“It takes confidence — some might even say hubris — to rewrite one of the most beloved novels in the English canon. So Curtis Sittenfeld was prepared for a backlash when word got out that she was writing a modern-day version of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. The response from some die-hard Austen fans was swift and predictably brutal.” A. Alter, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: Curtis Sittenfeld Is No Jane Austen… A. Alter, The New York Times
“Ms. Sittenfeld, author of the best-selling novels Prep and American Wife, seems almost sheepish when discussing the daunting task she had set for herself. Her novel Eligible, which Random House will release on Tuesday, is the latest book in the Austen Project, a series that pairs contemporary novelists with Austen’s six works… But updating Pride and Prejudice poses a unique challenge.
Of all of Austen’s works, it is far and away the most popular. It has been adapted into dozens of spinoff books, including murder mysteries (P. D. James’s lurid Death Comes to Pemberley) and horror stories (Seth Grahame-Smith’s blood-soaked parody Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) There are Pride and Prejudice theme books for every age group and demographic, including cookbooks, coloring books, young adult novels, board books for toddlers and comic books. So what led Ms. Sittenfeld, 40, an acclaimed writer who has published four earlier novels, to enter the hypersaturated market for Jane Austen fan fiction?
Like millions of other readers, she happens to be a huge Austen fan. And while she knew that rewriting Pride and Prejudice was professionally risky, she was driven partly by the same impulse that compelled devoted Austenphiles to reread the novel dozens of times: She wanted to spend more time with the characters.
I see Eligible as a homage, and I see Pride and Prejudice as a perfect book, she said. You can dispute whether this project is a good idea, but you can’t dispute my fondness for the novel.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming
Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about the topic. Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Debrief as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Some might say it takes hubris to rewrite a classic.
- Pride and Prejudice poses a unique challenge.
- It has been adapted into dozens of spinoff books.
- The characters and plot are interesting.
- The author was driven by a strange impulse to write.
- I see Eligible as a homage.
- You can dispute whether this project is a good idea.
- You can’t dispute my fondness for the novel.
- The novel features a headstrong heroine.
- She uses her own brand of satire on the timeless plot.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
There were no___. But it___ became___that Ms. Sittenfeld could probably ___any urgent “Pride and Prejudice” questions without ___the source. She more or less ___the ___to memory when she carefully___out the novel’s 61___, in an ___to create a blueprint of sorts for her own___.
Word List: mapped, evident, plot, committed, chapters,
version, effort, emergencies, quickly, handle, consulting,
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
The characters and plot is kind of in our air.
There are theme books for every age group.
Of Austen’s works, it is the most popular.
Like millions of other readers, she is a huge Austen fan.
She committed the plot on memory.
She created her own version.
Jane is approaching spinsterhood.
A rich single man come to town.
Lizzy takes an instant dislike to his richer friend.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
1. “The novel has already proved polarizing among Austen fans. Sadly disappointing, this book is just trying to cash in on the popularity of Austen’s characters, one angry reader wrote on Goodreads. A critic for Kirkus Reviews warned, Don’t expect to get the same level of romantics and Darcy-inflicted swoon that make the original untouchable.”
2. Have each group list 3 questions they would like to pursue in relation to the focus of the topic.
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.