restricted access Female Quixotism Refashioned: Northanger Abbey, the Engaged Reader, and the Woman Writer

This essay explores how Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (1817) posits the engaged but ultimately discerning woman reader as an ideal in response to the dominant ideology of the dangerously absorbed, anti-social female quixote. Intertextual play between commentary on novel reading in the emergent genre of fashion magazines, Charlotte Smith's Emmeline (1788), Henry James Pye's The Spectre (1789), and Austen's Catharine, or the Bower (written 1792) reveals a counter discourse in defense of women's novel reading. Austen deploys this discourse in Northanger Abbey, shifting focus away from reforming the heroine, to show how quixotism initiates socialization and subsequently functions both to enable and emancipate the increasingly overdetermined and intertwined categories of women's reading and women's writing.