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Students Continue Studies on Spring Break with Tour of Writer Jane Austen's Home

Date: Feb. 25, 2002
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos by Colleen Kelley
Archive: General News

University of Cincinnati students enrolled in an Honors Scholars English course took a trip back in time during winter quarter. They were taken by surprise when one day in class, the faculty looked like they had just stepped out of the 1800s. Furthermore, the conversation sounded like something from another world, with customs forbidding men to smoke in front of ladies, or a warning that "A lady never dances more than three dances with the same partner." Janet Reed, right, and Barbara Wenner

Associate Professor Barbara Wenner, with the help of Associate Professor Janet Reed, wanted to give students a feel for what the young ladies of that time talked about and what they wore. It was all in preparation of their spring break trip to England to get a firsthand look at the scenery that inspired writer Jane Austen.

The course, Scopophilia: The Gaze Upon Jane Austen's Landscape, is a new addition to the University of Cincinnati Honors Scholars program. The 13 students will get a mental picture of the scenery during winter quarter as they read Jane Austen's novels. Then, during their trip to England March 15-22, Wenner will lead a tour of Austen's home and the great estates and townhouses in Bath, where Austen lived. "This will give students a deeper understanding of Jane Austen's novels and their locations," says Wenner, who developed the course and is teaching it for the first time this year. Janet Reed and Barbara Wenner

The day they wore costumes, Wenner and Reed performed a selection from Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, published in 1817. The two have done similar presentations for the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), an organization of scholars and readers who admire the writings of Jane Austen.

"I just love it when teachers do something this creative," raves student Deanna Rejacques, a psychology major and Honors Scholar who's earning a certificate in Global Studies. "I guess because I attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts, I think this is the best way to reach students. This helps you experience the beauty of the work."

Rejacques says she was aware of Jane Austen's more popular works, such as Pride and Prejudice, but says this class has explored some of her lesser-known novels, such as Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. "The big focus is picking out a scene that was integrated into the landscape." She adds students will be keeping a journal of their tour of England, to compare their own impressions of buildings and landscapes to those of Jane Austen's. Deanna Rejacques

The University of Cincinnati Honors Scholars program provides unique learning opportunities for academically talented students. To graduate with Honors, students must earn 36 Honors credit hours.

Honors Scholars program coordinator Lori Beth Derenski says this overseas trip is supported by the Institute for Global Studies and Affairs, which is providing 33 percent of the funding, University College and Honors Scholars (33 percent) and the students, who are paying the remaining third of the funding.

"What I really like about the Honors Scholars classes is that the professors challenge you to do something that triggers your curiosity, and you have great mentors to guide you along the way," says Rejacques. She adds the smaller class size, the relaxed atmosphere, and the occasional pizza ordered during this particular class are helping students get comfortable with each other before taking a big trip overseas. "It should be very exciting. We have a big itinerary."

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