Horrid shadows
The Gothic in Northanger Abbey
in Gothic writing 1750–1820
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Northanger Abbey is interesting because it represents the endeavour of a particularly alert consciousness to reduce the Gothic to burlesque, to satire, to a univocal status. It attempts to rescue Ann Radcliffe from the 'horrids', reading her as a 'proto-novelist'. The dominant tone of Northanger Abbey is playful, deftly ironic, sounding serious issues with a light touch. As a work of anti-Gothic, Northanger Abbey has an unavoidable interest for the Gothic genealogist. As with Gothic works, Northanger Abbey has a tendency towards the carnivalesque. It retains a Gothic core when it keeps the conflict between General Tilney's devotion to the values of alliance, and his children's to those of romantic love. Northanger Abbey's narrative of personal development, its cult of 'personality', is ruffled by the disjunctive energies of the Gothic world it seeks to put by, as childish things; there are too many loose ends.

Editor: Robert Miles

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