English Literature 1 appunti
people can see only what can be seen from their window in a very small amount of time. So, it
is not easy to distinguish objects, as it was in the past because the train speed decreases the
view of the passenger.
According to S. the introduction of the railway is the introduction of a new way to perceive
what surrounds us. So if the way of seeing the reality is different, it is different the way of
describing the reality too.
According to S. the perception we have from the window of the train, looks like the montage
of the film because images are placed one after the other and the travellers have lost the
ability to make distinctions between different objects.
S. introduces the idea of cinema. th
The panoramic perception educated 19 century people, to see and describe, in their novels,
reality in a way that anticipated cinematographic description.
Ejzenstein wrote “Dickens, Griffith and the film today” (1944), it is an essay in which he
describes the capacity of the authors to anticipate the cinema.
He underlines the use and invention of the parallel intercutting of scenes and events by
Dickens. So, Dickens is the one who invented the parallel intercutting (taglio parallel),
introduced in the cinema by Griffith.
Parallel intercutting= two or more scenes happening at the same time, and they are intercut
(intervallate). So, we can see different aspects of the same time. The parallel scenes intersect
and end with a climax.
The spectator think that there is a movement back and forth.
The function of parallel intercutting is to create suspense.
In Dickens’s descriptions, it seems that a camera is focusing and moves on the face of the
character described Close up (primo piano).
There is also the movement of the perception of the eye in a room.
The background of the Victorian novel is going to be important for the cinema. The context
allowed to develop cinema. In novels, there is the anticipation of the novels. 24 ottobre 2016
It is difficult to find the distinction between imperialism and colonialism, in some ways they
Imperialism: claiming and exploiting of lands which are outside national boundaries for a
variety of reasons. For example, it is connected to the prestige, to obtain materials such as
sugar, spices, tea, rubber. To create a market for the products. Britain wanted to increase
its own importance and holdings. In this case, we are not talking about colonialism. Not
every imperial territory is a colony.
Colonialism: the settling of the territories and the transformation (the Victorian would
have said “reformation”) of the language, social structure, culture, economy, government
of those territories. It is an activity which involves the settling of some territories. In this
case, we talk about imperialism and colonialism. It is a deeper bond between colonizers
and colonized. Every colony is an imperial territory.
Non- Europeans were considered less evolved from the biological and cultural point of view, and
unable to govern themselves.
Europeans had a civilizing mission based on racial superiority Kipling described “il fardello
Post colonialism is an academic discipline which examines the politics of knowledge (=creation of
knowledge, control and distribution of knowledge) by analysing the relations of social and political
knowledge that are at the basis of colonialism.
Post colonialism analyses the how and why of an imperialistic representation of the colonized and
Critics of post colonialism are:
Homi Bhabha, “The Location of Culture”. Hybridity is used by Bhabha ways in which colonized
people have resisted the power of the colonizers. It is important to notice that in the title
there is the word “location” to talk about culture.
He creates some word that will be used by post -colonial critics. He introduces an idea of
“different”, “hybridity” that is used to describe the way colonized resisted the power of
Frantz Fanon, “Black Skin”. He is used in the analyses of the contemporary phenomenon of
migration. He analyses the psychopathology of colonialism.
He analyses the feeling that black people experience in a white world; when he talks about
“white masks”, he talks about the necessity the lifestyle, the behaviour, the language of
western people to be accepted in a western and white world. The provenience of a person
is left behind in order to imitate white people and be accepted.
Gayatri Spivak, “Can Subaltern Speak?”. She analysed the position of colonized women.
Women are under the power of their male companions (local people), under the power of
female colonizers and under the power of male colonizers.
They are exploited even sexually.
Edward Said, “Orientalism”. He is considered particularly important for this text, that is
considered as a foundational text for the post -colonial studies.
He worked on the term “orientalism” and his connotations; he underlines that those
connotations are expanded and they represent the false cultural assumptions created by
the western world. There is a cultural mis-representation of the orient and middle east in
This mis-representation, (rappresentazione errata) of the orient and middle east, describes
the east as antithetical to the west (for example the east is considered passive and the
west active, the east irrational and the west rational).
“West” and “east” can be switched with “men” and “women”.
Men are considered rational and active while women are considered irrational and passive.
Men thought women couldn’t govern themselves the west thinks the east can’t govern
The novels set in India see the men described in a feminine way (per esempio
consideriamo normale che un filippino faccia il domestico).
New colonialism neo colonialism is based on economic control and power.
The transformation of literary market and creation of mass literature:
Improvement of transport+ capitalism+ urbanisation had transformed the literary market and
periodical press into an industry.
The term “bestseller” came in 19 century mass literature.
This term reflected the new reality and social transformation of the period.
Big cities developed in 19 century, offered readership market for publishers, book sellers and
publishers tried to develop ways to make different types of different materials affordable for a
wider range of people.
Development of free libraries for middle classes and workers. They were important because,
the standard format for the volume was the triple-decker volume, was unaffordable for the
average reader; so, in the library, they could find the volume for free.
Development of the circulating libraries that were in the train stations. They were libraries that
moved in different places, especially in stations.
The introduction of serialization: books were published in parts. The idea of serialization
(which seems to be linked to an economic interest). Serialization (1) affected the form of the
English novel; first, because each chapter had to engage the reader’s curiosity as a single unit
and as a part working within the context of the whole novel. (Il capitolo doveva avere senso da
solo e anche in confronto a tutto il libro). It affected also the (2) experience of the reader
because the reader had to read the novel in different periods. It affected (3) the way in which
Victorian readers responded to meanings of the novels as well as the way in which Victorian
authors created fiction. The author shapes his novel depending on the reaction of the public.
Serializations have different things in common:
The refuse of closure
Subplots to create suspense in the reader that will buy another part of the novel
The presence of a large group of characters, part of the psychology of the main
characters was well analysed, the others were described superficially
Interest for the political and social aspects of the period
The Victorian reader is active during the formation of the novel because he can make the author
change the content of the novel on the basis of his preference. But the Victorian reader is passive
during the reading. Romance vs Novel
o They are very important members of the society
o They do magical/spiritual or heroic tasks that are impossible to normal people
o They are normally one-dimensional characters that stay the same throughout the story
o They are middle class characters
o They do daily chores
o Sometimes they might evolve, grow
The gothic novel has some characteristics of the novel and of the romance.
In the gothic novel, we have a triangle between hero, heroine and villain as we have in the
But the villain is not one-dimensional but he’s troubled by his darkness and he has an evolution.
o The setting is often vague, or discarded on the whole
o If mentioned, the setting is something magnificent
o Castles, Magical and mysterious places
o It is a very detailed setting
o It is normally something humble (connected to the middle classes)
o It is a real place and if not then it sounds like it is (detailed descriptions that make the
reader think he/she knows the place the author is describing).
In the gothic novel, the setting is usually Italy or Spain, connected to the idea of exotic places that
suggested mystery and escape. For British readers, Italy and Spain were exotic places where there
was a kind of obsessive religion and where magical things could happen.
The first English gothic novel “The Castle of Otranto” the setting is in Italy.
o There is no or a vague sense of time
o Do not necessarily stick to chronological order
o Time Continuum should either be measured by a clock or calendar (the reference to “tea
time” was connected to a precise moment in the afternoon, at 5 p.m.)
o It has to be in chronological order Plot
o The plot in itself was like in a dream, smooth unrelated movements with no climax
o It had a specific plot with a certain climax (it has a specific development; it presents a
situation that is going to be solved at the beginning of the climax)
o The Romances were aimed at the upper class readers
o There were standard symbolisms (Mark gave Lucy a flower he loves her).
o Since it was aimed at middle class readers, the language was simple
o There was no symbolism or metaphors or similes
o It was denotative rather than connotative (denotative language language in which
the sentence is direct and it means exactly what it says)
o One singular type of tone throughout the romance
o It uses emotions that are ideal
o The tone changes depending on the genre of the novel
o It remains realistic
o It uses emotions that are realistic but it changes depending on situations and different
characters. 28 ottobre 2016
Northrop Frye “Anatomy of Criticism” (1957). He belongs to the critical movement of the
beginning of the century. He has set down a series of qualities that characterize the roman and the
novel and distinguish them.
“The romancer does not attempt to create “real people” so much as stylized figures which expand
into psychological archetypes. It is in the romance that we find Jung’s libido, anima, and shadow
reflected in the hero, heroine, and villain respectively. That is why romance so often radiates a
glow of subjective intensity that the novel lacks, and why a suggestion of allegory is constantly
creeping in around its fringes. Certain elements of character are released in the romance which
make it naturally a more revolutionary form than the novel. The novelist deals with personality,
which characters wearing their personae or social masks. He needs the framework of a stable
society, and many of our best novelists have been conventional to the verge of fussiness. The
romancer deals with individuality, with characters in vacuo idealized by revery”.
In this text there are two elements:
The individual of the novel
He talks about “personae” which is a sort of mask. The person is someone who is what he
is because he belongs to a social class which, frequently, is the middle class.
The person wears the social mask. “Personae” is a Latin word that stands for the mask that
actors used to amplify their voices in the theatre.
In the last sentence, he says that romance writers deal with individuality, but also the
novel deals with individuality. BUT in the novel Frye says that the characters wear a
“personae”, that are masks used to amplify the voice.
This individuality of the novel is linked to the SOCIAL CLASS.
The individual of the romance
The individual of the novel is not linked to the social class.
The knight is the symbol of bravery, not the symbol of the social class of the knights. It is a
sort of box of qualities, it is an ideal person that embodies the figure of “the knight” for
example. FOOD LITERATURE AND CULTURE
Food, as defined in the dictionary, “is any substance that provides the nutrients necessary to
maintain life and growth then ingested”.
Humans do not feed, they eat. Eating is different from feeding because feeding is something ritual
and that it is always the same. But eating is different from feeding because humans have different
Food, in our world, is connected to an idea of eating in different ways.
Also, humans cook. Cooking implies creating rules regarding what can be eaten and how it can be
eaten, and, also it implies a combination of ingredients.
We have created a complex set of rules that are called “manners”.
Humans share food and the idea of sharing food is connected to being and living in a society.
Food habits are also called food culture or foodways
Kittler, P.G., Sucher, K.P., and Nelms, M.N, “Food and Culture” according to them, the meaning
of food habit process is that it is unique to humans. So we can talk about food and culture only
There are a lot of actions linked to the food: distribution, selection, cooking, eating.
We can’t talk about food habits if not just for humans.
It is important to consider that humans are omnivores and they can digest a wide selection of
plants and animals.
The fact of being omnivorous has some advantages and disadvantages.
They can adapt to a lot of different environments on earth
Flexible sociologically the man had to be flexible in order to allow the physical growth.
No food provides all the nutriments necessary for survival
Cautious the man had to be cautious about what he ate, because some things could be
The omnivore paradox:
This dilemma combines the need to experiment (flexible), and the need to be cautious.
(Onnivoro deve essere capace di sperimentare per trovare nuovi cibi, ma deve essere attento a
non ingerire cibi nuovi che sono potenzialmente mortali).
The omnivore paradox creates psychological implications:
1. Desire and attraction to new foods (necessity to find new nutriments).
2. We tend to prefer familiar food (necessity to be cautious).
Since we are humans we have those contradictions.
Society has the function to establish what is good to eat and what is not good to eat (for example:
different habits in Europe and Asia).
Incorporation of food
It is a psychological concept.
Consumption is the conversion of food and nutrients in the human body.
For many people, it is not only physical but it has values. It is the fundamental nature of the food
assumed by a person which makes the person.
“You are what you eat” – Brillat Savarin.
Incorporation is associated to what we are.
The physical properties of the food are expressed through incorporation.
This concept raise some questions: “what does the food on my plate signify?” and “how do food
practices contribute to personal identity?”.
Sadella and Burroughts analyse individuals by the consume of food, based on the diets. They
wrote “Profiles in eating: sexy vegetarians and other diet-based stereotypes” (1981).
They found 5 different diets:
Fast food (pizza, big mac)
Synthetic food (Cheez Whiz – formaggio sintetico, zuppe con polverine)
Gourmet (oysters, caviar, French roast coffee)
Vegetarian (broccoli, quiche, avocado)
Health food (protein shake, yoghurt)
Types of individuals:
Vegetarian calm, animalist. According to their research, vegetarians are considered as
Gourmet rich, sophisticated. According to their research, they are liberal and sophisticated.
Health food sporty, determined. According to their research, they are people who avoid
nuclear war (because it was 1981).
Fast food lazy, they don’t have time, cheap. According to their research, they are religious
conservatives (in 1981). Maybe because the image of traditional America is based on religion and
in that period there were a lot of fast food (not experimenting new food).
We have another study:
University students were asked to rate profiles on people, and the individuals were of similar
looking. One person in each pear was classified as the good food eater and the other one as the
bad food eater.
The good food eaters were considered more active, thinner than the bad ones despite their
(Si attribuiva un livello a una persona in base a quello che mangiava).
How food and food habits contribute to the development and transmission of culture?
They said that children chose food eaten by “admired adults”, for example by their teachers,
fictional characters, especially by the older brothers and sisters and their friends.
It underlines the impact of social conscience and pear (pari, che hanno la stessa età e sono
coinvolti nella stessa esperienza) pressure on food choices.
If the group shows a preference for a food, a person is more likely to accept that food to be part of
Symbolic meanings of food
Food has also symbolic meanings based on associations with other meaningful experiences.
An example of symbolic meaning with food can be found in many expressions used in the daily
Bread is an example of the symbolism found in food (in the western culture).
In the past people sit around a table and break bread, it symbolized friends who come together
and share a meal in a good atmosphere.
The type of bread consumed by a person indicates the social position of the person.
For example, brown bread in the past was considered for the poor classes, but now brown bread
is the bread of who cares about health and it is more expensive than the white one social
Bread has also a religious connotation (the body of Christ).
There are also superstitions linked to bread Greek soldiers took a piece of bread from their
home into the battle to return safe at home.
English midwives (ostetriche) put a piece of bread on the mother’s bed to prevent the kidnapping
of the child and the mother by evil spirits.
Incorporation can stand for “collective association”.
From the individual point of view “what one eats defines what one is” but it is also from the
cultural point of view.
What we eat defines us from the cultural point of view because it demonstrates our culture (at
what time we eat, what we eat).
Culture is formed by values and attitudes accepted by a community. The food choices of different
cultural groups are often connected to ethnic behaviour or/ and religious beliefs.
“Eating is a daily reaffirmation of (one’s) cultural identity” by Kittler, P.G., Sucher, K.P., Nelms.
Every time we eat we declare our cultural identity.
It satisfies the basic psychological need for food familiarity. We search it when we are adults in
times of stress to find good feelings of the past.
For example, we can consider that many people connect food to their culture, and their childhood
and good memories and feelings.
Food is connected to our story, our family.
Food social status
It defines the social status of a person.
For example, potatoes are associated with the poor people, and caviar is associated to the upper
The idea of “commensalism” (who can dine together) as a means of establishing class
That is to say: for example, rich people usually do not eat with their servants. There is a sort of rule
that says that servants are not allowed to eat with rich people. This rule is a part of the rules that
(commensalism=regole di chi può mangiare in compagnia di chi).
Many researches suggested that when a person eats for the first time another food, there is a
process in the person that begins with the recognition of a new flavour, this process ends with the
assumption that the flavour is an authentic marker of another cultural group.
We have food stereotypes:
Italians “spaghetti benders”
Poor white southerners “crakers”
Political tensions reflect on the name of foods:
Turkish coffee became Greek coffee in Greece after tensions between Greece and Turkey.
French fries in US were called “freedom fries” because France did not want to invade Iraq with the
US. 4 novembre 2016
Some aspects of a culture are: language, food, clothing.
An immigrant can decide to keep his own traditions or he can adopt other traditions. The food
aspect is something that is less “changeable” because it is a private aspect of life, instead of the
language and the clothing that are public aspects.
Immigrants try to use the ingredients available for the preparation of their traditional dishes.
It is important to consider that some immigrants adapt the ingredients of the location in order to
create their own dishes.
This is a symbolic process, because it is a sort of assimilation between the traditions of the
immigrants and the traditions of the country they live in.
The idea of using local ingredients to cook a traditional dish assimilation.
A person considers himself assimilated, when he adopts the tradition and culture of the majority
of people melting pot.
Cultural food habits
It is important to stress the fact that some food will be part of the food habit of a particular
Food functions are considered different in different cultures and each group creates
categorization which are reflective of its priorities.
For example, in the United States, food has been categorized as:
Fruit and vegetables
Dairy products (latticini)
Other classifications of other societies:
o Cultural super-foods: elements considered essentials for the diet (Italian pasta).
o Prestige food: expensive or rare foods, protein items.
o Body image food: food in which the important element is the idea that they are
incorporated and the focus is on the colour or the shape of the food, and the link with the
idea of incorporation.
o Sympathetic magic food: if the form and the shape of body image food is connected to
incorporation and beauty of a person; in sympathetic magic food, shape and colour have a
o Physiological group foods: foods which are forbidden for a particular group of people with
a certain physiological features such as age.
Another categorization is:
1. Care and complementary foods model: it’s about food consumption.
2. Flavour principles: ways in which a culture prepares and seasons
(stagiona) its foods.
3. Meal patterns and meal cycles: the daily, weekly, yearly use of a
4. Developmental perspective of food culture: the changes in food
functions that emerge during the structural growth in a particular
These categorizations show the features connected to food, considered important for a particular
culture. FOOD STUDIES
It studies the complex relationships among food, culture, and society from numerous disciplines in
the humanities social sciences, and sciences.
Food studies deals with more than simple production, consumption, and aesthetic appreciation of
food. It is the study of food and its relationships to the human experience.
It is an emerging interdisciplinary (psychology, sociology) field of study that examines the
relationships among food, culture and society.
Hauck- Lawson introduced the concept of “food voice”. When someone eats, or chooses not to
eat, this someone communicates important aspects of his identity that words are not able to
Food tells stories of assimilations, resistance, changing over time, families and migration.
Roland Barthes: “For what is food? It is not only a collection of products that can be used for
statistical or nutritional studies. It is also, at the same time, a system of communication, a body of
images, a protocol of images, situations and behaviour”.
In this analysis, Barthes underlines that food is a system of communication like a language.
The idea between food and culture is introduced also by Montanari, he underlines the fact that all
food is cultural. According to him, “from the moment humans choose food products they become
the culture product because they are the fruit of a cultural choice”.
Food becomes culture when it is prepared ……. (slide)
“Human food ways are a complex result of the interaction of human nutritional needs, ecology,
human logic and historical accident”
“unlike the history of war and violence is generally a history without names..they (SLIDE).
The relationship between food and folklore
The focus is on folk cuisine and folk eating habits. The focus is on the food traditions of different
communities and these food traditions include the recipes and the methods by those foods are
stored, prepared and served. “Foodways” is connected to the idea of healthy food.
“Recent psychoanalytic theory suggests that eating practices are essential to self-identity and are
instrumental in defining family, class and even ethnic identity. Although food and related imagery
have long been part of literature, psychological theories have led to the examination of food and
eating as a universal experience”.
Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau “Food in literature”
Lewis Carrol “Alice’s adventures in Wonderland”
Roald Dahl “Charlie and the chocolate factory”
Katherine Ann Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker.
Laura Esquivel “Like water for chocolate or Chocolat”
Diana Abu-Jaber’s “The language of Baklava” have food as a literary device.
When Jane Eyre was published in 1847, it had a great success since the very beginning. A positive
critique by George Lewis said “the best novel of the season”.
It is also important to point out that the novel didn’t receive only positive critics; Elizabeth Rigby
said “personification of an unregenerate and undisciplined spirit” and she defined the novel as
Jane the female most important character. She’s a particular character, she was born because
of the will of the author.
Gaskell said “Bronte, once told her sisters (Emily and Charlotte) that they were morally wrong – in
making their heroines beautiful as a matter of course. They replied that it was impossible to make
a heroine interesting on any other terms. Her answer was “I will prove to you that you are wrong”.
Bronte is the first one that creates a heroine that is not the typical heroine from the physical and
psychological point of view. So, the significance of the heroine is all in her psychology and not in
The reason why the novel was so popular is the rebelliousness of the novel. In the novel, Bronte
underlines a few questions the institution of family, class, Christianity and education. Those are
the institutions of the Victorian period. 7 novembre 2016
This novel is contemporary, the issues described in the novel are: the function of women, idea of
colonialism, the relationship between colonized and colonizers. The social message of the novel
proposes some questions that can be considered relevant to 21 century readers.
The novel is characterized by his longevity which is linked to the social message:
the combination of different literary genres that keep the story entertaining and enjoyable
relationship between reality and fantasy.
the function of women
the idea of colonialism the relationship between colonized and colonizers (British people)
Love story between Jane and Rochester (a hero and villain)
Bildungsroman (a novel that shows the psychological or moral development of its main
character). The first person of Jane Eyre tells her growth from being a not loved and lonely
child who had a sad life to her marriage and her independence.
The gothic and the spiritual quest: irrational and supernatural. The spiritual quest is the
description of the position Jane has towards religion.
The red room: this episode is in the first chapters. Jane is banished to the red room because she
had a violent fight with his cousin; in this room, she thinks about all the bad behaviours towards
her from the family she’s living with. We learn that 9 years earlier Mr Reed died there, and his
dying wish was that his wife raised Jane as one of her own children. Jane thinks that Mr Reed’s
ghost could appear, she’s frightened. This episode is important because we have a lot of
developments of events. It important the first retrospective paragraph.
o Jane is considering the event of the afternoon; she’s filled with indignation for the injuries
done to her. She says “what a consternation of soul was mine that dreary afternoon!”.
o Jane as a child has to learn the virtue of Christian mercy and self-control “ Yet in what
darkness, what dense ignorance, was the mental battle fought!”
o We have an opposition between 2 aspects, there is a dichotomy: the young Jane that
represents the idea of anger; and the other self, which is more controlled and rational
represents the idea of Jane as an adult. So, Jane is a combination of 2 parts: rationality and
irrationality. During the Victorian age, the instinctual part was negative, and the rational
one was considered positive.
o The assonance of eyre/air/ire (=rabbia) is linked to Jane’s double personality. A creature of
ire (=rabbia) associated with fire, passion and anger. But she’s also a creature of air,
associated with light and dancing spirits.
In the red room, there is a reference to the light and dancing spirits that characterize the
light in Jane. One way of considering Jane’s development (bildungsroman) is striving
towards the balance between the aspect of fire and air, of passion and spirit, of the
connotation of the imp (=spiritello diavoletto) and fairies. In fact, Jane sees herself in the
mirror as half fairy and half imp contrast of the double personality.
In this evolution process, the society is present in the shape of the Reed households and
the function of society in the novel is to erg conformity, to act a repression on feelings and
desires. What is suggested by the episode of the red room, to behave like a good little girl
means to be silent.
o We can consider this passage in another way. The mirror is important in the narration,
when there is a mirror there is a reason why it is there, it always has a symbolic function.
When Jane is gazing in the mirror: in Bronte’s novel, the presence of images reflected in the
mirror is a denunciation of the fact that women (in the Victorian age) are not the result of
their own reflection but of a speculation.
In the description of the first meeting between Jane and Rochester, Rochester describes Jane as a
creature half fairy and half imp
“When you came on me in Hay Lane last night, I thought unaccountably of fairy tales, and had half
a mind to demand whether you had bewitched my horse”.
Rochester thinks that his horse has been bewitched by the imp in Jane. This comparison (if
connected with the idea of mirror) introduces the idea of female image as a product of a male
representational reflection. Women perceive themselves through the main gaze. The female gaze
in the mirror confirms her identity but the identity in relation to the male gaze (=sguardo). Women
consider themselves as constructions of the male world; the mirror and the female gaze in the
mirror is given the task to confirm female identity.
(l’immagine femminile è il prodotto del riflesso dello sguardo maschile. Nel momento in cui la
donna si considera costruzione dello sguardo maschile, lo specchio e lo sguardo della donna nello
specchio coincidono. La donna guardando nello specchio non vede se stessa, ma controlla se la
sua immagine coincide con l’immagine femminile richiesta dal mondo maschile).
John Berger introduced a reflection on mechanism that lead to the objectification, reification of
“Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.
This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women
to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus, she turns
herself into an object- and most particularly an object of vision: a sight”.
The social presence of women (the presence of women in the society) has developed in history
because of their acceptance of living under male protection and control in limited fear of domestic
space. The social presence of women has been at the cost of women self; to be social accepted
has to continually control and watch herself because how she appears to men and the others, is
important for the success of her life.
In the Victorian period the woman had to control herself in order to guarantee the recognition of
the success of her life.
In the Victorian fiction, the function of the mirror is to reflect the inner aspect, the mirror
becomes the fear of being classified as a deviant form of feminilty. (=forma deviante di
The idea of the deviant form of feminility is present in the whole novel, but it is only a social
construction. In the red room, Jane learns that anger has to be controlled because it is an aspect
that can transform a woman in a deviant form of feminility.
“The hero becomes a sort of chamber, a mysterious enclosure in which images of the self are
trapped” S. Gilbert and S. Gubar.
Another element introduced by this episode of the red room, is the aspect of sexual repression
that is present in the whole novel.
There are two aspects of sexual repression:
1. General sexual repression the behaviour society demands on little girls.
2. Specific sexual repression (in the episode of the red room) it is not openly described, but
only hinted (=alluso) with a sort of ambiguity. The red room is a place of mystery, no one
goes into the room but Mrs Reed and it is a solitary place, the atmosphere of prohibition
and mystery has been interpreted as a reference to elements of the female body.
According to this view, the episode of the red room can be considered as an initiation into
the female sexuality. The furniture of the red room, like the presence of mirror, suggest
the idea and atmosphere of a bordello and this idea is supported by the fact that the
female servant threats to bind Jane with her garreteer, which was a recurrent fantasy in
It introduces the idea of female sexuality in an ambiguous way. Jane understands that she
has to control herself in order to please men, she understands that her body can be seen
as an object of desire, then there is the idea of shame. The initiation must be in the privacy
of the red room. In the Victorian age, sexuality is stressed because a woman as to conform
to some male rules and desires, but sexuality is repressed because she perceived herself as
an object and she’s denying herself (deve negare se stessa). 14 novembre
Jane Eyre –
The figure connected to the idea of religion is Mr Brockehust. He is like this:
“I looked up at- a black pillar!- such, at least, appeared to me, at first sight, the straight, narrow,
sable-clad shape standing erecet on the rug: the grim face at the top was like a carved mask,
placed above the shaft by way of capital”.
The focus of the mask hypocrisy
The description is introduced before his name, this as a de-humanizing effect. His name
appears after his description; the imagery is inexpressive and mineral.
Masculine and repressive figure, different from the image of Christian charity, the one he’s
supposed to represent.
He describes life at Lodwood, this description reveals his hypocrisy which is revealed in his
first description in the life in Lodwood. The girls in Lodwood are dressed like “poor people’s
children” while in the Reed house, the children are dressed very well.
This description reveals the ambiguity of the girls, they are daughters of the middle class,
but a kind of poor girls of the middle class. Without money, they lose their social position
The function of the school is to raise and educate the children, but the true function is to
use the Christian virtues, in order to disenfranchise the girls from their class, in this sense
they lose their social importance.
In the critique “The Christian Remenbracer” says that
“Every page burns with moral Jacobinism” French revolutionary ideas, for example the religion
connected to the power is not accepted.
Bronte answers “conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the
first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an
impious hand to the Crown of Thorns. These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are
as distinct as vice from the virtue”.
She’s against the use of religion connected to power.
Mr Brockehurst in the VII chapter:
Mr brockehurst is compared to a piece of architecture,“a black column”, it helps to identify
Brockehurst with the institution itself; he’s stony and rigid as the institution of Lodwood.
“and her face, naturally pale as marble, appeared to be assuming also the coldness and fixity of
that material; especially her mouth, closed as if it would have required a sculptor’s chisel to open
it, and her brown settled gradually into petrified severity”.
Miss Temple has substituted the burnt porridge with good food; according to Mrs Brockerhurst
the food feeds the vile bodies of the girls but the food make the souls of the girls die.
There is a connection between food and mind, in a 19 century perspective. The body had
a bad connotation, and the soul had a positive connotation.
Material food is less important than spiritual food. Material food is dangerous because it
feeds the body but it doesn’t allow the development of the soul.
Miss Temple seems to become marble; in fact, she seems to respond to Mrs Brockerhurst
with silence and a gesture of submission.
It is a rebellion strategy to the patriarchal presence (represented by Mr Brockerhurst),
made explicit with the use of body language.
In this scene Miss Temple speaks and she expresses her anger, but the communication is
silent, she doesn’t protest verbally but it is precisely the refuse of the patriarchal power,
she doesn’t want to use words because they are created by the patriarch.
Struggle between verbal language of Mrs Brockerhurst and the body language of Miss
We can consider Miss Temple as a maternal figure, who teaches Jane to use body language
in order to react against the patriarchal power. For example, she doesn’t teach Jane to “be
a good girl” but to “act as a good girl”.
“Act” to behave / to play the role of act has a double meaning. So, to survive the
patriarchal authority is necessary to act as a good girl but not to be one.
The awareness of the performance of a submissive female identity becomes the first factor
of destabilization of the fixed order perpetuated by the patriarchal system. (essere
consapevoli che il ruolo della donna sottomessa, è il ruolo che la donna deve mettere in
scena per mettere l’ordine egemonico fisso perpetuato dal sistema patriarcale).
Another important element of the novel in general, connected to food, is the “gothic novel”. We
have, in chapter XII, the description of the house which has a picturesque look.
Beautiful/ Sublime/picturesque key words of the gothic period and the gothic novel.
Sublime defined by Burke in his philosophical enquiry “into the origin of our ideas of the
sublime and the beautiful”. He defines the sublime as an artistic quality or experience that
excites the ideas of pain and danger and that produces the strongest emotions that the
mind is capable of feeling. And that causes astonishment and terror. These were the
emotions that the gothics tried to arise.
Sublime is conceived by Burke not as an opposite element to the Beautiful. They are 2
different approaches to art, experiences and environment. In the specific case of the
beautiful there is the reaction of pleasure, in the case of the sublime we have an emotion
of negative delight/pleasure. The idea of beautiful is associated to the idea of harmony,
symmetry, perfection, light.
Sublime is connected to the idea of disharmony, asymmetry, darkness.
For example: The sunset and the calm sea beautiful, because it is harmonic
The storm and the sea sublime
The sublime can be experienced if the subject is far from the event, for example if you are
a boat in the sea during a tempest your feeling is negative, not a negative pleasure but only
negative idea of distance.
The interior of the house suggests a gothic story. There is the description of the third- floor room,
the forbidding spaces, and so what is suggested since the beginning is a sort of manners.
The term “female gothic” was coined in 1977, by Ellen M. in her work “Literary Women”. Female
gothic, according to her, is the work that women writers have done in the literary mode that we
have called “the gothic”. It introduces a new kind of feminine subjectivity, and mirrors the
transformation of females in the cultural scenario.
Jane Eyre belongs to the genre of the female gothic.
Purposes of the gothic novel:
To create terror
To open fiction to the realm of the irrational- perverse impulses, nightmarish terrors,
obsessions- lying beneath the surface of the civilized mind.
To demonstrate the presence of the uncanny (=perturbante) existing in the world that we
know rationally through experience.
The idea of the uncanny was introduced by Freud in 1919, in the essay “The Uncanny”.
Freud starts the analysis with some philological considerations about the term “canny”, the
German word “Heimlich” (=perturbante) and “uncanny” or “unheimlich”.
1. The first meaning of “canny” homey, home-like, intimate, comfortable, domestic.
2. The second definition is secret, concealed, hidden, private, withheld from sight
(=lontano dalla vista).
1. The first definition un-homey, unfamiliar, uncomfortable, strange.
2. The second definition no-longer-secret, unhidden, revealed, the hidden exposed.
The word “heimlich” has a meaning that overlaps with its opposite “unheimlich”. In Freud’s
position, the “uncanny” is the revelation of what is private and hidden, but not hidden only
from others but also from the self. “Uncanny” is nothing new, but it is familiar and it has
become alienated from the process of repression.
May include an innocent heroine persecuted by a villain
Appearance of ghosts
Characters who disappear mysteriously
Characters act from negative emotions: fear, revenge, despair, hatred, anger.
According to Todorov “the fantastic” is a moment of hesitation common to the reader and the
character, when the 2 have to decide between a natural or supernatural explanation of an
event. The fantastic can be defined as a moment of hesitation when they have to decide
between a realistic or not-realistic explanation of the events.
For example: the ghost in the novel Jane Eyre, but then we have a natural explanation because
the ghost is Bertha so the ghost wasn’t a real ghost.
The marvellous and the strange/uncanny are 2 literary genres and “Jane Eyre” is between
Focus on death, events surrounding death, the living may seem half dead and vice versa.
Atmosphere of gloom, terror, mystery
Elements of the uncanny: for example, in chapter 25, before going to bed, Jane discovers a
present from Rochester which is an expensive veil from London.
In the night Jane wakes up and sees a woman with a face of vampirish and savage, who
breaks the wedding veil in 2 parts. She’s considered Jane’s double.
Bertha does Jane an implicit favour, because Jane didn’t like the sense of the veil,
Rochester was trying to transform her identity by buying her expensive gifts; Bertha shows
Jane rebellion, she acts for Jane because Jane has to act like a good Victorian woman, she
embodies Jane resistance. Jane had her own veil, she made one for herself which was
simple. 18 novembre 2016
Bertha is the double and opposite of Jane
Bertha is compared to a vampire; this comparison introduces the element that Bertha is sucking
Rochester’s blood and the element that Bertha has a sexual power.
We can say that Bertha is a woman that Rochester can’t control, she has a strange savage sexual
power. On the other hand, we have Jane, as a small and naïve girl, in fact in the finale scene of
bertha’s nocturnal intrusion we have the description of Jane and Rochester tells her to spend the
night locked in the nursery, which highlights her childish and dependent status. Rochester tries to
protect Jane from Bertha’s strong sexual power.
Bertha embodies fears of aliens and
If we consider Bertha as Jane’s double, she represents the anger and rage that Jane learned to
control in the red room and the loss of identity as a consequence of the marriage.
Bertha is the scapegoat, she has inside of her the danger of the woman and of the stranger/alien.
She expresses Jane’s anger. She’s connected to fire, the idea of red is very present in the
description of “the red room” and now it is the colour of Bertha. Also, in her eyes there is a
reflection of the moon, the symbol of the periods of a woman.
Bertha is the double and opposite of Jane, she can do what she can’t. Jane responds to Rochester
demands and she’s submissive, bertha fight with Rochester, she shows a masculine force, she’s
In chapter 26, when Bertha is tied on a chair, it can remind of the episode of the punishment in
the red room of the little Jane, when she was a child.
Gayatri Spivak has argued that Bertha, the foreign woman, is sacrificed so that British Jane can
achieve self-identity. So, it is necessary to destroy Bertha in order to codify the identity of Jane as
a perfect British woman and then wife.
Jean Rhys, “The Wide Sargasso Sea” (1966) described the life of Bertha before her madness,
caused by western society. It is a prequel of Jane Eyre, Bertha lived in Jamaica. So, critics (in Spivak
and Rhys perspective) suggest that Rochester’s relation with Bertha was not innocent as he
claimed. In fact, as a colonialist he was in Jamaica to make money and colonize women.
The position of these 2 critics is important because Jane Eyre is not only the critique of men’s
behaviour towards women and social injustices against women, but also it denunciates the
brutality of colonialism. In the figure of Bertha there is the fusion of these 2 elements.
It is worth considering the relation between Jane and Grace (a servant, guardian of Bertha)/ Jane
and miss Blanche.
Jane is suspicious towards Grace, because Rochester tries to convince Jane that the
mysterious woman of the nocturnal intrusions is Grace, in order to protect Grace. Jane
thinks that Grace was once, Rochester’s mistress because she doesn’t understand how
Rochester can keep a dangerous woman in his house, so she thinks they were in love. Jane
formulates this hypothesis but then she destroys the hypothesis on the ground of Grace
appearance (she’s ugly). At the same time, this idea suggests the very thought that if once
Rochester had a passion for Grace, now he may like Jane.
Jane asks to remove “the suspicion of Grace”
1. Grace attempted murder to Rochester.
2. Rochester’s passion for Grace, it could stand for the passion he has for Jane.
She considers herself not an active desire subject, she perceives that she has sexual
desires, this perception is revolutionary at the time.
Grace is not Jane double, but Jane reflects some things of herself on Grace. So, hoping to
be desired by someone, is like saying that you desire him. This concept wasn’t accepted in
the Victorian period, the woman could not desire a man, she could not be an active
The figure of Grace is useful for the “desiring figure”.
- Gilbert says that Jane has an ambiguous attitude and behaviour, Gilbert compares
Jane’s behaviour to a male’s attitude towards Rochester. For example: “Jane’s gaze
turns voraciously, even at times voyeuristically, towards Rochester, as she catalogs his
bodily parts and properties in what amounts to a series of female authored blazons”.
Maybe it is a forced view, but it can underline the consciousness and sub consciousness
that seem to move in different ways.
Jane suffers a lot of insecurities, she suffers of class difference with Rochester, she is not happy
with her body. Even if they have different class positions, she uses the romantic belief that
Blanche might be equally to Rochester socially, but spiritually Jane is equally to Rochester and not
Blanche. In order to reinforce this conviction she compares herself to Blanche.
The first impression of Blanche is connected to the romantic heroine, she’s the image of
love. But then Jane understands that Blanche is as morally corrupted as she is physically
fine; Jane introduces the idea of natural affinity. In this sense, she understands that
Blanche can be equal to Rochester for the social level, but Jane and Rochester have
something deeper, something spiritual that links the two.
She compares herself to Blanche to reinforce this idea:
- The perception of Jane about class difference
- The glass: image of the mirror woman has in herself the watched and watcher (=
sorvegliato e sorvegliante). The Victorian woman had to control herself in order to be
desirable to men.
- The first sentence belongs to the vocabulary of the lower classes
- When Jane says to herself “listen, then, Jane Eyre, to your sentence” points out that we
are dealing with the social
- After Rochester’s declaration of love, she has a different perception of herself: “the
reality till I had seen Mr. Rochester again, and heard him renew his words of love and
promise. While arranging my hair, I looked at my face in the glass, and felt it was no
longer plain” (J.E.). The function of the mirror, this time, is to make the woman
perceive herself as a significant being. After Rochester’s declaration, she perceives
herself as “no longer ugly”, so she sees admiration in Rochester’s eyes.
- The idea of gazing and watching is connected to Freud’s ideas, because he says that
those actions are phallic actions. In Freudian theory, Freud links and demonstrates that
there is a male unconscious fear of blindness, and this idea of blindness is connected to
the fear of castration. In Freud’s opinion, the loss of the view is linked to the fear of
castration (=to have a sexual possession). At the end, Rochester is blind and male
blindness is the symbol for a different relation and form of love. So, their relationship is
not based on the domination of the man, because blind men can’t dominate and he
must accept his dependence on women. Rochester is also mutilated of his right arm,
so he is totally dependent on his wife. According to Elaine Showalter, “a literature of
their own”, miming and blinding of Rochester can be considered as a means by which
Rochester and Jane become equal and in fact the problem is that Bronte seems to
recognise that the marriage of Jane is not a symbol of submission anymore, since we
have a new Jane who has a new maturity and new financial independence. So, her
submission is no longer possible. Jane allows Rochester a limited experience of
dependence, in short Rochester’s situation was the typical condition of the Victorian
woman. Bronte considers this condition of frustration and impotence “a learning and
positive experience” for a hero, in this case Rochester.
Bacchilega “Postmodern Fairy Tales: Gender and Narrative Strategies”. According to Bacchilega,
fairy tales are used in order to reinforce or guarantee social cohesion rather than to question it. In
the novel, there are allusions to the fairy tales, in particular to the one of “Bluebird”.
“I lingered in the long passage (…) with its two rows of small black doors all shut, like a corridor in
some Bluebeard’s castle” (J.E.).
Bluebird hides the body of the murdered wife in a secret room, also in Jane Eyre there is an
invisible woman who is Bertha. So, Bertha is symbolically killed, she is the first wife of Rochester.
So, Rochester is the one who was the master key. Rochester as Bluebird has the key to open the
Patriarchal society husband is the master of his wife, imposing his rules to her. She’s punished
when she doesn’t obey the proposed rules.
Bronte’s proto feminism
Charlotte Bronte tries to introduce the fairy tale of Bluebird; this action can be considered a proto
feminist way to question and subvert the social construction of her period.
The rebellious part appears in the projection of the self, in the dreams of the character. It appears
in a hidden way, so the fairy tale is a metaphor of how Bronte tries to destroy the social
constructions of her period. She could not be explicit in her times. 28 novembre
Connection with the fairy tale Bluebird which works on the description of women, their vitality
and love. What is suggested by Adorno is the destruction of female vitality and the idea of
marriage as a negative institution.
According to Adorno: “Marriage is a kind of intimacy marriage is a kind of intimacy whose
aim is to consolidate male power and control even in the private sphere. Marriage is […]
the ideal structure […] where woman enters the system from the outside and is
transformed into an authentic component of the male world”. Every deviation from the
established order (the one introduced by marriage), was considered as an assertion of a
private will and as such it was considered as unacceptable and it must be
In the past, women who didn’t want to conform to patriarchal order were defined as “mad”, so
their behaviour was due to “madness”.
Particularly in the past, this unacceptable trouble refusal to conform to patriarchal order, was
We could consider the figure of Bertha as an example for the link over patriarchal order and
madness, and in the novel Bertha is defined as “mad”, labelled as “mad” because she tries to
speak without obeying.
This idea of madness is a position of vulnerability that serves to reinforce the patriarchal self-
pointed role as guardian of female behaviour.
“Hysterics and madwomen generally have ended up in the attic or the asylum, their
gestures of pain and defiance having served only to put them out of circulation . M. Russo
“Female Grotesque: Carnival and Theory” according to Mary Russo, madness can be
considered as a strategy for feminist resistence.
Some feminist critics think that “madness” is a position of vulnerability, it creates vulnerability
because if they are put in the attic or in the asylum (manicomio) they are out of circulation, and
this is not a gesture of resistance. While other feminist critics think that madness could be
considered as a form of feminist resistance and in the particular case of Bertha, it can be
considered a form of resistance because the attic in the novel becomes a place in which Bertha
(and her double, Jane) can express her sexuality which was repressed in the Victorian society; so,
the attic can be considered as a place of freedom.
The FEMINIST PERPSPECTIVE
Recent feminists have interpreted the novel “Jane Eyre” as a protofeminist novel for the
fact that we have a diagnosis of the condition of the Victorian woman. Jane Eyre is more
important for the description of the condition of the woman during that age. It can’t be
considered as a political novel or a pamphlet but it is important.
We can consider Charlotte Bronte as a protofeminist but we must be conscious of the fact
that she was a woman writing in that period and as such, she was influenced by the
cultural and social background in which she grew up. Many feminist critics have attacked
the very end of the novel, and the idea of marriage between Jane and Rochester suggested
by the author.
D.M. Thomas wrote “Charlotte: the final journey of Jane Eyre” in 2000. It was a re-reading
of the novel. He un-writes and rewrites the happy ending of the novel; in fact, Thomas
starts his novel with the same words as the ones used by Bronte in the beginning of the
last chapter of her novel. Thomas starts the book with “I married him”. This sentence is
considered ambiguous because with this sentence Charlotte Bronte starts to describe the
happy ending of the novel. But Thomas, after having mentioned the final words writes
“this is a very different picture of my marriage” he offers a completely picture of their
marriage. He focuses his attention on part of the novel considered ambiguous from a
The description of the outdoors is an index of freedom. Jane, in a moment of freedom,
looks out far, over a field and hills. The idea of outdoors is connected to freedom in the
novel. The so-called protofeminist manifesto of Jane Eyre comes to the mind of Jane in a
moment of freedom, connected to the description of outdoors spaces. In this manifesto
Charlotte Bronte says that women suffered for being “metaphorically” locked up. Bronte’s
writing could have been influenced by her feeling of being imprisoned and being limited in
her freedom. In the passage, the author suggest that women and men are equal.
JANE EYRE AND FOOD-BODY
Rochester is attracted by Jane physical appearance, while she believes she’s ugly and she
doesn’t want to draw attention to her body. Jane perception of her body is negative.
“I sometimes regretted that I was not handsomer […] I desired to be tall, stately, and finely
developed in figure; I felt it a misfortune that I was so little, so pale, and had features so
irregular and so marked”. In some ways, the smallness of her body corresponds to the
Victorian feminine idea.
It is important to underline Jane’s wish to disappear, and this desire converge with her
refusal to eat. Her starvation means she doesn’t want her body to be seen although she
wishes to be heard.
The food in the novel is always linked to the refusal on Jane’s part. Jane often refuses to
eat. And it was considered a quality for a middle class Victorian ideal woman. So, lack of
appetite was a quality for women belonging to the middle class.
“The consumption of food, clothing, furniture by the lady and the domestic establishment
was important to create a difference between classes” volume devoted to fashion
linked to the concept of social class, the author focused his attention on the function of
food and fashion. Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). What this book
suggests is that the wife of the Victorian gentleman, was expected to consume food
in order to demonstrate her husband social class and wealth. The consumption of food
was considered as an index of belonging to a different social class.
The ambiguity now is that the woman demonstrates the highness of the husband while
eating; but the Victorian woman shouldn’t be eating because the body of the Victorian
woman has to be kind of anorexic.
The idea of silence, and the idea of desire. “Women’s lack of appetite (or inability to eat)
[…] represents in large part a criticism of women’s social roles, most specifically women’s
inability, because of constructions of femininity, to speak their desires. […] [T]he fasting
body is always a physical presence in the text: it is never [absent or erased]” Anna
The more Jane talks about starving, the clearest sense readers have about her small body.
We have Bertha’s body which is a sexualized body, according to the model of the Victorian
body; sensuality and self-control were signified trough appetite. Because women who
ate less, where seen and considered as disciplined and not sexually
frightening/threatening, this is the reason why we have an opposition between Jane and
Bertha’s body. Bertha’s body creates an imaginary space; in this opposition we have the
definition of the model of the proper Victorian lady.
Rochester becomes a participant in an anorexic gender ideology by professing his desire
for Jane’s child body over Bertha or Blanche fuller body.
Jane stays slim in order to establish a purified femininity and in fact, the beginning of the
training for Jane is at Lodwood. The thinner Lodwood students are the more religious.
Middle class Victorian ladies had to stay slim because in so doing, they establish an idea of
purified femininity. In Lodwood the idea of the slim body is connected to the positive
behaviour towards religion. At a certain point, it is said that if Miss Temple gives food to
the girls, she makes their souls starve. So, there is a deep link/bond between starvation
+1 anno fa
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher c597 di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di English literature and culture 1 e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Verona - Univr o del prof Battisti Chiara.
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