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Durham e-Theses
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(Un)Civilised Imaginations: The Brontës and Violence

FRANKLIN, SOPHIE,ROSE (2019) (Un)Civilised Imaginations: The Brontës and Violence. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 15 April 2022.

Abstract

Violence is often associated with Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontë’s writing, yet there remains no in-depth, sustained analysis of its nature, form, and significance in and of itself within their work. This thesis addresses this gap by foregrounding the violences of the Brontës’ writing and connecting their representations of violence to wider nineteenth-century conversations and attitudes. Far from being a straightforward or self-evident aspect of their poetry and prose, this thesis shows that violence is a prevalent, complex, and often transformational force within their writing, intersecting with historical and ongoing issues of language, gender, politics, religion, and the ethics of writing (about) violence.
Chapter One considers the language of violence in Emily Brontë’s selected poetry and Wuthering Heights (1847), and identifies the mediated, often unseen yet still pervasive nature of violence within her writing. Chapter Two situates Charlotte Brontë’s selected juvenilia and Shirley (1849) in relation to nineteenth-century articulations of political violence, including terrorism and questions of legitimacy. Chapter Three explores the frequently overlooked moment in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) when Rochester threatens Jane with rape, while also seeking to uncover – and, in the process, problematising the desire to uncover – seemingly implicit references to sexual and gendered violence in Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848). Chapter Four examines the use of biblical sources to sanctify acts of violence in Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey (1847), followed by an exploration of Charlotte Brontë’s representations of extreme psychological pain through biblical imagery in Villette (1853). The Afterword considers the legacy of violence in the Brontës’ cultural afterlives, identifying a shift in perceptions of the Brontës’ literary violences: from an integral force in the development of their work, but one from which they should be distanced, to a seemingly surprising aspect of their writing which should be reinstated and, even, celebrated.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:violence; Brontës
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Apr 2019 14:02

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