Recent Meeting
Gothic Novels - Be Very Afraid!
2019 May 25

Our May meeting this year was a novel study of Northanger Abbey. Amy discussed the genre of gothic novels that grew out of medieval belief in the supernatural. The gothic novel had a tendency to certain cliches - atmosphere, castles, dark corridors, etc. Amy discussed Ann Radcliffe and her use of terror, the stimulation of the senses, versus horror, the use of physical things such as corpses.
Very little is known of Ann Radcliffe as no correspondence or journal survives though she was certainly a successful author. She sold the manuscript for the Mysteries of Udolpho for 500 pounds, which was a great sum for the time. It was interesting to compare Henry Tilney's reaction to the Mysteries of Udolpho with his 'hair standing on end the entire time' with a more modern impression of the book, which is that the book is long and rather wordy. We discussed the possible differences in culture that would allow for this. One of the theories was that people would not necessarily have travelled as much and would require extensive descriptions of locale to fully immerse themselves in the books. Amy also wondered if it was simply an expression of requirement of constant stimulation in our modern brains.

Northanger was very much a parody of the typical gothic novel of the time and we enjoyed discussing the various ways Jane Austen poked fun at the cliches present in those novels.

After tea we separated into groups to discuss the following questions.

  • Discuss the role of the mentor: Catherine has Eleanor and Henry, Isabella has none - what is the importance of this on Catherine's and Isabella's characters?

    It was generally agreed upon that Catherine was in a better state to be mentored because of age and situation and that even had she the opportunity, Isabella would likely not have benefitted from a positive mentor.

  • What is the purpose of the narrator in the novel?

    It was felt that the narrator was a key link to the audience, the narrator 'felt like Jane'. Thus, we got the best sense of what it may have been like to have had something explained by her personally.

  • How much are Catherine's ideas based on her reading? How does Jane Austen make use of other work, fiction and non-fiction in Northanger Abbey?

    This group felt that Catherine was very much formed by the works she read as she had been very sheltered by sheer physical situation. It was also proposed that books like the Mysteries of Udolpho would have been, in that time, what every one would have been talking about in social settings and would have played a large social role. Jane Austen used other works to frame her plot and establish the characters.

Thanks to Amy and Amber for a memorable conclusion to the first half of the year.

Happy summer everyone! We will see you in September.

Regular Meetings

For fond memories, see the report and photos of our past meetings.

We usually meet on the third Saturday of September, November, January, March and May. Our meetings are 2:00 - 4:00 and are held at Sunalta Community Association, 1627 10 Ave SW, a location that is wheelchair accessible.
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