Austen’s Emma: Social Realism and the Novel

Lesson rationale

In the course of the novel’s development, Jane Austen was a significant contributor to the emergence of the modern novel as we know it today. The review of Emma in the Quarterly Review (October 1815) makes clear to a modern audience how unusual and startling Austen’s style was at the time. In this lesson, students will engage with the contemporary surprise of her work in a review generally attributed to the Scottish novelist, Sir Walter Scott.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • How did Austen’s writing signal a change in style from earlier novels?
  • Despite favourable reviews, why might Austen’s work not have been as popular or widely known as it is today?
  • What connection is there between Austen and the world of country dancing?
  • What other real-life or everyday experiences does Austen draw on in her writing?