'Surely some oracle has been with me': Women's prophecy and ethical rebuke in poems by Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte.

Styler, Rebecca (2017) 'Surely some oracle has been with me': Women's prophecy and ethical rebuke in poems by Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte. In: The Brontes and the Idea of the Human: Science, Ethics and the Imagination. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

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Item Type:Book Section
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Abstract

This article argues for the poetry of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte to be understood in the tradition of women’s prophecy, in which early nineteenth-century female preachers and writers evoked divine authority to criticise the status quo which they judged by superior moral and spiritual values prized as ‘feminine’. Through interventions on matters such as gender injustice, imperial cruelty, exploitation of animals, and religious hypocrisy, the three poets implicitly contributed to contemporary debates on the relation of the vatic poet to the social sphere, drawing on a specifically female poetic heritage that promoted sympathetic values and feminist principles, fostering progressive human community. Poems under focus are ‘Pilate’s Wife’s Dream’, ‘Gilbert’, ‘The Prisoner’, ‘The Night is Dark’, and ‘A Word to the Calvinists’. Differences between the poets’ themes and techniques are recognised, as each combines the female dissenting preacher voice with Romantic, Gothic and Enlightenment strategies of moral critique and literary/spiritual authority. Contradictions in their use of prophecy are also revealed – Charlotte’s critique of patriarchy can be vengeful, while Anne Bronte evokes the dissenting preacher’s voice to critique the Romantic prophet’s arrogance. The discussion draws attention to the moral and political themes of the three poets, and shows their engagement with various poetic models available to the early Victorian woman poet.

Keywords:Victorian Poetry, The Bronte myth, Women's poetry, Women's preaching, Women's literary authority, Victorian feminism, Religious feminism
Subjects:L Social studies > L216 Feminism
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q320 English Literature
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V144 Modern History 1800-1899
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V600 Theology and Religious studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:26584
Deposited On:03 Mar 2017 08:53

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