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Charlotte Brontë and Victorian Psychology


  • 1 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 308 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.655 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 823/.8
  • Dewey version: 20
  • LC Classification: PR4169 .S48 1996
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Brontë, Charlotte,--1816-1855--Knowledge--Psychology
    • Psychological fiction, English--History and criticism
    • Psychology in literature
    • Self in literature
    • Sex in literature

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521551496 | ISBN-10: 0521551498)

This innovative and critically acclaimed study successfully challenges the traditional view that Charlotte Brontë existed in a historical vacuum, by setting her work firmly within the context of Victorian psychological debate. Based on extensive local research, using texts ranging from local newspaper copy to the medical tomes in the Reverend Patrick Brontë's library, Sally Shuttleworth explores the interpenetration of economic, social, and psychological discourse in the early and mid-nineteenth century, and traces the ways in which Charlotte Brontë's texts operate in relation to this complex, often contradictory, discursive framework. Shuttleworth offers a detailed analysis of Brontë's fiction, informed by a new understanding of Victorian constructions of sexuality and insanity, and the operations of medical and psychological surveillance.

• Draws new links between psychological/medical and literary developments in nineteenth-century England • Sets Charlotte Brontë's work in contemporary intellectual context for first time • Offers startling new evidence, through newspapers, letters, and books, of nineteenth-century thinking on psychology


Acknowledgements; Introduction; Part I. Psychological Discourse in the Victorian Era: 1. The art of surveillance; 2. The Haworth context; 3. Insanity and selfhood; 4. Reading the mind: physiognomy and phrenology; 5. The female bodily economy; Part II. Charlotte Brontës Fiction: 6. The early writings: penetrating power; 7. The Professor: 'the art of self-control'; 8. Jane Eyre: 'lurid hieroglyphics'; 9. Shirley: bodies and markets; 10. Villette: 'the surveillance of a sleepless eye'; Conclusion; Notes; Index.


'Invokes primary sources to explode any persistent myths that Brontë lived in a cultural vacuum.' New Scientist

'An excellent, illuminating book.' Rick Rylance

'[This] has made a major contribution to Brontë studies and indicated the way forward for further studies of Brontë's work within Victorian cultural debate.' Christine Alexander, Australasian Victorian Studies Journal

'An assured and original contributuion to the ever-expanding field of Brontë scholarship.' Anarchist Studies

'An impressive, densely-argued book.' Journal of Victorian Culture

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