“Generational Legacies and Conflicts: Politicizing the Brontës in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries”
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
June 21-24, 2017
Moderator: Simon Avery, University of Westminster
In 1904, Virginia Woolf published one of her first journalistic essays, “Haworth, November 1904”, a piece which, in Jane Lilienfeld’s phrasing, initiated Woolf’s “long struggle to conceptualize [Charlotte] Brontë as a radical female model” (in Virginia Woolf: Lesbian Readings, ed. Eileen Barrett and Patricia Cramer, 1997, p.39). Looking back on one of her key literary predecessors, Woolf sought to appropriate the legacy of Brontë for specific political ends, as she would also do of course in the later A Room of One’s Own.
As we enter the period of the bicentenaries of the Brontë siblings (the anniversary of Charlotte’s birth in 2016, Emily’s in 2018 and Anne’s in 2020), it seems pertinent to re-examine the legacies of the Brontës for the following generations of women writers in the light of recent developments in theoretical and critical thinking. In what ways might we see the Brontës and their works as being politicized (or, indeed, de-politicized) for specific ideological ends in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries? How did subsequent generations of women writers read, respond to, appropriate or reject the Brontës’ novels, poetry or lives in ways which spoke to their own socio-political conditions? And what do these literary interactions tell us about connections across generations, histories of women’s writing, and the complexities of the idea of ‘generations’ more widely?
The roundtable organizer invites participants to discuss any aspect of this idea of the politicizing of the Brontës in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Topics may include responses from sensation writers, New Women poets or novelists, biographers, or modernist women writers. If you’re interested in having your work considered, please email a 200-300 word proposal and brief bio to Simon Avery at firstname.lastname@example.org by January 15, 2017.