AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

Performing Female Identities: Gender Performativity in Charlotte Brontë's Villette

by Elin Lind-Olsen

Institution: Universitetet i Tromsø
Year: 2016
Keywords: Charlotte Brontë; Villette; feminism; female identity; 19th Century theater; gender roles; gender performativity; Judith Butler; VDP::Humanities: 000::Literary disciplines: 040::English literature: 043; VDP::Humaniora: 000::Litteraturvitenskapelige fag: 040::Engelsk litteratur: 043
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2064217
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10037/9733


This thesis analyzes how Charlotte Brontë uses theatrical performances as narrative techniques in her novel Villette (1853). The thesis looks at three different kinds of performances found in the novel: the On-Stage and Off-Stage acting performed by the younger focalizer in the embedded narrative, as well as the Narrative Performance that is ‘performed’ by the older narrator in the frame narrative. All three kinds of acting are included because they are each important for understanding how Brontë constructs and portrays a female identity that critiques and subverts 19th Century conventional ideas about women. The thesis discusses how several Brontë critics claim that the theatricality that permeates the entire novel served to subvert general established ideas about female identity found in the 19th Century. Therefore, the aim of this thesis is to investigate whether or not some often discussed theatrical episodes, or scenes, in Villette can still be considered subversive acts, or if they must be viewed slightly different than what previously Brontë critics have done. The thesis uses Judith Butler’s theory on gender performance and identity formation to support the argument. This thesis will argue that what gives Villette its subversive potential is the “doubleness” that Brontë uses when describing characters and scenes, as well as when she constructs her narrative. Advisors/Committee Members: Wolfe, Stephen (advisor).