Wilson suggests that student-readers can hear how hilarious some of the conversations in the novels become when they are read aloud, especially by professional actors such as Juliet Stevenson on Audible.
“Listening attentively to the vocal delivery of words that appear on the page, readers are more receptive to the way Austen’s artistry with words modulates mood and tone and acts upon the imagination,” Dr Wilson said.
“When younger students read the words aloud they really hear the vocabulary, and a description of a junior class in which this happens demonstrates how the role-play leads to a lot of laughter in the classroom and greater affinity to the language.”
Making Jane Austen personal
Wilson suggests that empathy is a second key to unlocking Jane Austen in the classroom. “Readers can think about their own lives, their families, siblings, parents and friends, when they read Jane Austen,” Dr Wilson said. “The books are about relationships.”
“Teenagers in classrooms today might think about what to say to a girl on a date or later, how to commit to someone or even to propose,” she adds. “They might be thinking about what they or their friends might do in a romantic situation.
“The selfie-generation still worries about sending a message to a love interest, perhaps by text or Instagram instead of a letter delivered to the door. Teens still think about whether they should say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to an invitation, how to present themselves and how their parents might react.
“When we apply fiction to our own lives, reading becomes a more personal experience,” said Dr Wilson. “This personal approach and the practice of reading aloud for sheer pleasure can be used by teachers alongside existing methods of teaching, which includes close reading of the texts and critical analysis and historical understanding.” She emphasises that the approaches are not mutually exclusive.
Dr Wilson is flirtymature real first entered the University of Sydney aged 16 when she commenced study for a Bachelor of Arts (English and Education) in 1949. She loved her literature studies and was a founding member of the theatre society University of Sydney Players. She played Lady Macbeth in a Sydney University Dramatic Society production in the Great Hall, and other roles in the Footbridge and Wallace Theatres.
She met her husband David in the quadrangle. He was studying a Doctor of Dentistry and was one year older. He completed his studies at the University of Sydney in 1970. They recently celebrated 67 years together. “We both revelled in our time at the University,” Dr Wilson said.
In 1979, Dr Wilson received a Master of Arts (Hons) from the University of Tel Aviv. In 1981 she returned to the University of Sydney to complete a Diploma of Education.
In , she had her PhD conferred. “It’s an honour to receive this degree from my ‘alma mater’, and the topic is apt,” she said. “Reading has given me great pleasure and has helped me through some difficult life experiences – not just in terms of escape, although that sometimes helps, but by providing insights and perceptions that have been internalised over the years.
“Not every reader is attuned to Austen’s fiction, but student-readers who are inclined or who can be induced by skilled teachers to read her novels in ways that embrace the personal and the creative as well as the critical are offered an opportunity to experience pleasure and to learn something useful to prepare them for adult life.”
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“Reading aloud is a good way to feel yourself into a novel. I have learned to love hearing the sound of the words and working out what that sound does to the way I feel and to the way I construct a meaning,” she said.