Reading the revenant in Charlotte Brontë’s literary afterlives
Charting the path from the ‘silent country’ to the séance
in Charlotte Brontë
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This chapter traces the process by which the Charlotte Brontes came to be peculiarly associated with the ghostly, beginning in the nineteenth century, and views it as inextricably connected with their transformation from historical figures to fictional characters. It focuses, in particular, on the history of Charlotte's representation as revenant. The chapter considers how tropes of haunting are deployed across three distinct phases in Charlotte's fictionalisation: Elizabeth Gaskell's biography, nineteenth-century commemorative poetry, and the inter-war fictional biographies. Elizabeth Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte was essential to the development of Bronte fictional biography. Gaskell wrote ghost stories, some of which were likely inspired by the Brontes and their fiction. Matthew Arnold composed the first Bronte ghost poem as an act of commemoration prior to the publication of Gaskell's Life. Writing commemorative poetry about dead authors, their final resting places and afterlives, was an established practice in nineteenth-century literary culture.

Charlotte Brontë

Legacies and afterlives

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