Consent and Enclosure in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: ‘You needn’t read it all; but take it home with you'

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    Abstract

    While much recent scholarship situates The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as a proto-feminist text, highlighting Helen Huntingdon's status as a working woman and her radicalism in leaving her first husband, this article argues that Anne Brontë's narrative structure in fact limits the character's radical potential. The novel's structure replicates the form of nineteenth-century coverture, which establishes her husband, Gilbert Markham, and not Helen, as the center of narrative power. Markham's framing letters enclose Helen's text within his own; while this has been read as granting authority to the woman's narrative, such framing instead contains it and controls the possibilities of its interpretation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)231-241
    JournalVictorians
    Volume138
    Early online date17 Dec 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020

    Keywords

    • Victorian women writers
    • narrative structure
    • gender roles
    • coverture
    • consent
    • patriarchy
    • Anne Brontë
    • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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