Saturday, May 30, 2020

Saturday, May 30, 2020 2:00 am by M. in    No comments
A recent MA thesis:
“Is [he] a man? If so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil?”: The Influence of Culture Versus Experience on the Brontë Sisters’ Perception of Mental Illness
Catrina May Mehltretter
Liberty University, April 2020

Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë each presented a different perspective on mental illness within their novels. The primary reason for this difference in perspective can be found in their different responses to their brother Branwell’s poor mental state. As Branwell’s health deteriorated mentally and physically, his sisters ended up becoming his primary caregivers, giving them a unique insight into mental illness that would have been unusual for the time period, given the tendency to send any mentally ill family members away to asylums. Still, this shared experience impacted each of the sisters differently, likely due to the different relationship each of them had with their brother as well as the way they responded to the cultural influences, which then affected the way they portrayed mental illness in their novels: Charlotte, though once the closest to Branwell, held an outdated, unfavorable opinion of mental illness, presenting those afflicted as animalistic in nature in her fiction; Anne took a more religious approach, viewing addiction as a result of a fallen moral state; whereas Emily showed the humanity of the mentally ill and the reasons behind their mental deterioration, all while maintaining hope for rehabilitation.
And an English Honors thesis:
A World Ruled By Unknowns: The Psychological Effects of the Supernatural and Natural Worlds in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights
Jordan Cymrot
City University of New York

Emily Brontë (1818-1848) wrote Wuthering Heights in 1847 at a point of collision between Romantic thought and Victorian ideals. Her novel exemplifies a developed and deliberate effort to represent a world ruled by forces out of one’s control, the most evident example of this being the supernatural force that overtakes the novel. In her precise focus on the language and natural landscape that bind this novel together, her characters emerge as representative of the psychological complexity produced by the coexistence of the mundane and the extraordinary. My thesis focuses on the effects of the natural landscape and the forces that at times control it, but I also look at the psychological effects that these forces have on, in particular, the novel’s two main characters: Cathy and Heathcliff. Emily Brontë immersed these two characters in the natural world, highlighting their triumphs and tumultuous love. In better understanding this connection, I first look at the power behind nature, the supernatural forces governed by a Romantic aesthetic concept known as the sublime. After situating this novel in its literary historical context, I continue to move my analysis closer to the characters,  ooking specifically at Cathy and Heathcliff and showing both their individual and shared relationships with the natural world and the supernatural. I conclude in my last chapter of this thesis by returning to nature, revealing it to be a character as well. Overall, I read Brontë’s only novel as both grounded in its historical context (in its perpetuation of Romantic ideals and aesthetics) and forward-thinking in its imagining of new possibilities for engaging with the world.


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