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Title:Charlotte Bronte and the Victorian Experience of Transcending
Author(s):Setzer, Susan Kay
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, English
Abstract:It has been a recent critical emphasis to stress the "unresolved conflicts" in Charlotte Bronte's work (Reason vs. Imagination, passion vs. duty) and therefore to see her novels as evidence of the Victorian divided self.
This study shows that the persistent dualities in the novels can only be judged by seeing them in relation to the moments of unity (transcending). Transcending is an experience of unitive or creative consciousness in which the powers of the mind are integrated and function beyond the boundaries of discursive thought. Such moments are the symbolic and structural poles of Bronte's novels. Her fiction is able to imitate the fluctuations of human awareness in its shifting between a sense of duality and a sense of unity, depending upon its state of consciousness.
Chapter 1 defines a taxonomy of transcending experience which is useful for literary studies, employing concepts from Underhill, Stace, Zaehner, Otto, Laski, psychology, parapsychology, and meditation technique. These types indicate that personal identity is "state specific" (based on a specific state of consciousness).
Transcending must also be considered in the context of the "interpretive community." Chapter 2 surveys the views of empiricism, Romanticism, the Anglican Church (High, Low, and Broad), and nineteenth-century psychology, in order to answer the question of why, when transcending was so clearly expressed in Victorian letters, it was effectually condemned by Victorian culture.
Chapters 3 through 7 apply the transcending types to a range of authors, but focus primarily on the novels of Charlotte Bronte. In addition to discussing the types of transcending found in her work, the study identifies three modes of expressing transcending (experiential, philosophical, and symbolic) and seven formal uses in the novel (characterization, philosophical background, deus ex machina, lyric, foreshadowing, suspense, and climax). Bronte shows that transcending not only heals the divided self but that it reveals the fuller, authentic self.
Therefore, despite the dualities and psychological conflicts in the novels, Charlotte Bronte's use of transcending in her fiction reflects a unified view of personality, and a close study of these holistic experiences reveals that her "trance" writing, in both method and result, was "conscious" rather than "unconscious."
Issue Date:1987
Description:437 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1987.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8721757
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1987

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