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« This Week's Acquisitions | Main | This post was brought to you by the letter "T" »

March 27, 2005



"I am no bird and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will." I've never been to Bronte-land and it probably is depressingly commercialised, but that's one helluva quote to find on a mouse mat. It's ironically amusing that Gold calls Gaskell a mediocrity when, throughout the article, Charlotte Bronte's own words so outshine everything inbetween them... And there are some seriously patronizing and snobbish assumptions about Bronte fans (a bit of the worst kind of Guardian-style condescension, I'm afraid) underlying what she says about Haworth. At least they're not trying to reduce everything to low-quality soft-core porn; I can't help thinking that I'd prefer the company of the people who find inspiration in that mouse mat, that they might have a better understanding of what matters about Charlotte Bronte than Gold ever manages.

BTW, I'm quite surprised to find that Charlotte Bronte is in need of rescuing by anybody. I've only ever seriously studied her work very briefly during my MA several years ago (I loved Villette; must read it again), but I don't recall her coming up as "a sexless, death-stalked saint"...


Expecting denizens of the past to conform to our modern sensibilities is about as offensive as expecting those of other cultures to do the same.

(The general idea underlying is: everybody REALLY wants to be like us moderns, completely in touch with all our feelings, but especially the sexual. We know because we are superior in this regard. Any other approach to sexuality is based in unhealthy denial of frank sexuality.)

Our current mores have changed drastically in the last 15 years or so. The display of the female body is especially telling -- that there is no place in which overt sexuality is inappropriate. Today I in church I saw a woman with decolletage so deep you could see the inner side of her breasts to below the lower edge. I saw another woman with backless highheel red shoes with spiky, transparent heels-- the kind usually seen on a stripper or in porn videos. There were numerous teen girls with belts instead of skirts.

Men's and boys "best" clothes don't have the overt display of the least in church wear. I wonder why. I suppose it is because mens' "best" wear has had more layers -- think shirts AND coats AND ties -- so there's farther to go for display.


Along with the anachronism these kinds of readings invariably fall into, it sounds like Gold also suffers from the common critical trap of trying to force everything into a nice, neat theory, grinding every bit of nuance into dust. I understand the necessity of creating *some* framework for understanding a text, but literature wouldn't be worth reading, studying, or understanding if it weren't inherently messy and nuanced. Critics so enamored of their theories that they lose sight of this fact do the work a disservice and provide ammunition for people who belittle the liberal arts.

Besides, how could anyone credibly interpret St. John in such an erotic way? As you point out, Jane is not attracted to anything but his moral rectitude and his mind. Speaking of which, what do you make of the fact that he gets the last word? I've heard numerous theories on it, but am interested in your opinion.

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