Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday, August 25, 2019 3:42 am by M. in ,    No comments
A couple of new Brontë-related scholar publications:
“Resolute, Wild, Free”: Women’s Leisure and Avian Ecologies in Jane Eyre
by Robyn Miller, Auburn University
Nineteenth Century Gender Studies, Issue 15.2 (Summer 2019)

Present within the women’s domain of the parlor as both darling pets and objects to be
collected, birds unsurprisingly migrated from the domestic sphere into Victorian women’s literature. Indeed, their presence within the latter served the ideological work of making domestic arrangements seem natural, often drawing upon natural history and socially accepted leisure activities to reinforce an idealized domesticity. Though many nineteenth-century texts widely use birds as a representation of domesticity, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is an especially rich site for examining avian ecologies in women’s leisure due to its innumerable references to Thomas Bewick’s A History of British Birds (1831), a natural history text. The connection between Jane Eyre and Bewick’s A History of British Birds has been widely discussed by past scholarship, though often with a focus on this intersection between natural history and fiction as symbolic. The bird imagery is primarily interpreted as a glimpse into Jane’s desire for freedom, Bertha Mason’s wildness, or Rochester’s raptor-like, controlling nature. While such scholarship is important, there has not yet been any analysis that explores how the inclusion of A History of British Birds speaks to natural history’s role within the rituals of nineteenth-century leisure and how natural history’s adaptation into leisure impacted biodiversity. When read with an ecocritical eye, Jane Eyre—and its abundant references to Thomas Bewick—provides insight into how the availability of natural history texts within the Victorian household reinforced both birds’ and women’s place within the domestic sphere, often at the cost of avian biodiversity. 
 "Father Figures in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Brontë's Perspective on Victorian Era Masculinity"
by King, Mary Grace
The Criterion: Vol. 2019 , Article 7

Anne Brontë presents two different depictions of fatherhood in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall that correspond to different expressions of masculinity. Anne Brontë comments on masculinity in the Victorian Era by presenting these different examples in the characters of Mr. Markham and Mr. Huntingdon as they interact with Arthur, Helen’s son. Both men display masculine traits as viewed by Victorian Era thought, but these traits vary between manly virtue (dignity and honesty) and manly vice (drinking and swearing). Furthermore, Brontë depicts patterns of abusive masculinity in the character Mr. Huntingdon in his interactions with Arthur as his biological father while also depicting nurturing behavior in Mr. Markham, despite such behavior being regarded as typically feminine. Mr. Markham shares no blood ties with Arthur, but his care for Helen includes his care for her son. Brontë illustrates how Mr. Markham’s relationship with Arthur is much more wholesome and beneficial to the boy than Mr. Huntingdon’s relationship with Arthur, insinuating that healthy fatherhood requires more than just typically masculine traits or biological relations. From all this, I glean that Brontë is commenting on Victorian Era family ideals alongside the ideals of masculinity. In the dynamics she creates between father figures and Arthur, Brontë shows how easy it is for the family structure, so idealized by her contemporary society, to be abused when male authority has free reign. But she also illustrates how it is possible to have a slightly less conventional family structure that, while looking quite different than most lauded family arrangements of the Victorian Era, actually works as well as (if not better than) the typical domestic ideal.

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