Date of Degree
N. John Hall
English Language and Literature
Through her writing, Charlotte Bronte takes issue both with the masculinist assumption of Romanticism and the limitations of the conventional woman's novel. Bronte was drawn to Romanticism for its elevation of subjectivity, the poet's creative imagination, and emotional intensity, as well as its representation of the questing spirit in pursuit of self-definition and transcendence. She also appreciated the Romantics' recognition of the limits of expression and the fields of interpretation opened up by the lack of fixity which is emphasized by Romantic irony. Yet, writing as a Romantic also presented an obstacle to Bronte as a woman writer, for the poets who shaped the literary movement wrote from a male perspective which excluded women from the center of the Romantic experience. Nevertheless, Bronte succeeded in synthesizing her Romanticism and her feminism, her individualistic spirit, and social conscience by infusing the Romantic spirit into the heroines of her novels.
Tracing the development of her writing by marking the progression from the juvenilia to the novels demonstrates that Bronte advances as both a Romantic and a woman writer. The key to this double advancement is the evolution of the Bronte heroine. Women in Bronte's novels are not the passive mirror image of the male found in Romantic poetry but a female version of the Romantic hero. Bronte's feminized Romanticism emerges over the course of her writing. She commences with the assumption maintained by the literary attitude of the early nineteenth century, that only a male voice could articulate a Romantic perspective. Though, from the outset, she adopts a male guise for writing, her female voice is heard through her heroines, and the female point of view becomes more pronounced with each succeeding work. Ultimately, Bronte's Romanticism and feminism merged in a synthesis that engendered a new range for the novel, as well as Romanticism.
Brown, Ariella Bechhofer, "(En)gendering Romanticism: A Study of Charlotte Bronte's Novels" (1996). CUNY Academic Works.