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Jenkins, Keith A.
Charlotte Brontë's Atypical Typology
Peter Lang Publishers
Series: Studies in Nineteenth-Century British Literature - Volume 9
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2010.
We own we should be sorry to subject any child of ours to the teaching and insinuations of the mind here pictured; whose religion is without awe, -who despises and sets down every form and distinction she cannot understand,- who rejects all guides but her Bible, and at the same time constantly quotes and plays with its sacred pages, as though they had been given to the world for no better purpose than to point a witticism or furnish an ingenious illustration. (Anne Mozley, from an unsigned review of Villette, Christian Remembrancer, April 1853, n.s. XXV, 401-43, as reproduced in The Brontës. The Critical Heritage. Edited by Miriam Allott, Routledge, 1974)Keith A. Jenkins's Charlotte Brontë's Atypical Typology main purpose is, precisely, to demonstrate that Charlotte Brontë's use of the Bible was not a mark of witticism or an ingenious way to illustrate an idea or event but a conscious personal appropriation of the Scriptures which was based on a rather nonconformist approach to Classical Typology.
While I have identified what Charlotte Brontë does with biblical material in her novel as typology, it is atypical and differs greatly from the classical form of that hermeneutic system. I no true theological sense does she views Rochester as the antitype of Adam or Samson, nor Paul Emanuel as the antitype of Christ. As much as some readers and critics may wish to, we cannot view the biblical parallels in her fiction as testimony to her faith in the divinely ordained interconnectedness of all creation. Only by creating new ficitional antitypes for biblical characters and scenes in a way that replaces the old with the new, can Brontë adequately differentiate herself from the strong precursor text that looms over her and her culture. As she frees herself from the anxiety of the Bible's influence on her views and her voice, she can, at the same time, minimize the influence of the anxiety that the Bible and its male-dominated tradition of interpretation produce in her.The questioning of the traditional male-dominated scriptural interpretation is one of the pivots around which Keith A. Jenkins's strategy revolves, through the gender-reversed nature and further gender destabilization of many of the Bible quotes used by Charlotte Brontë. The other two strategies used for the analysis of the whole of the Brontë opus are the undemining of a providential (God-driven) view of history and finally, the translation of the otherwordly into his world (particularly the Garden of Eden imaginery which features prominently in Jane Eyre, for example). Of course, the author knows that an approach which follows such parameterised rules unavoidably incurs in overlappings and ignores other possible alternative partial strategies(4).
As has been shown there is not a great deal of evidence in the juvenilia about Charlotte's religious views, but what there is suggests orthodox.is, in our opinion, quite hasty although understandable taking into account the scope of the book. On the other hand, the study concentrates exclusively on fiction with no biographical information to trace meaningful resonances. We wonder what would happen, for instance, with the fiction/reality duet formed by Paul Emanuel / Constantin Heger when confronted to the Christ / Paul type-antitype. We know that this is going far beyond the secularised typological approach of the book but we are intrigued.