Who Were The Real Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell? - When the Bell brothers published their book of poetry ‘Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell‘ in 1846 it seemed to be an act of little significance, report...
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Finding freedom for Jane: A reading of subjugation, shame, and sympathy in Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre"
by Shaver, Rebecca, M.A.
Clemson University, 2016
In an investigation of Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Jane Eyre, Jane clearly desires liberty in the form of social belonging or freedom, and makes the active choice to pursue it, but finds that liberty is ultimately best won not by an antagonistic battle, but instead through subjugation by those of a higher class than herself. As a social inferior, the mere association with a higher-class family name (whether that is through employment, marriage, etc.) is enough to set Jane’s eye on the ultimate goal of total autonomous freedom through social climbing. Jane actively participates in subjugation as a means to elevate her state in society, evident through choices of language. This language ranges from inhuman equations to magical creatures to derogatory social labels, but functions in the same way throughout the novel. I assert that Jane is fully active in her pursuit of a place in society. It is paradoxically through assimilating to the language and culture of the higher classes and referring to herself as an inferior that Jane takes back her power. By acknowledging her inferiority through her language, either to herself or by participating in conversations with (or active silence toward) social superiors, Jane actively wrests conversation to her advantage.
The figure of the female traveller in Victorian fiction
by McNeely, Sarah, Ph.D.
Texas Christian University, 2016
This dissertation examines the figure of the female traveller in Victorian fiction. Using examples of travelling women from canonical novels of the Victorian era, including Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, this study identifies the gender implications of mobility in Victorian fiction.
This study defines the female traveller as a female protagonist or secondary character who undertakes a significant journey that holds importance in the overall narrative and where she steps out of her element in class, geography, or culture. The figure of the travelling woman in Victorian fiction is a signal that the text is doing important ideological work with regard to gender and mobility. The travelling woman disrupts two conventional tropes, masculine mobility and female stasis, and calls for a re-evaluation of the way we see and privilege mobility in the Victorian novel.
Humankindness: Illness, Animality, and the Limits of the Human in Victorian Fiction
by Cooper, Isabella Lucy, Ph.D.
University of Maryland, College Park, 2016
This project posits a link between representations of animals or animality and representations of illness in the Victorian novel, and examines the narrative uses and ideological consequences of such representations. Figurations of animality and illness in Victorian fiction have been examined extensively as distinct phenomena, but examining their connection allows for a more complex view of the role of sympathy in the Victorian novel. The commonplace in novel criticism is that Victorian authors, whether effectively or not, constructed their novels with a view to the expansion of sympathy. This dissertation intervenes in the discussion of the Victorian novel as a vehicle for sympathy by positing that texts and scenes in which representations of illness and animality are conjoined reveal where the novel draws the boundaries of the human, and the often surprising limits it sets on sympathetic feeling. In such moments, textual cues train or direct readerly sympathies in ways that suggest a particular definition of the human, but that direction of sympathy is not always towards an enlarged sympathy, or an enlarged definition of the human. There is an equally (and increasingly) powerful antipathetic impulse in many of these texts, which estranges readerly sympathy from putatively deviant, degenerate, or dangerous groups.
These two opposing impulses—the sympathetic and the antipathetic—often coexist in the same novel or even the same scene, creating an ideological and affective friction, and both draw on the same tropes of illness and animality. Examining the intersection of these different discourses—sympathy, illness, and animality-- in these novels reveals the way that major Victorian debates about human nature, evolution and degeneration, and moral responsibility shaped the novels of the era as vehicles for both antipathy and sympathy. Focusing on the novels of the Brontës and Thomas Hardy, this dissertation examines in depth the interconnected ways that representations of animals and animality and representations of illness function in the Victorian novel, as they allow authors to explore or redefine the boundary between the human and the non-human, the boundary between sympathy and antipathy, and the limits of sympathy itself.