more novels (long, sorry)
Posted by Holly on June 08, 1998 at 16:52:27:
In response to novels..., written by Pyro on June 04, 1998 at 22:02:51
The introduction of the Oxford World Classics edition of Northanger Abbey has an interesting discussion of this. (I'm going to quote it since they say it alot better than I could, though I've read both books and think it to be true...) It talks about how in Northanger Abbey, Austen is satirizing the highly successful work Mysteries of Udolpho. She sets up resemblances to the work, "only to revok it with a simple yet devestating shift in context." For example, "whereas Udolpho opens in with Emily St. Aubert accompanying her mysteriously ailing father the aristocrat St Aubert to the sublime and supposedly healing climes of Languedoc and Provence, NA, in immediate and deflating contrast opens with Catherine Morland accompanying the neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Allen to the mundane environs of Bath where Mr. Allen has of his 'gouty constituion'. Whereas Radcliffe's herione, carried off to the exotic cities of Tholouse and Venice is threatened with torture and rape by the Wicked Madame Cheron and Count Morano, Catherine's prosecutions at Bath incluce being made to go out driving with the bothersome John and Isabella Thorpe. And most blatantly and ridiculously, through Catherine's unsettling visit to Northanger Abbey at first seems parallel to Emily St. Aubert's dreadful sojourn with Montoni at the Chateau of Udolpho, it turns out to be nothing like: linens and laundry lists are not exactly gothic horrors."
Austen is not only writing a parody of the most famous novel of her time, but she also uses Northanger Abbey to make a commentary about prose fiction in which (chapter 5) "the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest deliniation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humor are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language." The implication being that at the very least a certain strengthening awareness can be passed from woman to woman through the genre of the novel itself. Austen saw her novels as an instrument of enlightenment and that her readers, (like Catherine Morland who makes her way out of mental slavishness towards a kind of liberation) could come into a sense of their own cognitive and ethical powers.
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