All the World's a Stage: Constructing and Performing the Textual Self in Charlotte Brontë's Fiction

Mari Webb (2009). All the World's a Stage: Constructing and Performing the Textual Self in Charlotte Brontë's Fiction MPhil Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

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Author Mari Webb
Thesis Title All the World's a Stage: Constructing and Performing the Textual Self in Charlotte Brontë's Fiction
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2009-04
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Supervisor Dr. Judith Seaboyer
Dr. Christopher Tiffin
Total pages 117
Total black and white pages 117
Subjects 20 Language, Communication and Culture
Abstract/Summary Charlotte Brontë’s problematising of first-person narrative foregrounds the fluidity of the concept of identity and insists on its constructed nature. Brontë uses specific narrative techniques in The Professor, Jane Eyre and Villette to achieve this foregrounding, which leads to a complex and sophisticated exploration of the individual’s relationship to society, and how this influences the way individuals construct their identity. Each of these novels presents a different example of such self-construction through the characterisation of the first person narrator. Brontë’s questioning of the stability of the self encourages readers to be aware of such constructs. In my first chapter, I look closely at how narrative authority is parcelled out in Brontë’s nineteenth-century society, and what influence the conferring or withholding of such authority has on the construction of a narrative self. The next three chapters are devoted to discussion of specific examples of narrative self-construction in Brontë’s first-person novels, how her protagonists deal with narrative authority, and the difficulties inherent in speaking or writing with such authority for nineteenth-century women in particular. Individuals construct a sense of their self through telling stories. Brontë’s fiction asks the question, if “Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life” is this tantamount to denying women the right to an arena for the construction of a self at all? What role do readers play in the construction of a narrative self for a writer? In the concluding chapter my aim is to open out my analysis of Brontë’s fiction by examining the idea of narrative as a place more generally for imaginative self-construction. I structure the chapter around J. Hillis Miller’s argument in On Literature that the role of reading and writing in this regard has irrevocably changed in the twenty-first century due to the influence and popularity of the on-line world.
Keyword narrative, authority, power, self, construct, author, narrator, fiction, imagination, narrative theory

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Created: Wed, 09 Sep 2009, 14:24:40 EST by Miss Mari Webb on behalf of Library - Information Access Service