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June 21, 2012 Volume 33, No. 33

Professors gather for five-week seminar on novelist Jane Austen


Public is invited to several Austen events on campus

In 1994, Devoney Looser participated in a summer seminar for college and university teachers that focused on biography. The seminar was led by a professor from Auburn University and sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

“It changed me as a scholar,” Looser said. “It opened an entirely new world of possibilities to me.”

This summer, Looser, a professor of English at Mizzou, finds herself on the other side of the table as she directs an NEH seminar titled “Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries” at MU that began this week and runs through July 20. The five-week seminar has brought 16 faculty members to Missouri from institutions around the nation to discuss the English novelist.

Looser said that, despite the massive amount of scholarship surrounding Austen, there are still aspects worthy of study. 

“There hasn’t been enough conversation about many of the celebrated women novelists she was surely reading who influenced her, just as she may have influenced others,” said Looser, who has written two books on British women writers and performed extensive research on Austen’s work. 

Participants are reading and discussing four Austen novels and several novels by other British authors of her time. In addition, the seminar provides workshops on pursuing the advanced study of the authors using both emerging digital and traditional archival research techniques. 

“This seminar offers faculty the opportunity to create an intellectual environment with peers and to help each other forward,” Looser said. “I hope the participants will come with enthusiasm and leave intellectually invigorated.”

— Josh Murray

“Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries”

Several events from the scholarly summer seminar are free and open to the public:

• Laura Mandell of Texas A&M University will speak about an online database of 18th-century scholarship 3 p.m. June 29 at 102 Tate Hall. 

• Laura Mooneyham-White and Steve Ramsay, both from the University of Nebraska, will speak on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice 3 p.m. July 13th at 102 Tate Hall.

• Austen scholars will present the results of their respective research projects at 10:30 a.m. July 18–20 in Ellis Library’s Colonnade.


Visit the seminar’s home page at