Laughing at Vampire Novels: Gothic Horror, Teen Girl Agency, and the Old and New Northanger Abbey

Suzanne Manizza Roszak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Although casual readers of Northanger Abbey often still interpret the novel as a straightforward parody of the Gothic, a range of critics have pinpointed the realistically Gothic horrors that do reside in Austen's narrative. This essay applies a similar lens to crime novelist Val McDermid's understudied and underappreciated retelling of Northanger Abbey, arguing that the new version of Austen's text employs the form of Gothic writing in which the most horrifying types of violence are gendered everyday injuries: experiences of gaslighting and denials of physical and verbal agency. Responding to reviewer criticism that has painted the new Northanger Abbey as pointlessly derivative, I also argue that McDermid innovates on Austen's original narrative by refiguring the novel's conclusion, giving her version of Catherine Morland an assertive voice with which to resist Gothic psychological violence. In this reimagined ending, the figure of General Tilney becomes defined by his anti-queer bigotry, highlighting the gothicism of pathological heteronormativity and the importance of intersectional approaches to feminist resistance. Grasping how McDermid's Gothic approach both echoes and innovates on the rich complexities of Austen's novel is key to recuperating this contemporary text.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)604-623
Number of pages20
JournalAnglia
Volume141
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28-Nov-2023

Keywords

  • agency
  • girlhood
  • Gothic horror
  • Jane Austen
  • retellings
  • Val McDermid

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