Date of Award

8-2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

English

Advisor

Manganelli, Kimberly

Committee Member

Chapman , Wayne

Committee Member

McGrath , Brian

Abstract

ABSTRACT
Although there has been a deafening critical silence regarding Charlotte Bront‘'s representation of Continental identity in Jane Eyre (1847), this thesis argues that the Continental identity, as it appears in Jane Eyre, is a collection of negative cultural traits stereotypical of the Latinate countries and Germany. By creating associations between characters that embody English national identity and those that are an emblem of Continental identity, Bront‘ de-legitimizes the notion of national identity. Furthermore, her novels, specifically Jane Eyre and Villette (1853) highlight the fact that both France and Germany, elements of the Continental identity, are a central presence in the culture and history of England. This thesis argues that the same Continental-English connection can be traced in Villette. In addition, Bront‘ gives new form to the Continental identity in Villette. Instead of it being an ubiquitous presence, Bront‘ presents it as a poisonous, cultural attitude that values the external observance of rules, laws, and liturgy over all things internal, like the cultivation of virtues. By drawing from numerous references to the Latinate cultures, and by comparing Bront‘'s two representations of the Continental identity and the overlap between these identities and certain characters, this thesis argues that Bront‘ builds a case against the notion of national identity, and more specifically against the notion of English identity as it is popularly conceived. Bront‘ serves to demonstrate that the creation of Continental identity and English identity is England's denial of its cultural constitution.

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