- Health fads and treatments in Jane Austen's time
- Seaside resorts and the commercialism and allure of sea-bathing in Jane Austen's time
- Jane Austen's own failing health at the time of writing Sanditon
- The theme of communication -- and miscommunication
- The theme of extreme change represented in Sanditon in multiple ways
- Comparisons to other works of Jane Austen
- Speculating what Sanditon reveals of Jane Austen's writing if this were the FIRST work of hers you read
- The meaning and importance of "subscription libraries" in society during Jane Austen's time
- Commentary of other novels and authors mentioned in Sandition
- Connections between Northanger Abbey and Sanditon
- Connections between Mansfield Park and Sanditon
- The writing and drafting process evident in Sanditon -- as well as the editing process of its subsequent publication
- The numerous versions and popularity of the continuations Sanditon has spawned
As you can see, there is so much potential represented within so few pages!
So how to narrow this down to a single discussion? Sam and I decided to go back to the source -- or rather, the source of Sanditon's initial presentation to the public, which was in 1870 through J.E. Austen-Leigh's memoir of his aunt Jane Austen. In that memoir, in Chapter XIII, Austen-Leigh described the writing of Sanditon and included his own personal summary of it, along with substantial excerpts from Austen's text. The full manuscript of Sanditon was not published until 1925. (Scroll down to the bottom of this message for links to his memoir online.)
Therefore, Sam and I have pulled out the following discussion questions/themes relating to J.E. Austen-Leigh's original introduction of Sanditon.
- What do we make of the title, Sanditon? The nephew refers to Sanditon only as "The Last Work," but says it was untitled. The family named it "Sanditon," but some sources indicate Jane Austen's original working title was "The Brothers."
- Is there any indication as to why Jane Austen began this last work, and why did she set it aside a few months before her death? The nephew very clearly lays out the start and end dates of Austen's work on Sanditon, and uses metaphorical language to describe his own view of why Austen worked on this "last work" while she was ailing: "...it is certain that the mine at which she had so long laboured was not worked out, and that she was still diligently employed in collecting fresh materials from it."
- Is there a primary heroine? The nephew states, "...nor was any heroine yet perceptible, who, like Fanny Price, or Anne Elliot, might draw round her the sympathies of the reader."
- What indications are there of the story's direction? The nephew states, "... there was scarcely any indication what the course of the story was to be."
- And finally, what can we, as readers, judge about the work's quality? The nephew states, "It is more difficult to judge of the quality of a work so little advanced."
For sources and/or further reading, please feel free to explore the following:
- E-text of Sanditon available online in multiple formats at https://archive.org/details/Sanditon
- E-text of J.E. Austen-Leigh's 1870 memoir available online through Project Gutenberg (scroll down to Chapter XIII, "The Last Work")
- Links to more info about seabathing, seaside resorts, health issues, etc. relating to Sanditon here on the Austenonly website, http://austenonly.com/about/jane-austens-sanditon/