Authenticity in Northanger Abbey Essay

Authenticity in Northanger Abbey Essay

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Northanger Abbey:  Authenticity       


 In what is for Jane Austen an uncharacteristically direct intervention, the narrator of Northanger Abbey remarks near the end: "The anxiety, which in the state of their attachment must be the portion of Henry and Catherine, and of all who loved either, as to its final event, can hardly extend, I fear, to the bosom of my readers, who will see in the tell-tale compression of the pages before them, that we are all hastening together to perfect felicity."

As far as I know this is the only overt reference Austen ever makes to the material nature of her medium, and the relationship of that materiality to generic conventions. She might as well have said "This is a romantic comedy I'm writing" as announce that the happy-ending conclusion was foregone. In terms of audience reception -- surprise, suspense, narrative deferral -- the advantage of writing film scripts (as distinct from TV, whose audience can tell when the end is nigh simply by looking at its collective watch) is that there is no 'tell-tale compression of pages'; your viewers don't know when the end is coming. If you're writing scripts for, say, Blue Heelers, you make them forty-eight minutes long and no mucking about, and the imminence of narrative closure is obvious to everybody. The advantage of being a novelist is that you can decide where you want to stop.

One of the biggest differences between Austen's novels and their current screen versions -- two of which were written for TV -- is that Emma Thompson's screenplay for Sense and Sensibility, Nick Dear's for Persuasion and Andrew Davies' for Pride and Prejudice -- unlike all of the originals -- were circumscribed first and last by material constraints

For the si...


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...als, journalists and fans in period costumes (mostly about forty years out, the ubiquitous crinoline doing duty as a blanket signifier of historical dress-ups) arrived at the gates of the MCG in variously anachronistic horse-drawn vehicles and vintage cars with Coke logos on them. But just how deep and wide the late twentieth century's nostalgia for authenticity really goes, and just how problematic and paradoxical a notion it has become in its tendency to make us forget history rather than remember it was demonstrated in Tasmania on the afternoon of Sunday April 28, when many of the tourists at Port Arthur mistook present reality for a harmless facsimile of a deadly past -- 'one of those re-enactment things' -- and began hurrying towards the gunshots, instead of away.

Works Cited:

Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. Ed. Claire Grogan. New York: Broadview, 2002.

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