Hyperbolized Feminist Realism in Northanger Abbey College
The gothic phenomena, although short-lived, left an indisputably heavy influence on literary practices in the late 1700’s, particularly that of the ‘feminist’ literary space. Jane Austen’s questionable heroine, Catherine Morland, is both the construction and deconstruction of female figures that populated the novels of her predecessors. By presenting a parodic victim of the patriarchy the heroine of Northanger Abbey, Austen was attempting to rewrite the extravagant and hyperbolic claims introduced by her more popular and sentimental precursors, such as Charlotte Smith. Hers, among many, were the texts that characterized females in literature as politically ‘sensible’ and sentimentally gothic. Austen utilizes all the literary excesses that characterize the gothic tradition to satirize the ‘sensibilities’ that marked her contemporary feminist counterparts. The role of satire destabilizes femininity; the exaggerated ‘romantic expectations’ and delusions provide a parodic victimized female figure. Firstly, Austen cleverly constructs a parodic profile of Catherine: she is naïve, part of an uneventful family life, and disinterested in ‘feminine’ social conventions. She then declares her “Everywoman’s” relationship to literature,...
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