From Her Head: Finding the Romantic Genius in Jane Eyre Público

Pavleszek, Margaret (Spring 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/9z902z875?locale=es
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Abstract

When Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre was published in 1847, the full title was Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, edited by Currer Bell. Due to the date of its publication and the literary atmosphere in which Charlotte Brontë cultivated her creative sensibilities, the novel is positioned between the lyric poetry of the Romantic era and the rise of the realist novel of the Victorian era. Though the novel is most often studied in the context of the Victorian Gothic novel and the Victorian realist novel, treating the novel as a Romantic autobiography, like William Wordsworth’s The Prelude, by the character of Jane Rochester, rather than Jane Eyre, is all but nonexistent in the rich critical landscape surrounding the novel. Charlotte Brontë was very familiar with the conventions and interests of Romanticism of the elevation and exploration of the self, specifically that of the poet. Ultimately, by exploring both the history of the Romantic era and the exploration of the concept of genius by the poets William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Lord Byron, and by exploring young Jane’s portrayal of her own subjectivity through her visual artwork, the embodiment of Jane’s genius is Jane Rochester’s composition of her autobiography. In creating a character who explores her own genius in the form of a Romantic autobiography, Charlotte Brontë creates a character who creates herself as the subject of a Romantic work, rather than allowing herself to be the object of a male narrative voice. By examining this novel as a Romantic autobiography, this project aims to prove Brontë’s creation of the Romantic female genius in the character of Jane Rochester.

Table of Contents

Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………..1

Chapter One……………………………………………………………………………………...11

            Brontë and the Gothic Novel…………………………………………………………….14

            The Governess and Her Rise to Prominence…………………………………………….16

            The Roots of Charlotte Brontë’s Romanticism………………………………………….17

            Wordsworth, the Function of the Autobiography, and the Poet…………………………20

            Coleridge and the Imagination…………………………………………………………...25

            The Byronic Hero and the Mad Genius………………………………………………….29

Chapter Two……………………………………………………………………………………...33

            The Function of Visual Art in Romanticism……………………………………………..33

            Charlotte Brontë and Female Accomplishment………………………………………….35

            Jane Eyre and the Life of the Artist……………………………………………………...36

            Beyond Accomplishment………………………………………………………………...44

            “That head that I see now on your shoulders?”………………………………………….46

            The Question of Genius in the Company of Other Women……………………………..55

            The Portrait of the Genius……………………………………………………………….60

Chapter Three……………………………………………………………………………………62

            Elevation of the Individual………………………………………………………………63

            Subjectivity in the Women’s Autobiography……………………………………………66

            The Romantic Autobiography……………………………………………………………68

            The Subgenres of Autobiography in Jane Eyre………………………………………….69

            Reading Jane Eyre as an Autobiography………………………………………………...71

            The Issue of the Androgynous Mind…………………………………………………….80

            The Genius at Ferndean………………………………………………………………….85

Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………………….89

Works Cited……………………………………………………………………………………...92

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