Classic Comic Novel. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1817)


Catherine Moreland arrives in Bath eager for new friendships and experiences. There isn’t much scope for imagination in Bath, but when she visits friends at Northanger Abbey, adventure seems to await. Her literary life hasn’t prepared her for the real dangers of the world, and she naively creates dangers in safe situations while oblivious to real risks.

Proof that one ought to reread Jane Austen, I offer my review from 2011:

The characters aren’t as memorable or endearing as Austen’s other books, but her droll asides about what would happen if this was a “novel” and not real life provided constant humor.

My only excuse is that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. The past eight years have given me many opportunities to consider education through literature. I read this along with The Literary Life Podcast, and Cindy, Angelina and Thomas helped me appreciate how Austen satirizes the gothic novel while simultaneously defending it. I also had an annotated version from the library that helped explain the allusions to gothic novels.

My own literary life set me up for similar confusion as a young woman. I was completely prepared for courtship in Regency England, post-Civil War New England, Edwardian Canada, or even as a missionary in remote locations, but I had no idea how to handle modern dating at the turn of the millennium. I have no idea how to better prepare my children, but at least I know it’s an issue that will probably come up eventually.

I especially benefitted from rereading the novel concurrently with teaching a satire unit including The Picture of Dorian Gray at KOR. If I had all the time in the world to teach my seniors, I’d love to do a whole slew of gothic novels along with satires of gothic novels.

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