Immaterial Correspondence: Letters, Bodies, and Desire in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette

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This article argues that Charlotte Brontë’s Villette (1853) rewrites a prevalent narrative convention, encoded in eighteenth-century literary culture, of using letters as substitutes for correspondents’ bodies. The novel features a character/narrator who deliberately represses the material aspects of correspondence, staging a gradual disembodiment of epistolary exchange. Lucy Snowe, I propose, uses the epistolary medium to circumvent prescriptive accounts of sexual difference and hierarchy. Letters become a crucial instrument in Lucy’s endeavour to reconcile her romantic, intellectual, and professional ambitions, as they allow her to erase her body – and its culturally encoded meanings – from the process of communication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-146
JournalBrontë Studies
Issue number2
Early online date6 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

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