Just in case you didn't anticipate it, there will be some groans of dismay in your class when you announce the first Emma assignment. Chances are, the majority will come from your male students. Are you really going to make these young men read a book with a girl's name on it?! Austen is for girly girls, with all the man-chasing and concerns about reputation and who one will marry.
We're sorry to disillusion these guys, but the original and most intense fans of Jane Austen were not women—they were men. Manly men. Rudyard Kipling (okay, not the manliest of names) wrote a story set in 1920 about a group of men who form a secret Jane Austen society as they fight their way across the battlefields of Europe. One of the characters, Humberstall, has this to say about Austen's writings: "They weren't adventurous, nor smutty, nor what you'd even call interestin'...there was nothin' to 'em nor in 'em...[the characters] was only just like people you run across any day'". But it's because of this ordinariness that gruff Humberstall keeps up his membership and keeps coming back for more. Once young men key into her "relatability", they'll be riding the Jane wave, too.