“Craving to be frightened”: Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw as a Sinister Parody of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey





Northanger Abbey, The Turn of the Screw, Sinister Parody, Quixotic Heroines, Moral Growth


This article seeks to argue that The Turn of the Screw is a sinister parody of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and of the female quixotic Bildungsroman. To sustain this claim, I will show that both Catherine and the governess are two burlesque and quixotic heroines who are deeply influenced by their extravagant fancies and their readings of romance. I will also explore their self-assumed role as heroic characters in search of cognitive certainty. And finally, I will argue that evil is intimately related to social and class conflicts in both narratives. Nevertheless, contrary to what happens in Northanger Abbey, in James’s parodic reworking of Austen’s novel, Gothic intrusions do not serve as a means of discipline for the governess’s overworked imagination and her potential story of marriage and social ascent is consequently foiled. The narrative’s refusal to educate the governess and its deviation from the female quixotic tradition links James’s novella to modernity.  


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How to Cite

Valero Redondo, M. (2023). “Craving to be frightened”: Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw as a Sinister Parody of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey . Miscelánea: A Journal of English and American Studies, 67, 71–90. https://doi.org/10.26754/ojs_misc/mj.20236417



ARTICLES: Literature, film and cultural studies

Funding data

Received 2022-02-12
Accepted 2023-04-14
Published 2023-06-30