Happy 200th Birthday, Charlotte Brontë

Basically the slightest mention of Charlotte Brontë revives my mania for Villette, which is today in full swing. Here's a little roundup of good things from the internet's observance of the occasion slash annotated bibliography for when I place my shrieking screed about Villette. I am sort of ignoring the Jane Eyre stuff a little bit, because...Villette. Also worth noting: not a male byline among them.

  • LitHub wins the day with Brontë essays in triplicate from a trio of female critics. These are good essays, each one, and they hit necessary themes when contending with Brontë—genre, protofeminism, and the intimacies of reading. 
  • The Millions offers a heavily Victorian memento mori-y visit to the Brontë house
  • The Pool features Samantha Ellis's (correct) argument that Villette is the grown-up Brontë novel.
  • This piece on Brontë beyond Jane Eyre, from the New Statesman, is a little surface-y, but I'm putting it here for thoroughness and a sense of the conversation.
  • In the Spectator, Ysenda Maxtone Graham, under a provocative title that foregrounds gender, argues in passing that critics are overcompensating and people really do like Jane Eyre better.
  • Honorable mention to The Toast, which ran this a long time ago and I think kind of crystallizes the reception division between Jane Eyre people and Villette people.
  • Okay, fine, one Jane Eyre thing. I'm linking this one because of the way its opening implicitly connects Jane Eyre to the Austen Industrial Complex, which connection suits the argument.
  • And mostly unrelated to my basically imaginary Jane Eyre vs. Villette binary (there is enough room for two books!) (even if one of them is better, just saying), the Guardian features Emma Butcher on Brontë's private fantasy stories. Really nice piece.
  • Brontë's Christian (proto-)feminism. I do think calling it "radical" is perhaps a bit much—similarly "some anti-Catholicism" is probably underselling it. Lucy Snowe, not big into popery.

A Partial List of Cultural Products Currently Occupying My Fractured Attention


  • Scandal; the work that it's doing right now around female ambition, sisterhood, and Hillary Clinton; the conversations that Chloe and I have about it at our regular Scandal nights.
  • House of Cards, marriage, the Underwoods' marriage in particular, emotional privacy, how to describe that Oscar-bait color palette, why this version of political melodrama has more cultural credibility than Scandal's version even though it could really use a hit off Shonda's adrenaline IV.
  • DH Lawrence, gender and sex, sex and power. The lapis lazuli paperweight (always). I reread the relevant page or two out loud this morning and the repetition of words in Lawrence really strikes me, the way he reworks his sentences. They have this on-the-nose quality that results in something kind of surreal, something extremely abstract. 
  • RuPaul's Drag Race and this incredible RuPaul interview in which Mama Ru disclaims stable identities and refuses to make meaning for anyone but himself. Is the only way not to go insane when you know how to play all the angles, to decide that they can't cohere? Anyway, my early favorite this season is Bob the Drag Queen, who has such panache.
  • A piece I read somewhere but apparently can't be bothered to find right now about EM Forster's virginity when he wrote Howards End—the writer of the piece felt like the power of the novel had faded for her, not because of that virginity, of course, but in a way that may have been concomitant with it. I hope this wouldn't be true if I reread it, because it's one of my absolute favorites. 
  • A&E's Poirot—the leads it gives me to run down for the dissertation chapter that may or may not ever be, for one, but also what it is that Christie isn't—atmospheric, ever-darkening, attentive to things like loneliness, and the soul, and being pent up in one's own head and heart. Its trapped women (Third Girl, Taken at the Flood). The way it shifts focus on what's there to somehow change the entire product. The brilliance of the Suchet performance