Imperialism, Reform and the Making of Englishness in Jane by S. Thomas

By S. Thomas

This new learn demonstrates the precision of Brontë's old environment of Jane Eyre . Thomas addresses the old worlding of Brontë and her characters, mapping kinfolk of style and gender around the novel's articulation of questions of imperial background and family, reform, racialization and the making of Englishness.

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5 Nugent was the wife of George Nugent, the Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica from 1801 to 1806. Brontë may well have read or heard read her A Journal of a Voyage to, and residence in, the Island of Jamaica, from 1801 to 1805, and of subsequent events in England from 1805 to 1811, issued for private circulation in 1839. Christopher Heywood has shown that Charlotte and Emily Brontë worked into Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights respectively a hidden local history of West Indian slavery connections, which included the Mason and the Sill families (‘Yorkshire Slavery’).

1, ch. 15). Bertha, however, is placed by Rochester in a windowless room, denied the prospect (the view) which Karen Chase argues ‘becomes a figure of the balanced self’ or personality in Brontë’s articulation of space (89). The degenerate Bertha takes on stereotypical attributes of a blackness outside the fold of the colonial civilizing mission, epitomized in lines from Edwards’s verse ‘Ode on Seeing a Negro-Funeral’: Transform’d to tigers, fierce and fell, Thy race shall prowl with savage yell, And glut their rage for blood!

This further blurring of Jane’s class position transforms the marvel and sense of scale she has imbibed as ‘facts’ from Gulliver’s Travels: ‘all was eerie and dreary; the giants were gaunt goblins, the pigmies malevolent and fearful imps, Gulliver a most desolate wanderer in most dread and dangerous regions’ (21; vol. 1, ch. 3). Jane’s imaginative mapping of the globe produced through middle-class access to books and literacy becomes permeated by the archaic and Gothic residues of a working-class culture racialized here as savage, and the modern place of which is properly abroad.

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