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Title: Giving good advice : Anne Brontë's rational feminism
Author: Le Veness, Kristin A.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3606 4370
Awarding Body: University of Buckingham
Current Institution: University of Buckingham
Date of Award: 2004
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This reexamination of Anne Brontë's novels and her critical legacy uncovers a new framework by which to understand both the novelist and her novels. The core of this new interpretation is Brontë's debt to a rational feminist tradition and the unique manner in which she uses education and advice to relay this radical, feminist message. Brontë's fiction connects advice and education in order to address the inequities of patriarchal power and the idealization of female domesticity. Her novels critique patriarchal privilege and the way it damages women and even men. I have organized this thesis into three sections. The first, covering the first three chapters, places the author and her ideas within a larger historical perspective. Chapter One delineates Brontë's critical legacy, addressing in particular the origins of many misunderstandings and misassumptions assigned to her both from her elder sister's commentary and from the larger critical community. It also tracks the development of the field by identifying three distinct waves of Anne Brontë scholarship, and suggests other avenues to improve the overall understanding of this neglected and misunderstood writer. Chapter Two considers the context of Brontë's era by considering the social milieu and historical events that are repeated in the themes of her novels. It explores in particular the educational, legal and social aspects of early Victorian women's lives and provides a backdrop for Brontë's fiction, her methods, and her message. Lastly, Chapter Three recounts Brontë's personal history, focusing specifically on her sibling relationships and religious convictions as influencing her unique rational perspective, emphasizing the origins of Brontë's independence and literary talents. The second section of this study surveys possible influences for the themes and circumstances presented in the two novels. Chapter Four begins by reviewing the author's childhood with a specific focus on her education and available readings. The chapter also views contemporary social scandals as a resource for the realism of Brontë's novels. Chapter Five shifts the focus from social-historical occurrences to the influence of rational feminism and the ideas found in both eighteenth century and contemporary writings. Centered on rational feminist ideology, this chapter looks at the thematic and stylistic similarities between Brontë's works and other so-called feminist writings as well as those works written by women considered anti-feminist. In both of her novels, Brontë reproduces the inconsistencies inherent in the problematic position of women. She offers as a remedy a rationally based ideology that is conveyed through the advice and teachings of her characters. The final section of this study uses this new understanding to reevaluate her prose. Chapter Six places particular emphasis on Brontë's characterization of women and their traditional duties in Agnes Grey (1847). She critiques the roles of daughter, mother and governess, exposing the shortcomings of a system that limits women's authority, and proposes alternative female behavior. Chapter Seven continues the analysis of women's roles in The Tenant of Wild Fell Hall (1848) but turns to the more mature stages of female life. The voices of wives, mothers and female friends relate their own tales, and the reader receives intimate, first- hand accounts rather than through the filter of an observer such as the governess. Rational advice and the need for improved education thematically link these last chapters; however, Tenant benefits from a fuller, more mature vision of women's struggles within a restrictive system. Overall, both novels provide commentary and advice on contemporary social issues. Brontë resists sensationalism and instead works to expose problems in the prevailing social attitudes and expectations faced by women.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available