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Austen: Sense and Sensibility

2. Engagement

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In this module, we think about the themes of engagement and marriage in the novel, focusing in particular on: (i) the dysfunctionality of many marriages in Austen novels in general; (ii) the social conventions governing engagements in the early 19th century, and the extent to which these conventions drive the plot of the novel; (iii) Austen's attitude towards arranged marriages; (iv) the figure of Charlotte Palmer and her attitude to marriage; (v) Elinor's response to John Dashwood's attempt to arrange a marriage between Miss Morton and Edward's younger brother, Robert; (vi) the difficulty of ascertaining whether two people are actually engaged or not; and (vii) the permanency of marriage.


In this course, Professor John Mullan (University College London) explores Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. In the first module, we think about the role of money in the novel. After that, we think about the themes of engagement and marriage. In the third module, we explore the significance of 'sensibility', before turning in the fourth module to consider the point of view from which the novel is narrated. Finally, in the fifth module, we think about the ending of the novel, looking specifically at Marianne's marriage to Colonel Brandon.


Professor John Mullan holds the Lord Northcliffe Chair of Modern English Literature at University College, London. He is a specialist in eighteenth-century literature, currently writing the 1709-1784 volume of the Oxford English Literary History. Most recently he is the author of How Novels Work (2006), Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature (2008) and What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved (2012). A broadcaster and journalist as well as an academic, he writes a weekly column on contemporary fiction for the Guardian.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Mullan, J. (2022, February 07). Austen: Sense and Sensibility - Engagement [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Mullan, J. "Austen: Sense and Sensibility – Engagement." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 07 Feb 2022,

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