Since 1857, hardly a year has gone by without a book or play or monograph or film about the Brontes. Each generation has reimagined Charlotte, Emily, and Anne in ways that reflect changing visions--of the role of the woman writer or of sexuality or of the very concept of personality. Charlotte Bronte has been seen as domestic saint, as sex-starved ...
Since 1857, hardly a year has gone by without a book or play or monograph or film about the Brontes. Each generation has reimagined Charlotte, Emily, and Anne in ways that reflect changing visions--of the role of the woman writer or of sexuality or of the very concept of personality. Charlotte Bronte has been seen as domestic saint, as sex-starved hysteric, as ambitious literary careerist. Her sister Emily has been furnished with apocryphal lovers of both sexes; has even been denied the authorship of "Wuthering Heights" by conspiracy theorists who attribute it to her brother, Branwell. Now Lucasta Miller, in "The Bronte Myth," shows us how the Brontes became cultural symbols almost as soon as their novels were published; how they became notorious even before the veil dropped from their carefully chosen pseudonyms, as Charlotte's "Jane Eyre" and Emily's "Wuthering Heights," appearing out of nowhere, instantly fascinated, inspired, and scandalized English readers. The subsequent discovery that Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell were three youngish spinsters-- parson's daughters--living rural lives of utmost propriety made interest in the sisters obsessive. Add a supposedly ferocious father and untimely death, to say nothing of the Victorian penchant for seeing noble sacrifice in every possible situation, and the production of legends multiplied. Lucasta Miller provides fascinating insight into the manufacture of cultural myth and how it can distort our memory of the artist even as it obscures the art. She traces the reinterpretations, indeed re-creations, of the Brontes, from Charlotte's own efforts to soften her dead sisters' reputations and Mrs. Gaskell's classic portrait ofthe artists as exemplary Christian ladies to the fashionably Freudian psychobiographies of the 1920s and '30s, from counterfeit memorabilia and the promotion of literary tourism to Hollywood representations of gloomy heroines on savage windswept moors. She rescues the Brontes from their admirers and attackers, giving us back three vivid women who, with little formal education, were writing in the days when few women dared to try: geniuses and sisters who, in the words of a household witness in the late 1850s, were "as cheerful and full of spirits as possible.... full of fun and merriment." "From the Trade Paperback edition."
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