Monday, July 05, 2021

Monday, July 05, 2021 2:40 am by M. in    No comments

 A review and a Senior Honors Thesis

Shawna Ross. Charlotte Brontë at the Anthropocene. Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century Series. Albany: State University Press of New York. 2020
Review by Elizabeth Hope Chang
Journal of British Studies , Volume 60 , Issue 3 , July 2021 , pp. 760 - 762

This project examines the use of female insanity and anger in narrative fiction, as demonstrated by the character of the madwoman. Madness is a concept that has long been gendered female throughout Western history, in medicine, language, religion, and culture. Socially and culturally constructed madness can be used to determine the boundaries of society, the norms and values from which “madness” deviates, while the character of the madwoman can be used to demonstrate how women have challenged these boundaries and how the roles of women and definitions of femininity have changed over time. This study analyzes the madwoman trope from its origins in etiological myths—situating women as dangerous, irrational, and subordinate to men—through modernity and the waves of feminism, as seen through the following works of narrative fiction: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Black Swan dir. Darren Aronofsky, and Midsommar dir. Ari Aster. This project builds upon previous feminist critiques and relevant scholarship on women and madness, examining ancient literature as well as modern works. Through specific examples in narrative fiction, I argue that the character of the madwoman illustrates the perceived boundaries of women in society in conjunction with the changing roles of women and definitions of femininity, with the use of female insanity and anger moving from a place of vilification to one of validation.

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