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Still Life: Suspended Animation in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette
SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900
Volume 52, Number 4, Autumn 2012
This essay considers Charlotte Brontë’s Villette (1853) as an intervention in Victorian literature’s assumptions about individual consciousness and its alliance with moral perfectionism. While the art theory and psychology of the mid-nineteenth century stressed cultivating vigilance, Brontë’s novel focuses its claims about aesthetics in scenes of stillness, passivity, reverie, and trance. Recent critics understand Villette as using models of autonomous action that privilege either resistance or subjection to the politics of social life, but the novel’s alternative modes of attention suggest a model of embodied, affective experience irreducible to individual agency.
‘The Earth no Longer a Void’: Creation Theology in the Novels of Charlotte Brontë
Literature and Theology (2011) 25(3): 237-251
In Charlotte Brontë’s novels, the Eden myth represents both a fullness of experience from which the protagonist is separated by the Fall and the potential for recreation by an act of the secular will or the eschatological intervention of God. This article examines the use of Eden as an attempt to impose narrative closure and its disruption by eschatological texts that insist that such closure is achievable only by an act of the divine will. Eden provides imaginative space for the development of a feminine theology of creation embodied in the figure of Eve, but it is only in Villette that Brontë is able to construct an ending that liberates her protagonist from the structural archetype of Edenic return.