In this course we will read--and re-read--three novels by Jane Austen. Our first reading will track the development of Austen's unique approach to the realist novel. Our re-reading will investigate how that unique approach participated in Romantic debates about art, personhood, and politics. Austen was an active participant in these debates, a sharp, subtle, and principled writer who tended to explore competing arguments and assumptions rather than render explicit judgments. She weighed in on aesthetic controversies involving beauty and the picturesque, the appropriate language for literature, the ethics of readers' identification with characters, and the truth claims inherent in realism. She considered philosophical questions about how individuals come to know the world and themselves, and the value and danger of a complex inner life of emotion and imagination. She examined the competing claims her contemporaries made for the primacy of the individual, the family, and the community, and for local rootedness and cosmopolitan independence.