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Thread: Sense and Sensibility vs. Pride and Prejudice

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Shiloh, Illinois

    Sense and Sensibility vs. Pride and Prejudice


    I am a long time TOG user that has followed the changes of TOG from classic to redesign to DE, to revised DE. I have taught rhetoric literature in our co-op for over ten years. I am teaching y2 again this year and noticed that in the revised DE Pride and Prejudice has been replaced with Sense and Sensibility. Can someone from Lampstand address why the change was made?
    I am sure there is good reasoning behind the switch, but after having spent time this summer reading Sense and Sensibility and rereading Pride and Prejudice, I personally found the later to be a much more well written book. I know that is an opinion statement but I did find the dialogue and characters to be much better developed in Pride and Prejudice and after a bit of research realized that Pride and Prejudice was written after Sense and Sensibility, so that makes sense.

    So, I am just curious as to why the switch? Am I missing something?

    Mom To The 4 Es

  2. #2
    Hi Dawn! I can easily understand why you'd ask the question. It's one that many others have asked as well, so you're in good company! You are correct that Sense and Sensibility was drafted first (in 1795), before Pride and Prejudice (in 1796). It may be useful to note, however, that both books underwent more than a decade of revisions by Austen before either of them were published… S&S in 1811, followed by P&P in 1813. Because they were written so close together, and each was so fully revised, I'm not sure whether we could say that one reflected a lot more experience or maturity (either in life or in writing) than the other. Again, though, you are in good company---many people prefer P&P to S&S! I did myself for about a decade of reading and rereading them, and now I could not say which I prefer… I suppose I think them both beautiful. However, I do regard P&P as a sort of red rose, compared to the quieter white rose of S&S.

    Let me give you my reasons for making this switch, which I hope will help you make sense of it:

    1. P&P was, frankly, poorly placed in my original design. That was my fault. Coming as it did at the beginning of Year 3, I found that my students were being whacked right at the beginning of the year with a novel, when what they really seemed to need were some gentler short stories and more room to ease into Poetry. Also, if they had not just come out of Year 2 (which some had not), I found that they didn't know nearly enough about the world in which P&P existed to make much sense of it. These were both problems that led me to shift the "Jane Austen Novel" to the end of Year 2, where it would come as a comparative relief to students who had slogged through Dante and Shakespeare and Milton… and where their previous historical and literary studies would leave them well-placed to understand the world in which Austen's characters moved. As you will read, this original decision to switch the placement of P&P ultimately led me to switch to a different Austen novel altogether!

    2. When I sat down to put P&P at the end of Year 2, I had no thought of switching books. Why would I? I'd already done all the work of making class plans for P&P, and I LOVE P&P! However, as I set about fitting P&P into my Year 2, Unit 4 survey of Neoclassicism, I soon realized that I was missing an opportunity. I saw that S&S did a truly magnificent job of capturing the change that was going on in the late 1700's from Neoclassicism to Romanticism. S&S reveals Austen wrestling with what was happening in her own lifetime: Elinor is an elegant, self-controlled, intensely Neoclassical personality. Marianne represents the more unrestrained passions and unruly manners of Romanticism. Austen was consciously and deliberately (according to my research) comparing the old and new ways of doing things in her novel. So, S&S can help students understand a very important shift in English culture and English literary movements. When I realized this, I began to seriously consider doing the extra work to make a shift to S&S.

    3. I think that what really clinched the deal for me were the character lessons I found in S&S when I started to look into it seriously. In the sisters' relationship with each other, and in their relationships with various young men, I saw some startlingly valuable lessons for young women. S&S was never my favorite growing up (like you, I preferred P&P… and obviously originally chose P&P). However, the truth is that P&P covers much of the same ground as Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing (no accident, I think---Austen was an avid fan of Shakespeare). S&S addressed a whole different range of topics… quieter, perhaps, but equally valuable. S&S asks and answers questions like, "What do I do when my feelings seem so right that caution seems wrong?" or "Are other people negatively affected by my strong emotions, strongly expressed?" or "What does it look like to speak the truth in love?" or "What does it mean to be truly courteous to the people around me?" These, I thought, were topics well worth some time and attention… which neither Much Ado About Nothing nor P&P addressed.

    In all this reasoning, it also occurred to me that precisely because P&P is more popular, students were more likely to "read it on their own," for pleasure. S&S, I thought, required more help from a teacher in order to have its beauties revealed. Students would be "less likely" to read it on their own, and that would be a shame. Therefore, I thought it might make a good choice to do in class, particularly at the end of the year when students would have plenty of summer reading time for P&P. This plan also carried the advantage that students who were introduced to the world of Austen through S&S would be fully primed to handle the cultural references of P&P on their own.

    Thank you for your gracious questions! I appreciate your trust that there were good reasons for the switch, and I hope you will find these reasons good. Certainly they are well intentioned! However, I want you to know that we always maintain the highest respect for you as a parent-teacher, and are eager to have you choose the book that will be best for your student! If you prefer to do P&P, then we say "Amen!" and God bless you in it. :-)
    Last edited by cjsomerville; 09-16-2015 at 01:45 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    If I might add, I think many families get to Year 2 or 3 and have already read Pride and Prejudice. Over the years I've noticed that some percentage of those folks don't want to recover material a student has already read. Sense and Sensibility is probably much less likely to have been read.
    "Of two evils, choose neither."
    Charles H. Spurgeon

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