Reimagining Violence in the Brontë Myth:
“Tales of Positive Violence and Crime” in Neo-Victorian Brontë Afterlives
Keywords:adaptation, Mike Barker, Brontë myth, the Brontës, cultural legacy, Elizabeth Gaskell, Michael Stewart, romanticisation, violence, Sally Wainwright
This article argues that narratives of violence are fundamental to both the creation and dismantling of the Brontë myth. Perceptions of violence in the Brontë legacy have undergone a shift. Nineteenth-century responses initially deemed violence a coarse and unfeminine aspect of Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontë’s novels, but also one integral to the creation of their fictions and to visions of Haworth. Meanwhile, more recent neo-Victorian reimaginings of the Brontës’ works and lives often seek to reinstate and accentuate violence, partly to offer an apparently more ‘authentic’ depiction of the books and their authors. This essay considers how current narratives of violence connected to the Brontës can be contextualised through a focus on Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857) and early sources central to the Brontë myth, arguing that, rather than demythologising the Brontës, neo-Victorian representations of violence often revert to earlier myths in a process of re-romanticisation.
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