Professor Janine Barchas's Essay Chosen as "Editor's Choice"
"Review of English Studies" selects "Mapping Northanger Abbey: Or, Why Austen’s Bath of 1803 Resembles Joyce’s Dublin of 1904"
Posted: May 3, 2010
The English Department congratulates Professor Janine Barchas, whose essay, "Mapping Northanger Abbey: Or, Why Austen’s Bath of 1803 Resembles Joyce’s Dublin of 1904," was selected by the Review of English Studies as an "Editor's Choice" piece and has subsequently been chosen as recommended reading for the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA).
Review of English Studies selected Professor Barchas's June 2009 essay for this honor, highlighting it as one of the four best articles in the journal in the past year. An essay from each historical period covered by the journal was selected, and a free download link to each article will be available on the Review of English Studies website for the next six months.
A peer-reviewed journal published by Oxford University Press, RES specializes in historically-informed literary criticism. RES is the leading scholarly journal of English literature and the English language from the earliest period to the present, with emphasis on historical scholarship rather than interpretative criticism, though fresh readings of authors and texts are also offered in light of newly discovered sources or new interpretation of known material.
"Mapping Northanger Abbey: Or, Why Austen’s Bath of 1803 Resembles Joyce’s Dublin of 1904"
Twin cases of mistaken identity activate the plot of Northanger Abbey. Escorted to Bath by a kindly Mr and Mrs Allen, the heroine promptly gets mistaken for the Allen heir. In turn, the Allens, a modestly-well-to-do country couple, are thought vastly rich. These catalysts for Austen's plot have never been investigated with an eye to an historical explanation, because being mistaken for an heiress neatly fits the Gothic model that Northanger Abbey decidedly spoofs. But Austen's fiction has an unacknowledged basis in historical fact, characteristically offering her peculiar brand of hyperrealism as a retort to the Gothic novel. In reality, Bath's largest private fortune, belonging to a genuine Mr and Mrs Allen, was in transition during precisely the years that Austen drafted her novel (Cassandra dated it to 1798 and 1799). The wealth amassed by Bath entrepreneur Ralph Allen (1693–1764), and held by a niece for over three decades, was just then reverting to obscure Allens living in the country. These historical circumstances warrant a fresh look at Northanger Abbey, where the many encoded references to Ralph Allen's architectural legacy reveal a historical specificity to Austen's method that rivals the cartographic exactitude of James Joyce.
The theme of the Jane Austen Society of North America's (JASNA) 2010 Annual General Meeting is “Jane Austen and The Abbey: Mystery, Mayhem, and Muslin in Portland.” JASNA member Janine Barchas’s groundbreaking essay is recommended reading in preparation for the AGM: see the Jane Austen Society of North America site [link]. The essay appeared last year in The Review of English Studies, a leading scholarly journal published by Oxford University Press, and has recently been selected by the editors of the journal for public release.
Dr. Barchas, who is on the English faculty of the University of Texas-Austin, will be a speaker at the Portland AGM. Her intriguing presentation is titled “The Real Bluebeard of Bath: A Historical Model for Northanger Abbey.” Essays by Dr. Barchas also appear in JASNA’s journal Persuasions Nos. 30 and 31.
The Jane Austen Society of North America is dedicated to the enjoyment and appreciation of Jane Austen and her writing. JASNA is a nonprofit organization staffed by volunteers, with approximately 4,000 members and over 60 regional groups in the United States and Canada. Its members, who are of all ages and from diverse walks of life, share an enjoyment of Austen’s fiction and the company of like-minded readers.
Janine Barchas is an Associate Professor who joined the Department of English at the University of Texas in 2002, after teaching in New Zealand for 5 years. In 2007-2008 she won the American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, and in 2005 was honored with the Alpha of Texas Award for Distinction in Teaching, awarded by the Phi Beta Kappa Society.