Date of Thesis

5-8-2014

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Ghislaine McDayter

Second Advisor

Virginia Zimmerman

Abstract

Abstract: This project considers Emily and Charlotte Brontë's constructions of masculinity in Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Villette. There is a vast proliferation of scholarship focusing on gender in the Victorian Era, but as much of this criticism focuses on women, the analysis of heterosexual masculinity in these novels provides a unique perspective on the complexities involved in gender constructions during this period. Masculine identity was in a transitory state in the early nineteenth century, as Romantic values were replaced by Victorian conceptions of masculinity, largely influencing the expectations of men. This paper argues that based on an understanding of femininity and masculinity as defined in relation to each other, the Brontë heroes look to the female characters as a source of stability to define themselves against, constructing a stagnant feminine role to frame an understanding of how masculinity was changing. The female characters resist this categorization, however, never allowing the men to fully classify them into stable feminine roles, which leads both shifting gender roles to intertwine and collapse in the novels, undermining any conceptualization of a stable or universal understanding of gender. The paper considers the role of masculinity based in class, relationships with women, and the understanding of sexual passion, to argue that the Brontës' portrayal of men emulates the anxieties surrounding the shift from Romantic to Victorian values of manliness, ultimately rejecting any stable definition of the nineteenth-century man.

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