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Charlotte Bront‘ and Defensive Conduct

Charlotte Brontë and Defensive Conduct
The Author and the Body at Risk

Janet Gezari

216 pages | 6 x 9
Ebook 2016 | ISBN 9781512802269 | Buy from De Gruyter $79.95 | €69.95 | £70.50
This book is available under special arrangement from our European publishing partner De Gruyter.
An Anniversary Collection volume
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"A striking and memorable book, and beautifully written. There is intelligence and wide learning on every page. Gezari's close readings are intensely fruitful and she distinguishes elegantly and forcefully between her perceptions and those of other critics. When the book opens into larger claims for the concept of defensiveness, those claims are always carefully grounded and persuasive."—Margaret Romans, Yale University
Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title

In both her life and her art, Charlotte Brontë was alive to the difficulty of responding to attacks that are denied or underacknowledged, so that any defense risks seeming defensive in our modern sense of the word: too quick to take offense or covertly aggressive. For some, Brontë's novels are deformed by hunger, rebellion, and rage; for others, they are deformed by the repression of these feelings. Both views ignore hunger, rebellion, and rage as powerful resources for Brontë's art rather than as personal difficulties to be surmounted or even deplored.

Janet Gezari reassesses Charlotte Brontë's achievement by showing the ways in which an embodied defensiveness is central to both the novels and their author's life. She argues that Brontë's novels explore the complex relations between accommodation and resistance in the lives of those who find themselves—largely for reasons of class and gender—on the defensive. Gezari rehabilitates the concept of defensiveness by suggesting that there are circumstances in which defensive conduct is both appropriate and creditable. The emphasis on a different kind of bodily experience in each novel identifies Brontë's specific social concerns in the text; and the kinds of self-defenses at issue in it.

This book arrives in the wake of renewed critical interest in Charlotte Brontë, especially on the part of feminist critics. They have substantially revised our understanding of Jane Eyre and Villette, but there have been few studies of The Professor and Shirley, and few book-length studies of Charlotte Brontë's work as a whole. Although Gezari's book is not a biography, she also seeks to revise our sense of Brontë's life by turning attention from its familiar romantic circumstances—the bleakness of the Yorkshire moors and unrequited love—to its less familiar practical circumstances—her struggles as a woman of a certain class and a publishing author. They reveal a woman more embattled, contentious, and resilient, though no less passionate, than the more familiar trembling soul.

Janet Gezari is the Lucretia L. Allyn Professor of English at Connecticut College and the editor of Emily Jane Brontë: The Complete Poems.

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