Sunday, May 24, 2020

Sunday, May 24, 2020 1:43 am by M. in ,    No comments
A couple of Brontë-related presentations at the (virtual) John Hopkins University Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium: 
Selling Out: The Market as Autonomy in Brontë's Jane Eyre
Zuzu Tadeushuk, Wesleyan University
2020 JHU Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium.306

This paper draws on the anthropological literature on gift economies to reconsider the way Charlotte Brontë imagines the possibilities for women's commercial mobility in Victorian England. Specifically, it examines the overlap of gift and commercial economies in "Jane Eyre," investigating Jane's reliance on commerce as the source of her independence. It is the commercial marketplace that first takes Jane from Lowood and places her at Thornfield as a governess, and which later enables her to live autonomously as a school mistress in Morton. Reviewing pivotal commercial scenes in the text--such as the bridal shopping spree that makes Jane "burn with annoyance" and Jane's distribution of her inheritance among the cousins she feels indebted to. I examine the ways that gifts and commodities blend in this novel, and suggest that Jane deftly manipulates their convergence in order to avoid being converted into a sort of bride-commodity herself. Jane is only able to surrender herself to the gift economy of marriage, I conclude, after her inheritance permanently establishes her as a commercial actor in her own right. Money, this novel uncynically affirms, is one of the few tools able to transcend social prejudice and constraint.
Weary Women: Victorian Women and the Navigation of Space-less-ness 
Emily Alexander
2020 JHU Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium. 326.

Literary critics often emphasize the importance of physical space and privacy in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret, and George Eliot's Middlemarch. Critic Liana F. Piehler argues private physical spaces serve as a sanctuary from the patriarchal structures of the novel, providing the female protagonist room to think clearly. New historical literary critics including Karen Chase, Michael Levenson, and Elizabeth Langland show how evolving dynamics within Victorian society led to a growing public interest in the secrets of the private sphere--the sphere where women reigned--penetrating even the most intimate spaces. Tracing a pattern of patriarchal infringements on women's private spaces within these novels, however, I argue the physical privacy each character finds is mere illusion. It is only when they enter the liminal psychological space created in the borders of sleep--the process of falling asleep or waking from--where protagonists can obtain a true privacy, process her circumstances, and escape oppressive structures pervading societal and literary spaces in the nineteenth century, that something like true privacy can be found.

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