Archive for the ‘Northanger Abbey’ category

On Sabbatical

May 23, 2009

Dear all,

I am on a temporary break (as I’m sure you’ve noticed), after which I intend to redo my schedule and continue with Northanger Abbey. My Jane Austen journey isn’t over (5 more books to go), but I have taken some time off due to my busy schedule at work and through my other interests; I apologize for the after-the-fact de facto announcement. I can’t wait until Pride and Prejudice, because I bought the 1995 special edition DVD in February and have been holding off  watching it (obviously) until I read that book!


– joseph


Northanger Abbey 3-4: The Lower Rooms

April 2, 2009

Here are my notes from Chapters 3-4 of Northanger Abbey.

Plot Points

In the courts of Bath, Catherine Morland and Mrs. Allen seem to follow the common routine of visiting shops, attending social functions such as dances, and meeting new people. The two meet Mr. Tilney, a young man who dances with Catherine. Later, they find an old acquaintance of Allen’s, Mrs. Thorpe. Catherine becomes friends with Isabelle Thorpe.

Character Commentary

In the Lower Rooms, Catherine is introduced by the master of ceremonies to Mr. Tilney: “He seemed to be about four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent and lively eye, and, if not quite handsome, was very near it.” He speaks with Catherine and Mrs. Allen about clothes and fabric, such that Catherine is impressed and wishes she would meet him again the next day.

Catherine meets the daughter of Mrs. Thorpe, Miss Isabella Thorpe, and the two seem to easily become friends. Perhaps Catherine is impressed with Miss Thorpe’s experience in the ways of Bath; she is older, “better informed,” and knowledgeable of “tasteful attire.”

Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Thorpe are former schoolmates and, now re-acquainted, have occasion to share information on their situations. They discuss their families: Mrs. Thorpe applauds her sons who are out in the world and about which the hint of success is given; Mrs. Allen “had no similar information to give, no similar triumphs to press on the unwilling and unbelieving ear of her friend…” Then, the Miss Thorpes arrive. At the same moment, Catherine Morland is introduced. Mrs. Allen could be taking on a maternal role for Catherine.

Narratology Notes

So far in these early chapters of the novel, I feel as if the narrator (Austen) is keeping her distance from the main character, Catherine. She enters and ends chapters with a discussional tone, reminiscent of traditional romantic prose. She shows Catherine, for example, in describing the possibility (but not surety) of her thinking about Mr. Tilney before sleep, and in her having “more than usual eagerness” about starting the next day; Austen seems to clearly divide her chapters within the bounds of this commentary, and the chapters are about the same size in length. Is Austen writing a narrative or a chapter?

Looking Ahead

Now that Catherine has some friends, will she grow more confident? And, now that Austen has more than one group of associated characters, will she start creating some parallel dichotomies?

Follow RJA on Twitter

March 30, 2009

I will be updating my Twitter account with updates on Reading Jane Austen posts. I’m doing this not only so that people might have another option when it comes to viewing update (if a reader is Twitter-centric versus RSS-centric), but as an added way to cap off a posting.

My recent experience has been that these posts take up more time than I had originally anticipated: first there’s reading the content, then analyzing it (usually along the way), synthesizing it, writing it, and uploading it to this platform and within the boundaries of my Tools for a Close Reading of Jane Austen. And there will still be a typo or two.

Posting it on Twitter will serve as a way for me to acknowledge to myself that “I’m done!”

Not sure what Twitter is? Check out the main page here. My tweets are located here.

Would Jane Austen use Twitter?

Northanger Abbey Chapter 2: The High Feathers

March 30, 2009

Here are my notes from Chapter 2 of Northanger Abbey.

Plot Points

Catherine Morland and Mrs. Allen travel to Bath, the resort city. There, they prepare for a ball, where they are disappointed by a lack of participating. Left to the periphery of the excitement, Catherine becomes bored.

Character Commentary

Chapter 2 opens with what seems to be a preemptive defense of Catherine: “it may be stated, for the reader’s more certain information, lest the following pages should otherwise fail of giving any idea of what her character is meant to be; that her heart was affectionate, her disposition cheerful and open, without conceit or affectation of any kind…”

The preempt may have been appropriate, for during the ball/dance she shows some considerably vain sensibilities. After experiencing the boredom of not participating in the dancing activities due to lack of a partner, Catherine overhears something flattering said about her: “She was looked at however, and with some admiration; for, in her own hearing, two gentlemen pronounced her to be a pretty girl.” To me, this seems to show an unflattering view of the character, regardless of the disclaimer given by Austen, perhaps part of the theme of busting up over-romanticization.

Mrs. Allen, a landowner in Wiltshire where the Morlands live, and who is traveling with Catherine to Bath, is described as having “neither beauty, genius, accomplishment, nor manner.” Furthermore, she has “good temper” and “a trifling turn of mind” and is obsessed with fashion. Her description and place in the narrative (guardian to Catherine during trip to Bath) imply that she should have some social skills, i.e., ability to facilitate Catherine’s entry into the social scene; however, she does not, as she knows nobody at the ball and laments that one couple she does know is not in attendance.

Themes and Threads

This is the only information given on the trip to the city of Bath:

“Under these unpromising Auspices, the parting took place, and the jouney began. It was performed with suitable quietness and uneventful safety. Neither the robber nor tempests befriended them, nor one lucky overturn to introduce them to the hero. Nothing more alarming occured than a fear on Mrs. Allen’s side, of having once left her clogs behind her at an inn, and that fortunately proved to be groundless.”

I notice that (1) no information is given regarding an event, and (2) the speaker goes out of her way to indicate that, in fact, nothing actually happened. Coming off of reading Sense and Sensibility, in which stuff does happen while characters are en route (if only a discussion of their moods; a measure of time is achieved). The trip is anti-heroic: there are no strong protagonists and no antagonists, and Austen is clearly aware (or expecting?) that her audience would be looking for these things. This seems to be pointed at all of the epics, gothics, and romances that deposit characters in troublesome situations, out of which a “hero” is revealed.

Out of Context

I can relate to Catherine’s feelings of awkwardness at a social event. Feeling down and then overreacting (at least in the characterizational context that Austen gives) to a change toward the positive is normal.


“… they saw nothing of the dancers but the high feathers of some of the ladies.”

Northanger Abbey: Getting Started

March 23, 2009

In seemingly half-comedic, half-serious tone, Jane Austen begins the life of Catherine Morland. “… born an heroine,” Austen says, in placing Catherine in scene. She is among 10 siblings, has a “thin awkward figure,” and is said to be inattentive. That is to say, today she is ordinary.

Already, I can sense the scent of sarcasm in Austen’s tone in starting out Northanger Abbey. From what I already know, it’s doesn’t seem to be her style to invoke these themes of predestined heroism:

“But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way.”

For Catherine’s life thus far has been uneventful, average, and loveless.


“But from fifteen to seventeen she was in training for a heroine; she read all such works as heroines must read to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives.”

Looking Ahead

That’s Chapter 1. More chapters to come soon!

My Radcliffe Intermission: A Preparation for Northanger Abbey

February 10, 2009

As planned, I will be reading through Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian before beginning Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Word has it that Northanger looks at a certain topic (cough cough), and that it might be prudent to know the parodied before reading the parody. I’m trying to be vague and open-minded about it because I don’t want any assumptions to spoil what might otherwise be an unbiased and thoughtful reading.

I am posting this not only as information for those who might be following along, but as an attempt to keep to my own convictions about time constraints. I intend to finish The Italian in a week, which shouldn’t be too much trouble given that I won’t be spending time making posts for it. And after that, I want to move swiftly though Northanger so that I can at least try to start Pride and Prejudice before February is up. If you’re wondering about my original schedule, see My Schedule for Reading Jane Austen.

Also up during my intermission will be some thoughts on 2 film adaptations of Sense and Sensibility. Nope, we’re not quite done with the Dashwoods yet. Stay tuned!

My Schedule for Reading Jane Austen

January 12, 2009

In my quest to uncover the secrets of Jane Austen I have come up with a reading plan. I consulted some electronic and real-person sources to lay out Austen’s six novels in the order in which they were generally written. Perhaps reading the novels in that order will tell me something about the evolution of the writing.

The Tentative Schedule

Here is a tentative list (as of January 12, 2009) of the order and general time frame that I will be reading Austen’s novels:

Sense and SensibilityJanuary 2009, approximately 2 weeks of reading. Goal: full text plus viewing/criticism of a film adaptation.

Northanger AbbeyJanuary 2009, approximately 2 weeks of reading. Goal: full text after a reading of Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian, plus supplementary texts.

Pride and PrejudiceFebruary 2009, approximately 3 weeks of reading. Goal: full text plus heavy supplementary texts and criticism of at least 2 film adaptations.

Mansfield Park February 2009, approximately 2 weeks of reading. Goal: full text plus criticism of a film adaptation.

EmmaMarch 2009, approximately 3 weeks of reading. Goal: full text plus supplementary texts.

PersuasionMarch 2009, approximately 2 weeks of reading. Goal: full text.

So, from the above list, you can probably tell that I expecting to have some overlap. I am also concentrating (by way of a closer reading and more supplementary materials) on Pride and Prejudice. My goal is to finish the reading by April 1, 2009. I will continue commenting and exploring thereafter, of course, but this timeline is meant for the 3-month period through January and March 2009.

At the time of this reading, I have secured supplementary texts for Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey (including Radcliffe’s The Italian, which I intend to read as a bit of background into the type of literature I know Northanger to be referencing). Regarding the film adaptations, I may reroute those goals to fit a timeframe separate from the original 3-month reading timeframe; I hope this will be nailed down by the end of January.

I welcome any comments or suggestions. In particular, I am looking for literary or social criticism of Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion, and any film adaptations that may be floating out there that have want for my word-daggers.

The Project Artifact

I will be creating an “artifact” as part of my 3-month crash-course study of Jane Austen. I am still trying to work out the details of how this works, but generally an artifact is a novel creation—physical or electronic—that can serve as a exemplifying feature of my work, or perhaps a demonstration of something that I have learned.

For this project, I am still considering options, but I want to finalize the idea by February 1, 2009. Maybe it’s an electronic list? Maybe it’s a trinket that displays “Handsome” or “Not handsome” upon pressing a button?

Let me know if you have any ideas about what I can create as an artifact for Reading Jane Austen.