Jane Austen and The Abbey: Mystery, Mayhem, and Muslin in Portland

Breakout Sessions

Session A

A1 Elaine Bander, Dawson College, Montreal
“How were people, at that rate, to be understood?”:  Reading Mysteries at Northanger Abbey
Published in Persuasions 32 (2010). “Reading Mysteries at Northanger AbbeyPersuasions 32 (2010): 46-59.
Is Catherine Morland a lightweight, a quixotic reader, or, just maybe, a rigorous empiricist who successfully reads both Gothic and human mysteries?  And what role does love play in all this?

A2 Janine Barchas, University of Texas at Austin
The Real Bluebeard of Bath:  A Historical Model for Northanger Abbey
Just outside of Bath lies a castle that was the site of genuine medieval mayhem, mystery, and murder.  Which castle is it?  Ah, that mystery will be answered by Barchas’ slide show/lecture.  The picturesque ruins with its bloody history of murder and poison, of wives locked in tall towers, of letters found in old furniture provide the real-world model for Catherine’s fantasies.

A3 James Ashley, Mars Space Flight Facility, Arizona State University
Muslin and Magic in the Regency Era
Exploring the applications for muslin beyond the common textile, Ashley will examine the use of muslin throughout the 18th and 19th centuries in theater for stage backdrops and cycloramas, in the production of magic tricks, and in trick “spirit” photography.

A4 Ellen Moody, George Mason University, Virginia
“People that Marry Can Never Part”:  Real and Romantic Gothicism in Northanger Abbey
Moody’s talk brings together the three themes of the conference:  destructive lies, Henry Tilney, and Austen’s Gothic sources.  She explores how the Gothic projects through its psychodramas the justifiable fears and anxieties of women.  If only courting and marriage were more like a dance where (as Henry admits) “the compliance is expected from him,” and the power to refuse hers.

A5 Celia A. Easton, SUNY Geneseo, New York
“The Probability of Some Negligence”:  Avoiding the Horror of the Absent Clergyman
Published in Persuasions 32 (2010). “‘The Probability of Some Negligence’:  Avoiding the Horror of the Absent Clergyman” Persuasions 32 (2010): 154-164.
Easton explores Jane Austen’s implications in Northanger Abbey that people face real “horrors” through clerical negligence and irresponsibility.  And Austen voices her support, through Henry Tilney, of contemporary clerical reform movements.  What exactly was the role of the clergyman?

A6 Nancy Yee, Fitchburg State College, Massachusetts (ret)
John Thorpe—Villain Ordinaire:  The Modern Montoni
Is General Tilney or John Thorpe the real Montoni villain of the novel?  Yee explains that Austen is playing with her readers’ expectations of who best fits the villain mold.  Along the way, she explores the many ways that Austen’s text parodies Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho.

A7 Phyllis Ferguson Bottomer, Speech Language Pathologist, Vancouver, BC
Conversation, or Rather Talk:  How Current Knowledge of Autistic Spectrum Disorders Can Help Us Understand the Communication Challenges of Some of Austen’s Characters
Bottomer will provide each participant with a grid showing a number of characteristics typical of people with an autistic spectrum disorder.  With her direction the audience will help analyze characters in Northanger Abbey and several of the other novels, along the way learning more about what Jane Austen’s observations can teach us about the subtleties of Asperger’s Syndrome or high-functioning autism.

Session B

B1 David Bell, California State University, Sacramento
Is Catherine a Lightweight?  In Defense of Austen’s “Ignorant and Uninformed” 17-Year Old Heroine
Northanger Abbey makes a notable contribution to Austen’s career-long exploration of the ethics of persuasion.  Catherine tells Thorpe:  “If I could not be persuaded into doing what I thought wrong, I will not be tricked into it.”  This seminal scene will be contrasted with a scene in Mansfield Park where the stakes are much higher.

B2 Vicky Hinshaw and Kim Wilson are authors well-known to Janeites
About Those Abbeys:  A Trip Through History, Literature, and the Picturesque
Where did the hundreds of abbeys in England come from?  Hinshaw and Wilson lead a colorful visual tour of abbey history.  They will review the power and prestige of the religious orders and what happened when Henry VIII seized their property.  And we will learn how abbeys were transformed into country houses, schools and famous gardens.

B3 Annette LeClair, Librarian Union College, NY
Dressing an Heroine:  Spotted Muslins in the Age of Austen
LeClair explores the implications of Catherine’s internal debate about whether she should wear her “spotted (or) her tamboured muslin.”  Questions of identity—national, social, and personal—are at the heart of these possibilities.  And patterns in her wardrobe also literally embodied contemporary ideas about femininity.  So, why the spots?

B4 Miriam Rheingold Fuller, University of Central Missouri
“Let me go, Mr. Thorpe; Isabella, do not hold me!”
Published in Persuasions 32 (2010). “‘Let me go, Mr. Thorpe; Isabella, do not hold me!’: Northanger Abbey and the Domestic Gothic” Persuasions 32 (2010): 90-104.
Behind her black veil of parody, Austen employs a complex, subtle genre which Rheingold Fuller calls the Domestic Gothic.  This juxtaposes parodies of the Gothic novel with actual dangers and misfortunes that beset Catherine and Eleanor.

B5 Stephanie Eddleman, Harding University, Searcy, AR
Henry Tilney:  Austen’s Feminized Hero?
Published in Persuasions 32 (2010). “Henry Tilney: Austen’s Feminized Hero?” Persuasions 32 (2010): 68-77.
Some critics claim that, in the eighteenth-century female gothic novel, the heroine triumphs over male authoritarianism by marriage to a “feminized hero.”  Eddleman explores the character of Henry Tilney as Austen’s clever acknowledgement and rebuttal of this feminization of the hero.

B6 Christine Shih, Tennessee Nurse Practitioner
Monsters:  Perspectives of Jane Austen, Ann Radcliffe, and Emily Brontë
Shih argues that Austen and Brontë experienced the monster within their individual familial circle and brought those monsters to the page.  Because both authors were constantly exposed to the Borderline character, both were presented with relational difficulties that seemed quite Gothic indeed.

B7 James Nagle, Washington Lawyer and Author of Six Books on Contract Law
Dismemberment in the Library with the Quill Pen
Regency England’s rules on succession, primogeniture, and the role of inheritance rights of women—all are possible motives for murder.  Yet, Jane Austen found enough in these rules and their idiosyncrasies (entail, jointure, etc.) to weave beloved novels of social satire and great romance.

Session C

C1 Amanda Bloom, PhD student at the University of Southern California
A Lady Spoken For:  (Blocked) Speech and Betrothal in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey
Throughout the novel, Catherine finds herself strangely unable to communicate her own history, thoughts and sentiments.  Bloom uses Freud’s case studies about the affliction he defined as blocked speech in her diagnosis of Catherine as a classic hysterical subject.

C2 Arnie Perlstein, Florida Attorney
“Remember the country and age in which we live”:  The Covert Death-in-childbirth Anti-parody in Northanger Abbey
Perlstein makes the case that death in childbirth was the real horror behind General Tilney and all the husbands of England whom he represents.  While Perlstein is noted for “reading against the grain” to discover the “shadow” stories in Austen’s novels, this is sure to be a participatory session suited to the lively wit of our members.

C3 Mary Hafner-Laney, Specialist in Construction of Historic Clothing, Washington
“I was tempted by a pretty coloured muslin”:  Jane Austen and the Art of Being Fashionable
Published in Persuasions 32 (2010). “‘I was tempted by a pretty coloured muslin’:  Jane Austen and the Art of Being Fashionable” Persuasions 32 (2010): 135-143.
The presentation will cover sources of fashion information such as fashion magazines, fashion dolls, and word-of-mouth.  Also discussed will be the employment of dressmakers versus home-sewing, period pattern making, garment design, and fabric types, costs, usage and sources.  Fabric samples of muslins, dimity, Persian, and sarsenet will be passed around.

C4 Akiko Takei, Chukyo University, Japan
The Art of Lying and Fiction-Making in Northanger Abbey
Upon leaving her home, Catherine is entrapped in a web of plausible lies spun by worldly-wise people who surround her.  Takei analyzes the psychology of the characters who lie.  This approach eventually reveals Austen’s technique for fiction writing.

C5 Gillian Dow, University of Southampton and Chawton House Library, UK
Italy, Switzerland, and the South of France, might be as fruitful in horrors as they were represented:  Northanger Abbey and the Horrors of the European Novel
Published in Persuasions 32 (2010). “Northanger Abbey, French Fiction, and the Affecting History of the Duchess of C***” Persuasions 32 (2010): 28-45.
This presentation will look outside Austen’s orderly England, and situate her vision of the English novel in Northanger Abbey within the context of her reading of both native and European fiction.  By considering the Gothic novel within the debate on the rise of the novel in the late eighteenth century, Dow will focus on the importance of the work of French women writers of tales “fruitful in horror.”

C6 Kathleen Anderson and Susan Jones, Palm Beach Atlantic University
Solving Mysteries and Avoiding Mayhem on Your First Trip to Bath:  Advice from Mrs. Allen and Catherine Morland
This is an original dramatic presentation which includes illustrations and will be conducted both in costume and in character.  The expertise of Mrs. Allen and Miss Morland will inform the novice of how to become a success at the Bath season.  Tips on travel, walks, dances, rides in open carriages and how to avoid siblings’ unsuitable friends are included.

C7 Sheryl Craig, University of Central Missouri
Money, Mystery, and Morlands:  Filthy Lucre in Northanger Abbey
Published in Persuasions 32 (2010). “Northanger Abbey: Money in the Bank” Persuasions 32 (2010): 144-153.
Is Catherine Morland an heiress?  Is James Morland worth catching?  How rich are the Allens and the Tilneys?  How poor are the Thorpes?  Catherine suspects something sinister is going on, and it is, but money is the real mystery in Northanger Abbey, and Jane Austen makes the most of it.  And Craig explains it all.

Session D

D1 Maria DeBlassie, Graduate student at the University of Washington Canceled
“Everything Seemed to Speak to the Awfulness of her Situation”:  Bath as Gothic Ruin in Austen’s Northanger Abbey
DeBlassie regrets that she will be unable to attend and present at the 2010 AGM.  She has recently found out that her PhD exams (heavily focused on Regency English literature) will be taking place right around the conference dates and cannot be rescheduled.

D2 Sarah Parry, Chawton House Library
“This roof was to be the roof of an abbey!”:  What is Northanger Abbey?
Parry gives us an illustrated “tour” of some of the most enigmatic and outrageous of all country houses.  Forget the splendours of Pemberley and “visit” instead some of the most mysterious dwellings in the history of the country house … if you dare!

D3 Sylvia Hunt, Laurentian University, Ontario
“Remember the country and the age in which we live”:  Gothic English Landscape in Austen’s Juvenilia
The Juvenilia demonstrates that Austen did not entirely reject the gothic novel as a genre, but instead made it, like her characters and their lives, relevant to the age in which she lived and realistic.  Horror does not need to reside in the foreign and unusual, but in the local and everyday.

D4 Peter Graham, Virginia Tech
Henry Tilney: Portrait of the Hero as Beta Male
What are we to make of Henry Tilney, unique among the men who end up married to a Jane Austen heroine?  Is he a gentler, kinder hero or a heroine with a Y chromosome?  And just how does he fit into the Austen categories of unmarried clergymen and younger sons of the country house class?

D5 Kathy Gentile, University of Missouri, St. Louis
Ruses, Rakes, and Rhodomontade:  Comic villainy in Northanger Abbey
Published in Persuasions 32 (2010). “‘A forward, bragging, scheming race’: Comic Masculinity in Northanger AbbeyPersuasions 32 (2010): 78-89.
In pursuing her desire for happiness with Henry Tilney, Catherine must contend with several species of comic villains—a militaristic Montoni version of the blocking father figure, a descendant of the Restoration comedy rake, and the master of braggadocio and bluster.

D6 Elvira Casal, Middle Tennessee State University
The Abduction of Catherine Morland: Deception, Sex and Courtship in Northanger Abbey
The relationship between Henry and Catherine can best be appreciated if we look at it against a social world that is characterized by deceptions and polite (or impolite) fictions.  Casal shows why Northanger Abbey is the story of how honest people can negotiate a world that is often dishonest.

D7 Shannon Campbell, Docent, University of Alberta Botanic Garden
The Mystique of the Pineapple:  A Lure for General Tilney
Carrying the weight of international rivalry with the Dutch and the cachet of royal approval, the growing of pineapples in cool and cloudy England was an alluring challenge for many of the landed gentry during the Regency.  Why did Jane Austen select the pinery as the appropriate part of the garden for General Tilney to highlight?

Session E

E1 Alicia L. Kerfoot, McMaster University, Ontario
Catherine Morland’s “Plain Black Shoes”:  Practical Femininity and Buried Convents in Northanger Abbey
Austen turns the romance novel into a practical comment on the kind of national landscape that buries and rebuilds female identity as both devoid of and entirely comprised of interiority.  The “plain black shoes” of Catherine turn out to be accessories that uncover the malleable barrier between secret gothic histories and modern English landscapes.

E2 Jennifer Tinonga, Graduate Student, San Francisco State University
The Price is Right:  Shopping, Masculinity and Muslin in Northanger Abbey
This session focuses on how Henry’s knowledge about fabrics, especially muslins—their pricing, care and durability—establishes him as a manly man, reliable brother, and knowledgeable consumer with an eye for quality and value.  Tinonga explains how muslin, like shopping, had a different connotation for each gender.

E3 Natasha Duquette, Biola University and Elisabeth Lenckos, University of Chicago
The Perils and Delights of Gothic Aesthetics in Northanger Abbey
Published in Persuasions 32 (2010). “From Sublime Abbey to Picturesque Parsonage: The Aesthetics of Northanger Abbey and The Mysteries of UdolphoPersuasions 32 (2010): 105-134.
The presenters explore architectural grandeur and gothic mystery in works of Helen Maria Williams and Ann Radcliffe and how these inform Catherine Morland’s growth from childlike enthusiasms to adult reality.

E4 Jacqueline Fessard Johnson, Librarian, Indiana University Southeast
Henry Tilney:  Austen’s Horatian Hero
The Roman satirist Horace sought to correct through humor.  As Horace used satire to influence people to rationality, Austen uses satirical dialogue through Henry to do the same for Catherine and others.  Johnson asks if the parallels between the dialogues of Horace and Henry’s conversations are intentional.

E5 Susan Allen Ford, Delta State University, MS
Ingenious Torments:  Reading Instructive Texts in Northanger Abbey
Ford looks at the read, partly read, and unread didactic and conduct texts that frame Northanger Abbey, and how they illuminate the characters and plots—in particular the “very clever Essay” from The Mirror that Mrs. Morland suggests and Jane Collier’s An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting, a satiric anti-conduct book.  Gothic shadows invade the discourse of education in Northanger Abbey!

E6 Allison Thompson, Writer, Musician, Dancer, and Dance Teacher, Pennsylvania
The Rules of the Assembly
Thompson discusses the “Rules of the Assembly” posted on the walls of the Lower and Upper Rooms: the role of the Master of the Ceremonies at Bath; the minuets and the special attire required of ladies and gentlemen who wished to perform them; the ball-supper; and the elegancies of the Upper and Lower Rooms.