Want to start off with a quick personal note here – didn’t know parody was so central to Austen’s work. Enjoyed Northanger Abbey much more than I expected.
A couple of things really interest me about the work. One involves the indirectness of the novel,in the sense that it does an excellent job at conveying meaning without being reductionist. It entreats the complexities of the real and the romantic/the imagined. Although I believe the work can be seen as an attempt to dismantle the excesses of the Gothic genre, the way that fiction becomes just as much a part of the “real” (because it is a novel, after all) world of Northanger Abbey is really provocative. The lines are blurred, there is no clear-cut binary. In fact, it presents an intriguing “other side” to the same coin – the “real” world that Austen tries to capture in this novel is exactly that, in a novel, in a fictional work. The real is a part of the fictional just as the fictional (lies, stories, reveries, novels, perhaps even the whole notion of a high society) is part of the real in the world of Northanger Abbey.
I realize that I’ve gone on about the real and the unreal/imagined/fictional at length before, and also that Austen is addressing a very complex notion of a “romanticized” or “gothicized” unreal. I’ll try to work out these kinks in the next few days.
I don’t see it as much of a stretch to draw comparisons between Shaun of the Dead and Austen’s work, as many I have talked to have suggested. This might interest folks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pride_and_Prejudice_and_Zombies. Parody is parody, and parody is great, no matter the era. Shaun of the Dead, as an exceptionally clever and enjoyable movie, manages to say as much about the monogamy and dullness of daily life as Northanger Abbey. In fact, I think it’s important to remark that the film finishes more or less where it started – with Shaun sitting on the couch and leading an exceptionally simple and meaningless life – only this time, he’s with a girl. The world has changed around him, but he hasn’t changed all that much.