‘The Madman out of The Attic’ Gendered Madness in Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Villette, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
AbstractThe nineteenth-century ‘madwoman’ is critically established, but not always contentiously questioned or repudiated, within Brontë scholarship. This dissertation will therefore explore the possibility that the quintessentially ‘mad’ female can be replaced by the heavily flawed, and often equally ‘mad’ man, who continuously controls and represses her. Through a diachronic analysis of Bertha Mason and Lucy Snowe in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Villette, Catherine Earnshaw in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Helen Graham in Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, this project will demonstrate how and why the middleclass, ‘sane’ and respectable man can be met with character divergences and vices of his own. This undermines his credibility as a ‘doctor’ or a dictator in his treatment of women, which in turn vindicates and questions the validity and the ultimate cause of female ‘madness’ in the first instance. Chapters One and Two will trace Bertha and Catherine’s respective downfalls to death through ‘madness’, and their connecting relationships with both Rochester and Edgar. Chapter Three will examine how Lucy does manage to survive her mistreatment; yet, she is left without purpose or a definitive identity of her own as a result. In contrast to the preceding chapters, Chapter Four will inverse and redeem the trends of the nineteenth-century woman, ones which so heavily affected Bertha, Catherine and Lucy, as Helen survives her unfavourable experience. While Bertha, Catherine and Lucy react and succumb to their patriarchal repression in different ways, only Anne Brontë offers a solution to the polemical issues which all three authors raise. As she emancipates her heroine Helen, in contrast to repressing her further, she negotiates how an alternative and a more optimistic fate potentially awaits women who are entrapped within the rigid patriarchal systems of nineteenth-century literature and culture.
CitationBury, H, J. (2019). ‘The Madman out of The Attic’ Gendered Madness in Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Villette, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Masters dissertation). University of Chester, UK.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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