Spring 2024

Posted in Course Information

ENGL 5932-01: 19C British Lit: The Brontes
Professor Nathan Hensley

Section Description:
This course will survey the work of the most famous literary family of all, the Brontës, and use the test case of this literary ensemble to ask questions about collaborative authorship, historical interpretation, and formal analysis that continue to animate literary studies today. Are the Brontës plural, or singular? One author, or a loose set of individual ones? Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne: these famous writers, along with their parents, Patrick and Maria, and two sisters who died young (Maria d. age 11, Elizabeth d. age 10), will be at the core of our investigations. Together we will track this unusual family across the dynamic social and political contexts that brought it into being – from occupied Ireland, the site of Patrick’s birth; to Haworth, at the ragged edges of a rapidly modernizing, fossil-fueled global empire; to London, where Charlotte first brought the family’s literary productions to market; and to the slave plantations on the British sugar islands, engines of exploitation that supply Jane Eyre with its imaginative conditions of possibility. Throughout we will read deeply from primary texts, focusing on the novels, poetry, and juvenilia about imagined worlds written on tiny scraps of paper. Novels will include: Jane Eyre (1846), Wuthering Heights (1847), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1948), and Villette (1853); poetry will be covered in full, including published editions and manuscript originals; we will read from the juvenile Gondal and Angria sagas, and take coordinates from Juliet Barker’s family biography (1994) and Lucasta Miller’s The Brontë Myth (2001). Short theoretical interventions by Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, and others; ample criticism too. Lots of reading, lots of thinking; be ready.