From Longman's Cultural Editions Series, Northanger Abbey, edited by Marilyn Gaull, presents key texts that illuminate the lively intersections of literature, tradition, and culture.
This edition places Jane Austen and Northanger Abbey in the major conversations of Romanticism, not just the gothic novel and female education. It places the novel in two contexts, 1798, when it was written, and 1818, when it was published, illustrating its relevance to both periods and the major writers, especially the poets.
This edition connects Jane Austen with the major Western literary tradition, from ancient myth, the Arabian Nights, to Cervantes, Flaubert, and Virginia Woolf.
Catherine grows up to be a passably pretty girl and is invited to spend a few weeks in Bath with a family friend. While there she meets Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor, who invite her to visit their family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Austen amuses herself and us as Catherine, a great reader of Gothic romances, allows her imagination to run wild, finding dreadful portents in the most wonderfully prosaic events. But Austen is after something more than mere parody; she uses her rapier wit to mock not only the essential silliness of "horrid" novels, but to expose the even more horrid workings of polite society, for nothing Catherine imagines could possibly rival the hypocrisy she experiences at the hands of her supposed friends. In many respects Northanger Abbey is the most lighthearted of Jane Austen's novels, yet at its core is a serious, unsentimental commentary on love and marriage, 19th-century British style. --Alix Wilber