Saturday, May 22, 2021

Saturday, May 22, 2021 1:00 am by M. in ,    No comments
A new essay on the Brontë-Heger letters just published:
by Michelle Garcia 
Philologia, 13(1), pp.4–12. DOI: http://doi.org/10.21061/ph.246

Out of many, only four Brontë-Heger letters have survived the test of time, all of them one-sided. Since these unfortunate gaps cannot possibly fill themselves, speculation has largely taken over the scholarship surrounding this complex relationship. Claire Harman, Sally Shuttleworth, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Margaret Smith are only a few exceptional scholars who have explored the contemporary obsession with this relationship. The intertextual discourse largely focuses on Charlotte Brontë as a hopeless romantic, an infatuated mentee struck down by first love—the judgment sometimes extending so far as to deem her a Victorian madwoman.
In this essay, however, I will be arguing that the intellectual relationship between Heger and Brontë is far more important to analyze than the romantic, as it gives us a justifiable reason to delve into the intimate contents of the letters. For a purpose other than gratifying curiosity regarding Brontë’s private life, perusing the letters offers a fresh perspective to assess her fictional works. In a sense, her novels are given new life through the act of reimagining how and why she made certain literary decisions. What catalyzed Jane Eyre? In this case, who?
Constantin Héger directly influenced Brontë’s empowerment as a female novelist, her urgency to improve, and dedication to the art of storytelling. “Her essays bid for his professional attention, a point too frequently missed by critics who treat her attachment to Héger as a romance rather than a writer’s connection,” mirrors Sue Lonoff in her study of Brontë’s Belgian devoir essays (Lonoff 391). As a firm believer that personal writings often hold invaluable resources to enable the reader to distinguish the artist from their art, I intend to explore this further.
In this paper, I examine the letters chronologically, approaching them with much more than merely romance in mind, but the sentiments of a woman who was once taken seriously by an intellectual counterpart, embittered by the sudden deprivation of it.

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