Writing as “Ellis Bell,” Emily Brontë‘s only novel,Wuthering Heights, was published in December 1847. The brooding and complex story follows the intersection of two families — the Earnshaws and the Lintons. Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff have sparked romantic imaginations as star-crossed lovers whose dramas and tragedies reverberate into the next generation.
Reviewers in Emily’s time were rather perplexed by the novel. Charlotte Brontë felt that her sister Emily’s magnum opus was poorly understood and supplied her own preface to the 1850 edition of Wuthering Heights. By this time, Emily (1818 – 1848) had already died at the age of thirty, and Charlotte had become something of a literary celebrity for the far more successful reception of Jane Eyre. She wrote: Read More→
Shirley, the second published novel by Charlotte Brontë, was published in 1849, still under the pseudonym Currer Bell. Charlotte had already achieved fame and notoriety with the wildly successful Jane Eyre under her masculine nom de plume. The question we’ll be exploring here is how much of Shirley’s character did Charlotte draw from her sister Emily’s.
A more challenging novel to read than Jane Eyre, Shirley: A Tale is now considered a prime example of the mid-19th century “social novel.” The social novels that emerged from that period were works of fiction dealing with themes like labor injustice, abuse of and bias against women, and poverty. Read More→
In the classic A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 –1797) argued for equality of men and women: Men and women, in her view, are born with ability to reason, and therefore power and influence should be equally available to all regardless of gender. This was a unique and radical view in 1792 when the book was first published.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects is considered one of the earliest works of feminist philosophical literature. Read More→
This concise analysis of the poetry of Anne Bradstreet is excerpted from Who Lived Here? A Baker’s Dozen of Historic New England Houses and Their Occupants by Marc Antony DeWolfe Howe, an eminent editor and writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Anne Bradstreet (1612 – 1672) was the first writer in the American colonies to be published.
She rejected the prevailing notions of women’s inferiority. That opened her to criticism, not for her work itself, but that she dared to write and make her work public. It was considered unacceptable for women of her time to have a voice. She not only used hers effectively but pushed back at her critics. Read More→
Aphra Behn (1640 – 1689) is a forerunner in English literary history in more ways than one; she is not only the first professional woman writer, she is also an important innovator in the form of the novel.
Using the epistolary form of Lettres Portugaises as a model and combining it with elements of the drama, with Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister she created the first true epistolary novel.
In Oroonoko she used a narrative voice that combined proximity to her readers with an unusual wealth of detail, while the plot itself involves one of the first examples of the concept of the “noble savage” in literature. Read More→