The influence of anxiety: Bricolage Bronte style
Jenkins, Keith Allen
Patten, Robert L.
Doctor of Philosophy
Driven by her anxiety to create an alternative world view to that offered her by the male-dominated world of nineteenth-century England, enabled by the decline of biblical authority encouraged by the expansion of scientific discovery and the rise of the Higher Criticism, and guided by the Bible's own internal reinterpretative tradition, Charlotte Bronte appropriates the authoritative voice of scripture in order to redirect its energies into new avenues so that she can script a life for herself which transcends the possibilities available to her in the external world. However, if she wishes to redress issues of exclusion and oppression which have their roots in the traditional, male-dominated interpretation of the Bible, then one of her most effective weapons is the Bible's own challenging word, which, though often suppressed by her culture, she reclaims and uses. What Harold Bloom calls "the anxiety of influence" is certainly involved in her apparently willful misreading of the precedent tradition of biblical interpretation in order to clear out a space within which her voice can be heard. The influence of such a powerful and sacrosanct source as the Bible would undoubtedly produce in Bronte the anxiety of which Bloom speaks. However, rather than abandoning or completely rejecting it, she saw her work as a necessary renewing of the biblical tradition because the conventional methods of viewing it no longer fit the situation of women in the nineteenth century, including her own. From the dominant society's point of view, she commits what can be perceived as acts of "violence" on the Bible and a substantial body of its interpretation. Breaking its stories down into their component parts of character, plot, and setting, she then reassembles them in startling and exciting ways using the process of bricolage. This study traces Charlotte Bronte's reinscription of the Bible through her four novels, paying special attention to her use of three strategies: (1) gender reversal, (2) undermining of God's role in controlling human history, and (3) recasting "otherworldly" locales in this worldly settings.
English literature; Religion; Biblical studies