this was an important cultural text to have knowledge about and I showed several clips of people talking about the influence of Jane Austen and this book in particular. I think this helped some students “buy in” early. I also empathized with them that the text is slow in some parts, but continually encouraged them to “stick with it.” I taught this text for three semesters and it still remains one of my favorite to teach. [Stephanie Grossnickle-Batterton,]

Classroom Strategies

Hors D’oeuvres Party

One of my favorite activities for this novel is a role-playing Hors D’oeuvres Party, in which I serve “fancy hors d’oeuvres and wine” (really just cookies, crackers, and 7-Up) while they hold conversations about the novel, following the period’s proper rules of etiquette. The goal of the activity is to help students see how the world of P&P is governed by (sometimes subtle) rules of social society. (Feel free to e-mail me if you would like more details about that activity.) [Joanne Janssen,]

Initial Impressions

Before they read the novel, I have students write up their impressions of the novel before they start reading. Many of my female students are excited to read this text because they have heard from their friends that it is “fun” and “good.” Many of my male students are also aware of it; they typically tell me that their male friends have warned them about it and their female friends have told them the “have to read it.” Knowing whether or not I have a receptive or resistant audience helps me tailor my lesson plans and the ideas we discuss in class. Inevitably, we talk about the idea of “chick lit,” and whether or not Austen’s novel falls into this category. [Ann Pleiss Morris,]

Character Quotations

I often use this text to get students to practice close reading. In small groups, they do analysis of the main characters of the novel and must come up with a quote from the text which they think is particularly illustrative of that character. On another day, I assigned pairs of students a quote from the text which deals with Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship, and they must explain why it signifies an important moment in their narrative. [Ann Pleiss Morris,]

Conversation Analysis

I talk a lot with students about Austen’s very deliberate use of language and the subtle ways in which she depicts the “world” of the characters. So, I have students closely read and analyze two different conversations in the book. They choose two characters and examine two different conversations the characters have with each other. Students have reported that this was one of the most useful assignments for them in terms of practicing close reading skills. The full assignment is here: FileRR6 Convo Analysis P&P. [Stephanie Grossnickle-Batterton,]

Film Clips

There are also many film versions to bring into class and have students compare/contrast them with each other and the novel. They include the BBC miniseries staring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, the Working Title production with Kiera Knightly, the Bridget Jones films, and Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy, done by a group of students from BYU. [Ann Pleiss Morris,]

I also use film clips and do comparisons between several versions. I have shown the Darcy proposal scene in the 1995 BBC version and the 2005 version, as well as the scene from Bride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones Diary, and Lost in Austen. The first two (1995 and 2005) are particularly useful in discussing the techniques each director uses and the interpretation that went into each. I then have students do a short in class writing which explains which version they feel captures the sentiment best (and why) and what they would change (and why). Other scenes that are useful to compare are when Darcy snubs Elizabeth and the card game/sitting room scene when Elizabeth stays at the Bingleys (social interaction is highlighted here). Many of these scenes are available on YouTube, but the DVDs are also accessible at the library. [Stephanie Grossnickle-Batterton,]

This semester, I showed clips from Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice (2004). This Bollywood-style crossover film superimposes the plot of Pride and Prejudice onto modern day India. I had the students read the section introducing Mr. Collins through his proposal to Elizabeth, and during the next class had them watch a clip in which the pompous and comical Kholi, the film’s equivalent of Mr. Collins who travels from Hollywood to India to find a traditional bride, meets and dines with the Bakshis (Amritsar’s Bennets). Since I have been exploring how Pride and Prejudice is re-interpreted in different contexts (I’ve also used Marvel Comics’ recent Pride and Prejudice as well as Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), I used this clip to examine with my class how the class and gender dynamics of nineteenth-century England are re-interpreted to fit into an Indian context. From there, I asked the class to determine whether or not this re-interpretation was successful. They seemed to have fun with it. [Tom Blake,]

We watched clips from the Bollywood “Bride and Prejudice” as a way to link Austen to some post-colonial literature we read in our “prejudice” unit. Also, we played charades on the first day to learn the many character names.  [Bridget Draxler]