Title

Jane Eyre’s Fairytale Legacy at Home and Abroad: Constructions and Deconstructions of National Identity

Document Type

Book

Publication Date

Spring 3-2016

Abstract

Exploring the literary microcosm inspired by Bronte's debut novel, this book focuses on the nationalistic stakes of the mythic and fairytale paradigms that were incorporated into the heroic female bildungsroman tradition. Jane Eyre, Abigail Heiniger argues, is a heroic changeling indebted to the regional, pre-Victorian fairy lore Charlotte Bronte heard and read in Haworth, an influence that Bronte repudiates in her last novel, Villette. While this heroic figure inspired a range of female writers on both sides of the Atlantic, Heiniger suggests that the regional aspects of the changeling were especially attractive to North American writers such as Susan Warner and L.M. Montgomery who responded to Jane Eyre as part of the Cinderella tradition. Heiniger contrasts the reactions of these white women writers with that of Hannah Crafts, whose Jane Eyre-influenced Bondswoman's Narrative rejects the Cinderella model. Instead, Heiniger shows, Crafts creates a heroic female bildungsroman that critiques fairy-tale narratives from the viewpoint of the obscure, oppressed workers who remain forever outside the tales of wonder produced for middle-class consumption. Heiniger concludes by demonstrating how Bronte's middle-class American readers projected the self-rise ethic onto Jane Eyre, miring the novel in nineteenth-century narratives of American identity formation.

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