Degree Granting Department
Pat Rogers, Ph.D.
Fairies, Folklore, Ghosts, Gothic literature, Nineteenth-century
The Victorians obsessed over the supernatural and this fascination with the otherworldly emerges in the literature of the day. With this thesis, I look at two nineteenth century novels that exhibit supernatural phenomena: Charlotte Brontë's Villette (1853) and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847). Both novels, I propose, utilize this aspect of the gothic tradition to enhance their characters' psychological realism. With Villette, I examine the supernatural as a fabricated experience. First, I study the protagonist's psyche and show how her emotional state directly contributes to the appearance of fantastic material. Specifically, I examine Lucy Snowe's childhood experiences in Bretton and then look at her continuing emotional isolation at the boarding school in Villette. I then illustrate how Lucy compensates for this loneliness by transforming the identities of her acquaintances and by often embellishing her own experiences. Following this, I examine her response to an external phenomenon, the ghostly nun. I argue that as Lucy discovers emotional fulfillment via her relationship with Paul Emanuel, she grows increasingly skeptical of the nun. This skepticism climaxes in a scene of violence, after which Lucy successfully denies the existence of the otherworldly. With Wuthering Heights, I examine the supernatural as a genuine phenomenon. To begin, I analyze two significant scenes which frame the main narrative: Lockwood's dream and Heathcliff's death. Both events, I subsequently demonstrate, are instances of supernatural interaction with the real world. Finally, I examine the spiritual and occult beliefs of the lovers, Catherine and Heathcliff. I then show how their ideology influences their decisions and, ultimately, brings about their reunion in the afterlife.
Scholar Commons Citation
Sidell, Crystal, "Victorian perspectives on the supernatural: The imaginary versus the real in two Brontë novels" (2008). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.