Reading Northanger Abbey How to read the novel

Be sure to begin reading Northanger Abbey early so that you will have it finished or almost finished when we begin reading it. Your understanding of the novel and our discussions will be diminished if you try to memorize ideas about the novel without reading it.

Important: Read the novel first. Then read the introduction, which will give you helpful information and context. Also, be sure to read the notes at the back of the book. You might keep an extra bookmark in the notes section so that you can easily access notes as you are reading. Finally, the appendices are worth looking at since they provide additional context for the novel.

Background Reading

For background reading, the Norton Anthology offers helpful material. See the introduction to the Jane Austen selection (514) and to the Gothic and Mass Readership (577). Also, the NA has brief selections on writers of Gothic fiction: Horace Walpole (579), William Beckford (587), Ann Radcliffe (592), and Matthew Gregory Lewis (595). Finally the general introduction to Romanticism (NA)has helpful background info.

Questions for reading and discussion

Questions and ideas to consider as you read and for our class discussions:

  1. What are the motivations and perspectives of the novel's characters? You might devise a chart, table, or cluster diagram that briefly describes each character and relates them.
  2. What is the main conflict in the novel? Is it satisfactorily resolved (the conclusion)?
  3. What views about marriage are presented in the novel? Explain these views, using specific examples.
  4. Explore the idea of friendship revealed in the novel. What does friendship mean? Why is it important for characters? Is there a difference between male and female friendships?
  5. Explain why Northanger Abbey is a novel about reading. What attitudes about reading are presented in the novel?
  6. Related to reading is the satire of Gothic novels. Find examples of references to Gothic fiction and explain the point of this satire. The concept of the sublime is important for understanding Gothic fiction.
  7. In what ways is Northanger Abbey a Romantic novel? Does it connect to ideas/concepts we have encountered in the poetry? Does it introduce "new" ideas/concepts that we can say are part of Romantic Literature?