Subjectivity and haunting in the fiction of Charlotte Bronte
This thesis offers an exploration of subjectivity in the work of Charlotte
Bronte, and conceives of her unique subjective voice in terms of the
ghostly. This particular vision of subjectivity is characterized by certain
moments of intensity in the fiction, in which very powerful emotions such
as grief and loss are figured as a type of psychical haunting. It therefore
seeks a new understanding of self-representation in Bronte's first-person
novels, through a poetics of haunting and spectrality. These moments of
psychic intensity will be analysed partly through the use of certain key
psychoanalytic models, such as Freud's 'The Uncanny' and Abraham and
Torok's theories of secrecy and 'hiding' in texts, and through the 'spectral'
as it is explained by Terry Castle in The Female Thermometer.
Beginning with a discussion of 'Charlotte Bronte's Gothic,' it
demonstrates that psychical haunting creates a kind of gothic mode in
Villette, one that underlies the ideas in the proceeding chapters. The
spectral is then examined in Bronte's novels as a function of pseudoscientific
readings that often involve looking or 'seeing'. The subject in
this case is positioned as an observer, and demonstrates how seeing can
often be a kind of hallucination or even a form of ghost-seeing.
Additionally, subjectivity will be analysed in relation to letters in the
novels-texts that have a highly personal yet ambiguous role. They often
become symbols of the intense emotion that are integral to Bronte's
subjective voice. This intensity will be mapped out in the final chapter
through its recurrence in the work of various poets from the nineteenth
century to the nineteen-seventies. In these works Bronte is a troublesome
ghost or presence that, despite their efforts to contain, is haunting in its
evocation of the difficulties of responding to, or of representing,
subjectivity in literature.