The Coarseness of the Brontës: A Reappraisal

Страна: США

Город: Durham

Тезисы до: 31.03.2017

Даты: 10.04.17 — 11.08.17

Е-мейл Оргкомитета:

Организаторы: Durham University, Brunel University, and the Brontë Society


In early critical appraisals of the Brontës’ writings, accusations of ‘coarseness’ appear frequently. Although Jane Eyre (1847) was an instant bestseller, Elizabeth Rigby famously attacked the book as ‘coarse’ and accused Charlotte of ‘moral Jacobinism’. Likewise, Anne’s second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), was also criticised as ‘coarse’ and ‘brutal’ in both subject matter and moral outlook, and perceived as an ‘entire mistake’ by Charlotte. An anonymous review of Wuthering Heights (1847) chastised Emily’s characters as ‘coarse’ and violent ‘savages’ who were ‘ruder than those who lived before the days of Homer’. And, according to Daphne du Maurier, Branwell Brontë was ‘fascinated’ by and befriended many men who were ‘a law unto themselves, rowdy, rough, coarse’.

More recently, Lucasta Miller has addressed the ubiquity of this word within Brontë studies, writing that the “coarseness’ to which so many critics objected was a catch-all moralistic term which encompassed a range of elements considered unfeminine and indecorous’ (The Brontë Myth, 2001).While the definition of ‘coarse’ outlined above indicates that its meaning is associated with a wide range of seemingly obtuse and offensive values that extend across numerous social markers (including gender, sexuality, race, and class), the accusation of coarseness levelled at the Brontës may have differed to our current understanding of the term.

In the bicentenary of Branwell Brontë’s birth, this two-day conference seeks to re-appraise notions of coarseness in its widest sense in relation to the entire Brontë family. How and in what ways does ‘coarseness’ manifest in and across the lives and works of the Brontë family? What did it mean to be labelled ‘coarse’ in the early to mid-nineteenth century? And how have shifting meanings of what constitute ‘coarse’ expanded and/or changed our understanding and reading of the family’s lives and works?

We welcome the submission of 500-word abstracts for 20-minute papers from postgraduate researchers, early career researchers, and academics, as well as Brontë enthusiasts beyond the academy, which explore a wide interpretation of this theme. Topics may include, but are by no means limited to, the following:

    The aesthetics, politics, and ethics of coarseness in the nineteenth century
    Coarse ideas and identities
    Self-inflicted ‘coarse’ behaviours, e.g. alcohol abuse, addiction
    The socio-cultural effects and legacies of ‘coarse’ behaviour
    Vulgar, offensive and rough behaviours
    The coarse nature of violence
    Linguistic and dialectic coarseness
    Brontë defences of ‘coarseness’
    The shifting politics of ‘coarse’
    Coarseness and subculture(s)
    Under-analysed coarse images and themes
    Coarse geographies and locations, e.g. perceptions of ‘the North’
    Coarseness in/and the Brontës’ afterlives


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