Sandy Zagarell
Donald R. Longman Professor of English Emerita, Oberlin College
Mondays, September 9-October 14
1:00PM to 2:30PM ET

It may seem astonishing that Charlotte Bronte wrote both Jane Eyre (1847) and Villette (1853). The first is widely celebrated as the story of its woman protagonist’s ultimate self-fulfillment and happy marriage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. The second features a woman whose loneliness and emotional vulnerability are never fully reversed, though she finally achieves economic self-sufficiency. Are these two novels perhaps two sides of one coin, with Lucy Snowe of Villette a somber double of Jane Eyre? Or do they represent shifts in Bronte’s vision of the world? How, together and separately, do they reflect circumstances of the lives of middle class women without family or means in nineteenth-century England? We’ll explore these and other questions through attention both to Bronte’s use of elements of fiction, including characterization, plot, point of view, style, and language, and to the novels’ contexts.

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