Landscape and Gender in the Novels of Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy The Body of Nature
Examining a wide range of representations of physical, metaphorical, and dream landscapes in Charlotte BrontÃ«, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy, Eithne Henson explores the way in which gender attitudes are expressed, both in descriptions of landscape as the human body and in ideas of nature. Henson discusses the influence of eighteenth-century aesthetic theory, particularly on BrontÃ« and Eliot, and argues that Ruskinian aesthetics, Darwinism, and other scientific preoccupations of an industrializing economy, changed constructions of landscape in the later nineteenth century. Henson examines the conventions of reading landscape, including the implied expectations of the reader, the question of the gendered narrator, how place defines the kind of action and characters in the novels, the importance of landscape in creating mood, the pastoral as a moral marker for readers, and the influence of changing aesthetic theory on the implied painterly models that the three authors reproduce in their work. She also considers how each writer defines the concept of Englishness against an internal or colonial Other. Alongside these concerns, Henson interrogates the ancient trope that equates woman with nature, and the effect of comparing women to natural objects or offering them as objects of the male gaze, typically to diminish or control them. Informed by close readings, Henson's study offers an original approach to the significances of landscape in the 'realist' nineteenth-century novel.
'This study undertakes a subtly crafted and elegantly argued study of the role and significance of landscape in a number of major fictional Victorian texts. These and other considerations help to inform an excellent chapter on Charlotte Bronte which cleverly demonstrates the gendered nature of landscape representation in Jane Eyre and Shirley in a reading of great subtlety and inwardness. In turning to the very different world of George Eliot, Henson explores with real verve and intelligence the role of men and women in a working Midlands landscape, and the influence of Dutch realism, and is most perceptive in addressing the problematic role of the 'male' narrator in her fiction. When Henson turns to Hardy, the study is once again replete with superfine distinctions in its response to textual detail, and the reader is offered rewardingly fresh readings of novels from Far From the Madding Crowd up to Tess.' Roger Ebbatson, Lancaster University '... represents the most complete work to date exploring the use of landscape (with all its implications only previously hinted at) in Charlotte BrontÃ« demonstrating beyond any doubt the great importance of landscape description (in all its forms) in Charlotte BrontÃ«'s way of narrating and clearly implicating that any serious critical approach to her work has to take it into account.' BrontÃ« Blog '... a well-constructed and stimulating book.' Landscapes