ABOUT THE BOOKDuring my first semester of graduate school, I took a course entitled Pre-Romantic Literature, which encompassed the study of British literature immediately preceding the Romantic Period, considered to have ranged roughly from 1798 to 1830. The main focus of this course was the Gothic novel. Midway through the course, wed just finished reading and analyzing The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. Radcliffe is still considered the pioneer of the Gothic novel. Gothic novels gained popularity and were widely read beginning in the late eighteenth century. However, they were read for entertainment and used to discount the literary value of the “novel.”In addition, young women were discouraged from reading Gothic novels, since it was believed they couldnt differentiate between fantasy and reality, and theyd see the wildly imaginative plots as mirroring reality. I found Udolpho to be a difficult read and dark in its depictions of villains, whose victims are primarily women. Reading Northanger Abbey, a parody of the Gothic novel and especially of Radcliffes Udolpho, was a treat.In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen defends not only the novel as genre itself, but the Gothic novel as well, and does so using comedy and realism. Its an enjoyable read, but at the same time, it dispenses lessons for its readers that still resonate today. And, as suspenseful as Udolpho was at its time, Austens Northanger Abbey must have been just as much of a page turner, dueto its fluid prose and its engaging plot that mirrors real life.EXCERPT FROM THE BOOKIt is at this point in her life that Mr. Allen, who owns most of the property in Fullerton where the Morlands live, and Mrs. Allen, who is fond of Catherine, invite her to accompany them to Bath. Mr. Allen has been ordered there for the sake of his health. When they first arrive in Bath, Mrs. Allen and Catherine feel out of place at the gatherings because they dont know anyone.
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