PERSUASIONS ON-LINE V.34, NO.2 (Spring 2014)

Teaching Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey as a “Crossover” Text

Misty Krueger


Misty Krueger (email: is a visiting assistant professor of British literature at the University of Maine at Farmington, where she teaches early modern, eighteenth-century, and Romantic literature.  She has published essays on Restoration drama and early Romantic literature.


Literary periods reveal as much about the present as the past.  Certainly they affect the way we study Jane Austen.  As Mary Favret puts it, “To say Austen has a period or belongs to a period, regardless of the exact period attributed to her, is to mark the act of periodizing as a function of the present” (373).  Clifford Siskin suggests that the ways in which we “place Austen” in a period or literary context “has always to do with how we place ourselves in relation to the past” (125).  While longstanding literary periods shape current reading practices, personal preferences, and professional agendas, scholars such as J. Hillis Miller have recognized the “problematics of periodization” (14).1  For one thing, periodization tends to level history, ideology, and authorship into an ostensible monolith.  Particularly in regard to Austen, Favret argues that “periodization sets its objects in the halo of a singular, illuminating present . . . that filters out more complex relationships to time and history” (373).  Periodization also separates authors who may have been writing within years of each other into distinct temporal and thematic camps; as a result, periods such as the “long” eighteenth century and Romanticism might not seem to share any characteristics in our students’ eyes.  A single classification of Austen as either an author of late eighteenth-century or Romantic literature (or even as a nineteenth-century author) might preclude her from taking part in the overlapping socio-historical and literary contexts that influenced and defined her work.  The very “act of periodizing” can pose problems for readers who “might begin to wonder about their explanatory power or their ability to situate someone like Jane Austen in a single moment,” as Favret concludes (373).


In teaching both eighteenth-century and Romantic literature, I have situated Austen in multiple moments.  Although many literature courses at my current institution are organized according to periodization, I have considered the challenges that periodization holds for the instruction of authors, such as Austen, who wrote at the culmination of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century.2  In taking my cue from Miriam Wallace and the contributors to Enlightening Romanticism, Romancing the Enlightenment, I have embraced the overlap that occurs when we analyze a work topically and as a part of multiple historical and literary traditions.3  In my experience, Northanger Abbey affords an excellent case study of this strategy.  The novel defies simple classification in a single literary period as its own history raises a number of questions about placement.  Should we classify Northanger Abbey as a novel from the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century?  Is the author a young Austen, or is the novel the product of revision and therefore representative of the more mature writer?  Should we read the novel in the vein of an eighteenth-century-inspired moralistic tale, even if it at times makes a mockery of one?  Should we study it as a Romantic Gothic novel, even if only in parody?  In my estimation, we may read Northanger Abbey as all of the above and more, for these complicating factors enrich the study of the novel in regard to time, genre, and literary influences.


The remainder of this essay addresses how I have taught Northanger Abbey as a crossover text that simultaneously represents intersection and transition between time periods.  In labeling Northanger Abbey a “crossover” text I am inspired by Miriam Wallace’s phrase “crossover audiences,” a term that she uses to describe readers who examine texts across two literary periods rather than in separate ones (1).  I discuss the complicated nature of periodization as it applies to the teaching of Austen, as well as the benefits of assigning Northanger Abbey at the end of an eighteenth-century course, at the beginning of a Romanticism course, and in the context of a specialized seminar on Austen and her “contemporaries” (a term I negotiate to include her eighteenth-century predecessors and contemporary writers at the start of the nineteenth century).4  I show that assigning Northanger Abbey in multiple courses reinforces what Wallace calls “critical overlap”:  a space in which scholar-teachers engage students in multivalent critical dialogue about literary influences and traditions, genres, and the development of authorship across periods (1).  This critical overlap ultimately situates Austen’s writings in the context of a wider set of contemporaries and can help students from a variety of disciplines—including English, secondary education in English, and creative writing—see the diverse ways in which her writing responds to literary traditions across multiple time periods.


Teaching Northanger Abbey as an eighteenth-century novel


As a scholar who has found herself at the bookends of the long eighteenth century—with interests ranging from Restoration drama to Jane Austen’s fiction—I have long questioned the margins of literary periods.  I have wondered if Austen’s early prose fits best with long eighteenth-century literature because she began writing these works in some form or fashion at the end of the century, or if we study her early novels strictly as early nineteenth-century or Romantic texts due to their publication dates.  Who gets to claim Austen, and for what reasons?  Should we extend or begin a period simply to include Austen?  As I crafted the syllabus for my first upper-level eighteenth-century course, I decided to claim Austen as a long eighteenth-century writer.  Technically, she composed literature before the close of the century, and certainly her reading of eighteenth-century literature affected her writing.  Austen’s early novels continued eighteenth-century literary traditions, including satire and sentimentality.


In The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Isobel Grundy explains how one might study Austen in relation to her eighteenth-century literary influences.5  As Grundy notes, writers such as Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, Samuel Richardson, Charlotte Lennox, and Frances Burney made up a kind of extended literary community for Austen (203).  Grundy is not alone in conceiving of Austen in the tradition of long eighteenth-century literature.  Oftentimes scholarly monographs on eighteenth-century literature, especially literature by women writers, end with Austen, and threads on C18-L (a listserv devoted to the eighteenth century) confirm that scholars consider Austen a part of their domain.6  In assigning an Austen novel in my course, I took my cue from the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, which defines its scope as spanning “the later seventeenth through the early nineteenth century” and makes room for Austen.7  If one simply judges the eighteenth-century by the standards set out by literary anthologies, however, Austen will not make it into the fold.8  Some university curricula set parameters that would exclude Austen from the eighteenth-century literature.9  Likewise, some scholars argue against studying Austen as an “Augustan,” a “Neo-classical,” or even an eighteenth-century writer because they feel that her work responds to post-Augustan culture and events.10


I chose to include Northanger Abbey at the end of an eighteenth-century course for a myriad of reasons, including my own enjoyment of Austen’s parody of moralistic tales and Gothic novels, the sardonic narrator’s tone, the young heroine’s naïveté and need for “proper” education, and the novel’s attention to wealth and class.  These thematic interests intersected nicely with some of the themes I addressed throughout my course, including the famed “rise of the novel.”11  I also thought that my students might appreciate Austen’s humor at the end of a long semester in which they tackled Samuel Pepys’s Diary, Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, and Samuel Johnson’s essays, among other works.  I was elated to discover how quickly students put our previous course readings into conversation with Austen’s novel, especially in their discussions of authorship, readership, satire, femininity, agency, and social mobility.


My students found interesting ways of comparing and contrasting Catherine Morland with Moll’s and Pamela’s bildungsromane.  In reading Northanger Abbey after Swift’s and Alexander Pope’s writings, students identified a version of Austen’s narrative persona that resonated as openly satirical.  In fact, one student chose to write her final term paper on Swift and Austen as satirists.  Students found in Volume One, Chapter Five an outspoken author willing to interrupt her narrative in order to respond to criticism of women writers.  In analyzing Catherine’s characterization, students expressed surprise at Austen’s mockery of her protagonist, and they suggested parallels to Swift’s and Pope’s critiques of unrealistic standards of beauty, as well as to helpless, passive heroines from novels such as Frances Burney’s Evelina and Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho.  After reading Richardson’s Pamela and George Lillo’s drama, The London Merchant, my students imagined the Thorpes as social climbers who represented eighteenth-century images of the middle class and new money, and the Tilneys as a representation of the aristocracy and old money.  My students were capable of understanding Austen as a writer who responded to a host of literary traditions and subgenres essential to the canon of eighteenth-century literature.  As I finished the semester, I found that my students’ reading of Northanger Abbey brought closure to the course in the sense that our final class discussions incorporated many threads from previous readings.


My positioning of Northanger Abbey at the end of my course confirmed why Austen has been classified as both an Augustan and a Georgian writer, as well as why Northanger Abbey might be considered one of Austen’s “‘Johnsonian’ texts” (Tuite 21).12  This placement of the novel forced me to think critically about Austen’s literary influences as well as the writers and texts to which Northanger Abbey responds, imitates, complements, and criticizes.  It allowed my students to put Austen’s writing in a dialogue with the satire of a Swiftian mock-travel narrative, judgment of a Johnson essay, interiority and didacticism of a Richardsonian epistolary novel, sentiment of Burney’s novel of manners, and horror of Radcliffe’s Gothic novel.  It reflected the tradition of eighteenth-century satires and sentimental novels while introducing the genre of Gothic literature, a subgenre of fiction that originates in the eighteenth-century as early as Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto but later becomes identified with Romantic fiction.  In this context my students and I imagined Austen’s literary predecessors as contemporaries.  This reading of Northanger Abbey gave my students the opportunity to place Austen’s writing in a long, rich literary history that technically predated the Romantic era and the early nineteenth-century, but also introduced them to those periods.


In ending my course with Northanger Abbey, I set out to wrap up one period and gesture to the next course in my university’s British literature sequence:  the Romantic Era.  I hoped to provide some sense of continuity between these periods, so I positioned Northanger Abbey as a crossover text that would allow students to see synchrony in the canon, as opposed to abrupt breaks from one period to the next.  Students analyzed Northanger Abbey in terms of definitive eighteenth-century modes of literature (satire and moralistic tales) as well as a subgenre of fiction (Gothic novel) that had its roots in the eighteenth century but truly blossomed in the Romantic period.  Further, Northanger Abbey represented a crossover text because of its composition, revision, and publication history.  This text provided an excellent opportunity to introduce students to the idea of “critical overlap” in time, the notion of authorship, and genres.  Students found that Austen was writing a parody of two different kinds of novels (the Gothic and the moral tale) at the intersection of two literary periods, and, in my pedagogy, she represented a transition between these periods rather than merely the end of one and the beginning of another.


Reading Northanger Abbey as Romantic fiction


Because the lines of literary periodization do not match century marks, Northanger Abbey’s inception in one century and publication in the next makes possible a study of the novel as both a late eighteenth-century text and an early nineteenth-century novel.  Nonetheless, as standard periodization generally dictates, a “Romantic Era” course most often follows the eighteenth-century course, rather than a nineteenth-century one (denoted typically as the Victorian period).  For many scholars, Austen’s writings easily fit in the Romantic period’s timeframe, marked by the French Revolution in 1789 and the English Reform Bill in 1832.13  The content of Austen’s work corresponds with the period’s thematic scope, too—specifically in the novel’s parody of conventions of Gothic fiction and its handling of anxieties about women’s reading of novels at the turn of the century.14  However, some scholars do not accept “Romanticism” as a static or singular category limited to 1789 through 1832.  The editors of the Norton anthology begin the period in 1785; the Longman includes texts post-1832.  As in the study of any period, scholars debate the Romantic Era’s dates, what the term “Romantic” really means, and how fiction fits into a period founded on the study of poetry.  Robert Rehder, for instance, argues that “the period 1785-1832 makes no sense” when applied to fiction (128).  Siskin questions, “How can an age of lyric poetry accommodate and account for a novelist?” (129).15  In designing my first Romanticism course, I wanted to integrate Austen’s novel into a course that would focus mostly on the genre of poetry and a topic, which I called the “powers of the imagination.”  Before unleashing the great Romantic poets upon my students, I decided to teach Northanger Abbey in the second full week of classes in order to address women’s reading and writing practices in the period, which began earlier than the 1790s, so that I could include Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and other Gothic texts.  In keeping with the course theme, I wanted my students to study the powers of women’s imaginations, too.


As in my eighteenth-century course, in the Romantic class Northanger Abbey intersected with my course themes, which explored imagination, authorship, readership, the picturesque, and sublimity.  After my students read excerpts from Wollstonecraft’s Vindication, John Gregory’s A Father’s Legacy to His Daughters, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Romance of the Forest, Anna Letitia and John Aikin’s “On the Pleasure Derived from Objects of Terror; with Sir Bertrand, a Fragment,” Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk, and more, they became familiar with the style of Gothic fiction as well as arguments against young women reading such “horrid novels.”16  Like Northanger Abbey, a few of these readings functioned as crossover texts, for they date from the mid-eighteenth century but can be taught in both period courses.  As Peter Walmsley reminds us, they are “literary antecedents” whose “emergent ideas of nation” can be traced to melancholy, grieving, and loss in writings by Locke, Addison, Young, and Sterne (39-41).  They also intersect with Romantic tenets in their attention to foreignness, the picturesque, sublime, and the wiles of the imagination.  To prepare students for Northanger Abbey in the Romantic course, I assigned more Gothic readings than I did in the eighteenth-century course, and I spent more class time exploring an allegory of nationhood embedded within the genre—specifically as it relates to a reconstruction of a British past, as well as a response to the French Revolution.


After thinking about the effects of literary traditions on the study of Austen at the end of my eighteenth-century course, I was compelled to consider what it would mean to begin the new semester with Austen, thereby giving her the position of establishing the time period for my students, one of whom had taken my eighteenth-century course the prior year.  I imagined how a new set of contemporaries would shape the study of Austen’s novel, and how my assigning the novel early in a course would affect students’ interpretations of other writers that followed Austen on the syllabus.  This time around with Northanger Abbey, I discovered what it meant to teach Austen before Wollstonecraft, William Blake, the Lake Poets, the Hunt Circle, and Mary Shelley, rather than after Defoe, Swift, and Richardson.


Although I addressed how one might pair Austen with eighteenth-century satirists, this course began by comparing Austen and Wollstonecraft as vindicators of women and women’s writings.  Students examined how Austen responded to criticism of women’s novels, such as Radcliffe’s, as well as to her handling of Gothic tropes, which I identified as a holdover from the eighteenth century, but predominantly as part of a Romantic ideology.  Students analyzed naïveté and innocence, and nationhood and empire, particularly in terms of terror and sublimity in the Romantic course.  While students in both courses read excerpts from Udolpho and Evelina, much had changed otherwise.  The Romantic class read a selection from the advertisement to Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda, which advocated authorship of “moral tales” rather than dreadful “novels.”  Students engaged in discussions on the newness of novels in this period, rather than as a continuation of the abundance of fictional forms from the eighteenth-century course.  A critical context emerged in our examination of the increase in novels written by women and the assumed dangers of women reading novels at the turn of the nineteenth century.  One of the best papers I received in this class used Helene Cixous’s “The Laugh of the Medusa” as an interpretive lens through which to view Austen’s narrative intervention in Volume One, Chapter Five.  Students found interesting ways to relate the novel’s Gothic scenes and Catherine’s imagination to the Gothic fiction we read as well as to Wordsworth’s, Coleridge’s, and Byron’s poetry.17  As we neared the end of the course, I was delighted to find that my students fashioned a close relationship between Northanger Abbey and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—both works published in 1818 and involving horror, friendship, and considerable character development.


As in the eighteenth-century course, my students found that Austen had a wide set of influences and contemporaries; but this time, they extended beyond her lifetime rather than simply preceding it. When I considered the contexts of both courses, Austen had a huge literary community.  After teaching Northanger Abbey in successive period courses, I fully appreciated the novel’s capacity to act as a crossover text that I could use to establish critical overlap between the writers and themes from both periods.  In my mind, the contexts of each course, though in separate periods and semesters, complemented one another.  Because Northanger Abbey contained essential literary traits from both periods, I came to realize the importance of sharing with my students the literary narratives of both time periods.  I considered this point even further when I next taught Austen in a special topics seminar.


Assigning Northanger Abbey in an Austen seminar


In a senior-level seminar I designed what one might call an “author” course rather than a period course.  The summer before I taught the course, I attended the NEH seminar “Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries” with the express intent of designing my own seminar on Austen and female writers such as Jane West, Hannah More, and Elizabeth Inchbald, whom I had not had the opportunity to teach before.  Although these writers were popular in their own day, many of them remain virtually unknown to students today.  The purpose of my course was to pair Austen with some of the aforementioned authors and to dispel the idea that some students have about Austen as a female genius who single-handedly created “the English novel” in a vacuum.  While I placed Austen at the center of the course, I aimed to show students the ways in which The History of England, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park both resulted from Austen’s reading practices, and responded directly to other texts.


When the chair of my division inquired as to how this topic course would fill the English program’s period requirement, I explained that it could satisfy either the pre-1798 or post-1798 British literature requirements—in fact, I argued that it could fulfill both.  The course offered readings in units before and after the turn of the century, as well as from two literary periods, the eighteenth century and the Romantic era.  My first unit, which featured The History of England and Northanger Abbey, was particularly suited to fill both requirements.  After spending two-and-half weeks discussing authorship and parody, I assigned Northanger Abbey.  This unit, which focused on a young Austen’s panache in imitation and humor, included a selection of scholarly essays on Austen in addition to readings from Oliver Goldsmith, Radcliffe, and the chapbook redaction of Radcliffe’s Udolpho, known as The Veiled Picture.  After studying Austen’s History of England as a response to and parody of Goldsmith’s voluminous History of England, students were ready to analyze Austen’s parody.


As I taught this novel to a group of highly engaged seniors, again I was struck by the impact of assigning Northanger Abbey at the start of the course.  It set the pace for a semester of curious and engaged inquisition not of a literary period as in my previous courses, but of Austen as a writer.  As in my period courses, Austen’s frankness and mockery of her heroine surprised students, but these traits made Austen seem appealing and contemporaneous to the students in the seminar.  I found in this class, as in my others, that reading Northanger Abbey debunked some students’ preconceived ideas of Austen as a pretentious killjoy.  To these students, Austen became spunky and cool.


For the first time in my teaching, I taught multiple Austen texts in the same course, and this interchange allowed students to see Austen within her own “period,” a term Favret has used to analyze Austen’s work.  In the context of her Austen’s oeuvre, the students and I traced a history of the author’s writing over her lifetime.  We focused on other authors’ writing styles and Austen’s imitation of them, and then on her development as “an author” in her own right, not simply an impersonator of literary modes.  We made no firm gesture to force Austen into a temporal framework, except to understand when her novels followed her contemporaries’ work chronologically, or when she revised and edited her own work.  During class conversations students did not focus on dates as they applied exclusively to literary periods, even though our discourse would occasionally invoke thematic concepts derived from literary periodization.  At its best moments, the course included the ideologies of multiple literary periods, yet moved beyond the limitations of periodization.


A study of Austen’s inspirations was certainly important to the course.  Students in the seminar were asking questions about the nature of authorship, history, the Gothic, and parody while still inquiring how Austen fit in with our course’s group of contemporaries—not the same group from my two previous courses, even though Burney and Radcliffe constituted overlap.  In each unit of the course a new set of contemporaries emerged.  In the Sense and Sensibility unit, her community consisted of More, Wollstonecraft, Adam Smith, and Jane West.  In the Mansfield Park unit, More, Wollstonecraft, Dr. John Gregory, Thomas Gisborne, and Elizabeth Inchbald were her cohort.  Inspired by this approach, one of my students chose to write her seminar paper on all of the assigned writing by Austen as the products of literary influences and traditions, rather than as stand-alone texts.  Another student, Cidney Mayes, made a compelling case for studying Northanger Abbey “in-between literary periods” because, as she put it, “Austen does not write for Romantic ideals nor does she write for the Neo-Classicist ideals.  Austen forges her own ‘period’ by responding to the novels of her past and present while paving the way for future authors.”18 


Rather than emphasizing Northanger Abbey’s thematic relations to a literary period, genre played a larger role in the unit.  Moreover, the first assignment required students to write a critical analysis of an Austen parody, or to write a parody of Austen, The History of England, or Northanger Abbey.  Students wrote short stories that developed critical overlap between many genres outside the purview of eighteenth-century or Romantic literature.  One student created a mini-graphic novel that hailed Austen as a masked avenger.  Others turned Northanger Abbey into a parody of the popular young-adult literature series Twilight, and yet another student wrote a defense, in the vein of Volume One, Chapter Five, of young-adult literature as “novels.”  Northanger Abbey suddenly became a crossover text that joined the distant British past with present popular American culture.


Northanger Abbey also functioned as a crossover text within the course as it showed Austen’s development as a writer.  Poised at the beginning of the semester, Northanger Abbey functioned as a starting point for Austen-the-would-be-novelist, not the work of the posthumous author of the famed Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park as the 1818 title page indicates.  After reading this novel as their first Austen novel in the course, or as one of her first novels, students used the text as a point of reference in later discussions of Austen as a mature novelist.  Eventually they came to see the narrator of Northanger Abbey as a fiery, even harsh, counterpart to Austen, whereas they found the authorial voice of Sense and Sensibility and then Mansfield Park to be quite less satirical and more reserved.  As a class we examined how this change manifested in part because of Austen’s increasing use of free indirect discourse.  In some respects, it seemed that these two versions of Austen were so different in some of my students’ opinions that they could have been seen as separate authors—perhaps even contemporaries of one another.  One of my students was so fascinated by Austen’s personas that he traced in his seminar paper the difference between what he called the “younger Austen,” who wrote Northanger Abbey, and “Aunt Jane,” author of Mansfield Park.


At the conclusion of the course, students could see how Northanger Abbey represented something important about Austen’s writing periods, not merely literary periods.  According to Abigail Hersom, a student who took both my Romantic course and the Austen seminar, the study of Northanger Abbey’s textual history became as important as an examination of character, genre, or period.19  When we read the novel as a sign of the author’s early work, rather than her later writing, we imagine a very different Austen—certainly a more satirical writer whose voice sounded more like the persona from The History of England than the narrator of Mansfield Park.  On the one hand, Northanger Abbey represented the work of a writer who revised the text many times but failed to see it published; on the other hand, it signified the culminating, even posthumous, work of an established author.  For my students, the novel became Austen’s own crossover text that reflected the progression of her career.  Northanger Abbey helped them examine Austen’s engagement with literary traditions, such as Gothic fiction, and the development of her narrative voice.


Northanger Abbey as literary potpourri


These three courses represent only a few of the many classes in which an instructor could teach Northanger Abbey.  At some point I hope to design a women’s literature course that features the novel or an English novel course that situates the text in relation to novels of the eighteenth through twenty-first centuries.  As one of my students even suggested, Northanger Abbey could be used as an example of genre and style in a creative writing class.  Regardless of the course, it is my hope that students and instructors will get more mileage out of examining Northanger Abbey in a variety of contexts.  It can be a great benefit for students to read the novel through diverse, yet complementary, frameworks, and it can be highly rewarding for instructors to teach this beloved novel through multiple interpretive lenses from semester to semester.  By opening up the study of Austen’s writings beyond a single moment, we can render what Wallace calls “more flexible and nuanced readings of works that might have been engaged more narrowly” (16).  In doing so, teachers and students can better understand Austen’s writings as responding to and contributing to “an amazing potpourri” of literary contexts (Miller 15).





Please see the syllabi for the courses discussed in this essay.





1. See J. Hillis Miller’s discussion of the “problematics of periodization” (14).  Much scholarship over the last fifty years has debated the limitations of periods.  See studies by Thomas Postlewait, Eric Hayot, Miriam Wallace, Clifton Cherpack, Louis O. Mink, Alastair Fowler, J. Hillis Miller, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Robert Rehder, Marshall Brown, and Micah Mattix.


2. I teach at a public liberal arts university, and my courses serve students who are majors or minors in English, secondary education in English, and creative writing.  My class sizes for upper-level courses range between fifteen and twenty students, and students may elect to take upper-level British literature courses to satisfy departmental distribution requirements or electives.


3. As Wallace explains, the essays in the collection “refuse an easy opposition between an eighteenth-century Enlightenment . . . and a Romantic ideology” (16).


4. I taught these courses in that order within four semesters.


5. Grundy indicates that attention to Austen’s humor and mockery classifies her as an Augustan writer.


6. The C18-L listserv can be found at


7. This periodization set by the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies can be found on the homepage at


8. The Longman Anthology of British Literature on the Restoration and the eighteenth century ends with Boswell’s writings on Swift and a few excerpts of novels written post-1750s.  The Norton establishes its period of Restoration and eighteenth-century literature as 1660-1785.


9. At my doctoral-granting institution, the early British literature survey ends the eighteenth century with Samuel Johnson; the next course begins with William Wordsworth.  The courses are titled, “Beowulf through Johnson” and “Wordsworth to the Present.”


10. Some Austen scholars are unwilling to situate her as “eighteenth century” in the periodization spectrum.  While Michael Giffin states that “Austen belongs to a ‘long eighteenth century’ that stretched from the Restoration (1660) to the end of the Georgian period (1830),” he ultimately argues that we should read Austen in a “Georgian context.”  Contrary to mid-twentieth-century critics, such as Ian Watt and F. R. Leavis, Clara Tuite makes an anti-Augustan argument on the basis that such a label (Augustan or Neoclassical) is a post-Romantic fabrication.


11. See Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel, which discusses the eighteenth-century origins of the English novel.


12. Tuite uses this term disparagingly to group Northanger Abbey with Austen’s “overread” novels, Pride and Prejudice and Emma (21).


13. As defined by the Norton, the Romantic period covers the years 1785-1830, and the Longman provides readings from the 1790s through the 1830s.  Many scholarly books include in their titles the dates of the Revolution and the Reform Bill; as examples, see Gary Dyer’s British Satire and the Politics of Style, 1789-1832 and John C. Whale’s Imagination under Pressure, 1789-1832.


14. Tuite specifically contextualizes Austen as responding to Romantic literary traditions and culture.  Like Tuite, many scholars define Austen as a “Romantic” writer; examples include foundational studies by Clifford Siskin and Marilyn Butler.  It is worth noting, however, that Siskin prefers the term “norm” over “period” to describe Romanticism, and Butler complicates the period of Romanticism in Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries by hearkening back to 1760 and invoking the “neo-classical.”  Other scholars, such as Roger Sales and Marilyn Francus, specifically cast Austen as a “Regency” writer, thereby like Giffin associating her with political culture.


15. Wallace also joins in the conversation.  She asserts that “claiming prose fiction produced in these years as ‘Romantic’ raises as many questions as it answers,” and she asks, “is Romanticism merely a period of designation or does it indicate some set of criteria by which we might so identify some prose narratives and exclude others?” (8).


16. Of note:  a handful of my students were enrolled in my colleague’s course on Gothic literature that included full-length versions of many of these texts.


17. Siskin’s chapter on Austen pairs a reading of Wordsworth’s Prelude with Northanger Abbey.


18. This comment comes from a questionnaire that I distributed to students outside of class.


19. The student indicated this sentiment on the questionnaire.



Works Cited


Brown, Marshall.  “Periods and Resistances.”  Modern Language Quarterly 62.4 (Dec. 2001): 309-16.

Butler, Marilyn.  Jane Austen and the War of Ideas.  Oxford: Clarendon, 1975.

_____.  Romantics, Rebels, and Reactionaries: English Literature and Its Background, 1760-1830.  New York: Oxford UP, 1982.

Cherpack, Clifton.  “The Literary Periodization of Eighteenth-Century France.”  PMLA 84.2 (Mar. 1969): 321-27.

Damrosch, David, Kevin J. H. Dettmar, Susan J. Wolfson, and Peter J. Manning, eds.  The Longman Anthology of British Literature, Volume 2A: The Romantics and Their Contemporaries.  5th ed.  New York: Longman, 2012.

Damrosch, David, Kevin J. H. Dettmar, and Stuart Sherman, eds.  The Longman Anthology of British Literature, Vol. 1C: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century.  4th ed.  New York: Pearson, 2010.

Dyer, Gary.  British Satire and the Politics of Style, 1789-1832.  Cambridge: CUP, 1997.

Favret, Mary A.  “Jane Austen’s Periods.”  Novel: A Forum on Fiction 42.3 (2009): 373-79.

Fowler, Alastair.  “Periodization and Interart Analogies.”  New Literary History 3.3 (1972): 487-509.

Francus, Marilyn.  “Austen Therapy: Pride and Prejudice and Popular Culture.”  Persuasions On-Line 30.2 (Spr. 2010).

Giffin, Michael.  “Jane Austen and Religion: Salvation and Society in Georgian England.”  Persuasions On-Line 23.1 (Win. 2002).

Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar.  “‘But Oh! That Deep Romantic Chasm’: The Engendering of Periodization.”  Kenyon Review 13.3 (Sum. 1991): 74-81.

Greenblatt, Stephen, Carol T. Christ, Alfred David, et al., eds.  The Norton Anthology of English Literature, The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century, Vol. C.  9th ed.  New York: Norton, 2012.

_____.  The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. D: The Romantic Period.  9th ed.  New York: Norton, 2012.

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Whale, John C.  Imagination under Pressure, 1789-1832: Aesthetics, Politics, and Utility.  Cambridge: CUP, 2000.


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