Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

William H. Scheuerle, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Marty Gould, Ph.D.

Keywords

Liminal, Myth, Jung, Psyche, Feminist

Abstract

I am interested in the construction and meaning of space in Charlotte Brontë 's novels, and more specifically the idea of enclosure, in abstract and concrete terms. In a concrete sense, I wish to investigate the physical spaces the women in Charlotte Brontë 's novels inhabit: their homes, gardens, workplaces, clothing, and their bodies. In an abstract sense, I wish to investigate the cultural, psychic, gender, and linguistic spaces they inhabit: the cultural images and conventions women are enclosed within, the psychic space of the mind, and the narrative spaces they inhabit (and create). Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, in their seminal text The Madwoman in the Attic, focus on the patriarchal enclosure of female characters in Victorian texts. As many Feminist critics of nineteenth century literature have noted (Vicinus, Agress, Auerbach), these enclosures are largely controlled by the patriarchy.

Indeed, the protagonists of Charlotte Brontë's novels reflect the entrapment of the feminine protagonists in a patriarchal world. However, focus on this entrapment obscures the power that characters like Lucy Snowe, Jane Eyre, Shirley Keeldar, and Caroline Helstone generate from their enclosure experience. Each enclosure these three characters experiences fuels their education. Lucy, Jane, Shirley, and Caroline generate power and transformation of self from their time spent in these various enclosures. The education of these characters becomes the education for real women. In order to reclaim and reaffirm the value of enclosure for women, one may trace the positive notions of enclosure through the Jungian model of a three-stage gestation of women's rites of passage: enclosure, transformation, and emergence, as proposed by Bruce Lincoln. This gestational process results in psychological and spiritual transformation.

All four protagonists participate in many cycles of the gestational pattern on micro and macro levels. This process results in their eventual transformation and emergence as wise women. It is vital to re-interpret the psychic and physical enclosures within Villette, Shirley and Jane Eyre as spaces that shape the identity of Lucy Snowe, Caroline Helstone, Shirley Keeldar, and Jane Eyre.

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