Saturday, October 31, 2009

Life's Little Surprises

Yesterday, at the Freshmen Honors Luncheon (a lunch for freshmen in the Honors Program), at the close of a very strange week, I had the delightful surprise of discovering that I was sitting between two Jane Austen fans. I had chosen a seat at a table with three young ladies, one of whom I knew was an engineering student. In the course of the luncheon, one of the other women at the table (the assistant VP for programs and planning, the assistant VP for assessment, and the Honors Program Director) suggested that I should tell the students about my books. I gave my usual short explanation: "I write comedy of manners novels set in England in the early nineteenth century, similar to Jane Austen's books."

The two young ladies on either side of me, both of whom were engineering students---one a mechanical engineering student interested in biomedical engineering and the other in civil engineering---immediately replied, almost in unison, "Oh, I love Jane Austen!" If that wasn't amazing enough, one of them then told me, "We watch Pride and Prejudice in the dorm almost every Friday night." The dorm in question is the Honors Dorm, in which all freshmen in the Honors Program, 90-plus percent of the sophomores, and more than half of the juniors and seniors in the program reside.

Flabbergasted, but not (quite) beyond speech, I immediately inquired, "Which version? The A&E one or the new one?" "The one with Keira Knightley," Rachel, the young lady on my right, replied. When I confessed that I had not seen that movie yet, she said, "Dr. ----, you will have to come and watch it with us some night!" I told the girls that if they invited me the next time they planned to watch the movie, I'd come.

We had a lovely discussion of our favorite Jane Austen books. Rachel and Samantha share the same favorite Jane Austen novel: Pride and Prejudice. My favorite, depending on the day you ask, is either Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion. I told them the book group at my local bookstore had just read Emma.

When the Honors Program Director suggested that I tell the students about the Honors Seminar I taught last spring (the Honors Seminar in which none of the five students, one of whom was an English major, had ever read a book by Jane Austen), and I gave a three-sentence summary, both Rachel and Samantha exclaimed, "I'd love to take a class like that!", and asked when I would teach it again. Apparently, I will be teaching it again in the Spring of 2011. : )

What is your favorite Jane Austen novel?