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The Brontë attachment novels: An examination of the development of proto-attachment narratives in the nineteenth century
by McNierney, James, M.A.
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 2016
John Bowlby’s work on attachment theory in the 1960s altered the cultural understanding of parent-child relationships. Bowlby argued that the ability for an individual to form attachments later in life, be that familial, romantic, or friendship is affected by whether or not that individual formed a strong attachment to a primary caregiver in early childhood. My thesis uses Bowlby’s theory as a critical lens to examine three novels by the Brontës: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. I use this theory in order to demonstrate that these novels are what I have termed proto-attachment narratives, which is to say narratives about attachment before formal attachment theory existed, and, further, that they work to bridge the gap between the contemporary nineteenth-century debate on child rearing and Bowlby’s theory. In addition, I discuss how each of these novels exemplifies, complicates, and expands upon Bowlby’s theory in its own way. Wuthering Heights demonstrates the cyclical nature of damaged attachments and works to find a way to break from that cycle. Jane Eyre gives a clear understanding of an individual’s lifelong struggle with failed attachments and the importance of a balanced power dynamic to forming healthy attachments, and, finally, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall examines how even properly formed, healthy parent-child attachments can lead to development problems, if the power granted to those parental attachment figure is not used responsibly. I further theorize that we can use these novels as a starting point to discuss how we might define attachment narratives as a genre, as they hold many similarities with more clearly defined modern attachment narratives.
Monstrosity, madness, and marriage in Victorian literature: The Brontë novels---"Jane Eyre", "Wuthering Heights", and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall"
by Nikravesh, Negeen Natalie, M.A.,
San Diego State University, 2016
This thesis examines the element of monstrosity in the novels of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, and the ways in which unconventional female characters pose a threat to patriarchal society. While Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights move along a monster/angel binary based on stereotypes of femininity in the Victorian era, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall manages to overcome this need for categorization and establish a more authentic female character as heroine. The two former novels depict the repercussions of marital confinement for the monstrous characters of Bertha Mason and Catherine Earnshaw in their inability to encompass the angelic ideal and ultimately function as sacrificial characters, allowing Jane Eyre and Catherine Linton to successfully navigate patriarchal society and avoid the repercussions of monstrosity. Therefore, the madwomen of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights pay the price of monstrosity but their sufferings are redeemed by the happy marriages of the younger heroines. In this way, the two eldest Brontë sisters rebel against the angelic ideal of Victorian women and pave the way for the youngest sister, Anne Brontë, to create a real female character without the need to categorize her as either an angelic or monstrous woman. Although The Tenant of Wildfell Hall also forces suffering on a female character, she is able to escape her imprisonment and find happiness in her own lifetime rather than a delayed redemption on a younger heroine. Therefore, Charlotte and Emily Brontë destroy the imposing angel and monster figures, enabling Anne Brontë to overlook this binary and bring to life Helen Huntington—neither an angel nor a monster, but a free-willed woman. Through this rebellious destruction of the monster/angel binary, the Brontë sisters broke formal boundaries and radically revised traditional novels.
Harlots, Hussies, and Merciless Mothers: An Examination of Female Foils in Anne Brontë's Novels
by Minicozzi, Julie A., M.A.,
The William Paterson University of New Jersey, 2016
Feminist criticism of literature centers on several primary aspects, including analyzing portrayals of patriarchal oppression, examining how relationships between women and men are depicted in literature written by women and literature written by men, and discussing women’s attempts to change societal norms and perceptions through literary offerings. While these aspects are clearly worthy of focus, there is an additional critical component to achieving a comprehensive analysis: evaluating how relationships between women and women are depicted. This thesis examines Anne Brontë’s novels Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall through a feminist theoretical approach, with specific focus on Brontë’s depictions of the female foils in the novels. The analysis centers on discovering how these depictions emulate and foster patriarchal norms within the Victorian era, while simultaneously and subconsciously exposing the inequality of the norms. The discussion includes textual references and comparisons, as well as support from recently published literary criticism. This critical focus fills a perceptible gap within recent analysis of Brontë’s oeuvre.