Hmm, scratch that last post, unfortunately. Jane Austen -- or, perhaps, the first really heavy chunk o' reading this group has encountered -- seems to be making them glaze over in a big way. I hadn't really expected this to happen, since all of my students at New SLAC loved, loved, loved Austen -- or rather, all of the ones who came to the English club meetings did, which is quite a small and self-selected subset of "all," come to think of it!
I guess I shouldn't be surprised, because anecdotally, I have observed that most people either adore Austen or are bored silly by her -- there is no middle ground. I actually did have the "bored silly" reaction when I first encountered her, at the age of twelve. Too young, insufficient context. I had grown into her by the time I was in college, but most of these students haven't, and I'm not sure how you create that context (besides showing a film version so they can visualize this world -- which I do plan to do, just not immediately). I am also very, very unsure how you teach students to see how and why Austen is funny; if you have to explain humor, you're pretty much sunk, yes?
I'm sure the students who adore her (there are bound to be one or two, surely, in a class of seventeen if sixteen of them are female?) are feeling frustrated as well; I know I am, because there's only so much painfully slow teasing out of meanings one can take. ("OK, what impression do we get when we're first introduced to Lady Russell? Anyone? Bueller? Umm ... "carefree"? That's ... an interesting way to describe her, can you show me in the text where you're getting that? ... OK, yes, you're right, she doesn't marry Sir Walter when people expect her to. Let's take a look at what she does care about..." And on and on.)
Also, is it just my early modernist bias, or are novels in general really hard to teach? I think this group might be overwhelmed by too much text to sift through, too many details.