Persistence of Beauty Public Lecture - Lamia Beauty and Problematic Sylphs in the Works of the Brontes and George Eliot
This is the first lecture in the Persistence of Beauty Public Lecture Series.
According to Harriet Martineau, Charlotte Brontë told her sisters that 'they were wrong - even morally wrong - in making their heroines beautiful as a matter of course'.
Prevailing ideals of feminine beauty are subjected to scrutiny and satire in the fiction of Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot, making way for a 'perfectly new character', as Rochester describes the 'plain' protagonist of Jane Eyre. Self-styled 'sylphs', such as Blanche Ingram in Jane Eyre, Ginevra Fanshawe in Villette and Gwendolen Harleth in Daniel Deronda, are undeniably 'problematic' for their authors, yet remain central to the narrative and compelling for readers. This lecture will demonstrate that while derivative ideas of beauty are derided, increasingly complex portraits of beauty emerge. Beauty, in various guises, retains an agency that challenges and destabilises the models of female subjectivity established in these works.
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