Studies in Literature, Film and New Media
Edited By Anna Kędra-Kardela and Andrzej Sławomir Kowalczyk
CHAPTER THREE: Ambivalence and Ambiguity in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey
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Ambivalence and Ambiguity in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey
It is quite obvious to a discerning reader that Northanger Abbey (1817; 1818 on the title page) falls apart in the middle and moves awkwardly from a novel of education lightened by a comedy of manners to a parody of Gothic romance. Clearly, a comic female Bildungsroman would have done without a foray into the realm of Gothic. And yet it is difficult to see how she could not have done so, given that the 1790s, when she began to compose her novel, marked the height of fashion for “horrid” tales. Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), came first, but a flood of popular Gothic romances poured from the popular imprint, the Minerva Press. The seven novels which Isabella Thorpe recommends to Catherine Morland in chapter 6 came almost eclusively from Minerva: Mrs. Eliza Parsons’s The Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) and The Mysterious Warning, a German Tale (1796), Regina Maria Roche’s Clermont: A Tale (1798), Ludwig Flammenberg’s The Necromancer; or the Tale of the Black Forest (1794), Eleanor Sleath’s The Orphan of the Rhine (1798), and Grosse’s The Horrid Mysteries (1796). The one exception was Francis Lathom’s The Midnight Bell: A German Story, Founded on Incidents in Real Life (1798). They were once thought to be apocryphal, the author’s pure invention, but their authenticity was established in the first half of the twentieth century and all seven, commonly...
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