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Rae Yan

Mourning and Portraiture

Teaching Notes


"Mourning and Portraiture" was first presented at the Jane Austen Summer Program of 2017, entitled "Persuasion at 200." Rae Yan provides context on mourning culture and miniature painting to provide insight into Austen's characters. 

Discussion Questions 

  1. Consider the different examples of mourning-wear that Austen represents in Persuasion and what people make of those wearing mourning-wear. Do you agree with Christiane Holm’s argument that “[t]he focus of mourning is no longer the mourned and their fame but instead the mourners and their mourning” (pg. 139)?

    • ​What do Elizabeth Elliot’s black ribbons (Chapter 1) and the clothes of Mr Elliot and his servant (Chapter 12) say about their mourning for the late Mrs. Elliot?

    • Lady Russell begins to calculate the number of weeks which would free Mr Elliot to marry Anne in Chapter 17. What do you make of her treatment of mourning- wear? What does it say about her?

  2. ​Revisit to the climactic moment in Chapter 23 where Anne and Captain Harville discuss the miniature portrait of Captain Benwick.

    • ​How do you interpret Harville’s disappointment with the resetting of the miniature for Louisa Musgrove?

    • Given the obsessions with formally defined spans of mourning in other parts of the text, what do you make of Anne and Captain Harville’s reflections on the length of mourning?

"Mourning and Portraiture" handout 
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