In Arts One, I ask two students per seminar meeting to come to class with questions for us to discuss. Since I was sick on Friday, they didn’t get to ask their questions in class. I decided to post them on my blog instead so others in the class could see them and possibly give comments (if they have time).
This week we talked about Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Edgar Wright’s film Shaun of the Dead. I wrote up some of my thoughts on these works in my previous post. Here are two sets of questions about Austen’s book.
First set of questions on Northanger Abbey
Northanger Abbey is basically a coming of age novel which revolves around the personal growth of Catherine. While, obviously, Austen intend to satirize the popular gothic novels of her time with this story, it is indisputable that the novel also examines several different themes, such as friendship and personal development.
My questions are:
1. How does Austen make us, the readers, empathize with characters in her novel, especially Catherine? In what ways are her experiences similar to what teenagers face nowadays?
2. How do Austen convey the growth of Catherine as a young woman? What literary techniques does she use to put forth this idea?
3. [An unrelated question, but one I find worth pondering on…] How effective is Northanger Abbey as a symbol? How does it relate to Austen’s intention to satirize gothic novels?
Second set of questions
-Most critics agree that Northanger Abbey has feminist undertones, but how effectively does she transmit her thesis? If so, what does the argument consist of?
-The book has characters that don’t fully comply with gender expectation of the time (Catherine initially being a tomboy and Henry having unusual knowledge of feminine things like clothing). What can perhaps be drawn from these characters? How does this shine light on the construction of gender in the society of her time, and of all societies?
-Given that the novel has a satirical nature, how can we infer what was Austen’s ideal constitution of a female? Is it like Catherine, or the opposite?
It would be great if students from my seminar group (or anyone else) could give some comments on one or more of these below, since we didn’t have class. But I also realize that it’s now Saturday, and a long weekend, so that may not happen…