Austen's Northanger Abbey and Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner

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The Uncanny Works of Austen's Northanger Abbey and Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner


In order to discuss the literature of the uncanny we must first be able to define "uncanny", and trying to grasp a firm understanding of the term "uncanny" is problematic; since as accepted reference works such as the Oxford English Dictionary filter down into popular culture the meaning subtly alters, or becomes drawn towards only one aspect of what was originally a much broader definition. To illustrate this, the Oxford Complete Wordfinder, Reader's Digest (1999), defines: "uncanny adj. seemingly supernatural; mysterious * see EERIE" and my word-processor contributes:

meanings for "uncanny" : weird; "Of a mysteriously strange and
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Certain types of literature obviously lend themselves to this task far more than others.

Jane Austen responds to this by hypothesising the stereotypical readers' response to the gothic milieu, and having her heroine's expectations explained away in a rational manner (the closed casket, the mysterious old parchment, and so forth.) This tradition continues to a more purposeful effect in such modern uncanny drama as television's The X Files, in which a blend of rational explanation and genuinely inexplicable phenomena are presented in such a way that the viewer cannot accurately predict which is necessarily the case at any given point in the plot line. Austen's Northanger Abbey makes use of a primitive form of this; despite being an early novel in her career, there are 'genuine' gothic elements presented in between the sections of the text in which Catherine's suspicions are debunked. General…

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