Jane Austen and Genre: Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and the Triumph of the Realistic Novel

Megan E. Hilands

This thesis was completed as part of the English Department's 2012 Honors Program. I am indebted to my adviser, Professor Goldberg, for all of his helpful comments, ideas, and general support.


This paper analyzes Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey in terms of genre. In particular, it examines the theatrical in Mansfield Park and the Gothic in Northanger Abbey. The production of Elizabeth Inchbald’s Lovers’ Vows and Catherine’s Gothic novel reading are key to the analysis of these genres. However, the use of subgenres goes far beyond the Bertrams’ production and Catherine’s books. Rather, the characters themselves adopt theatrical and Gothic characteristics throughout the novel. Furthermore, when these subgenres appear, they are presented in a manner that is harmful to the main characters. In this sense, Austen invokes the theatrical and the Gothic in order to underplay them, and in doing so, she validates the emerging realistic novel.