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Advisory Committee Chair

Daniel J Siegel

Advisory Committee Members

Leonard K Grimes

Erika H Rinker

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2012

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

From their earliest reception, the works of Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Brontë have been met with hostility and confusion as a result of their deviation from the standards adopted by a majority of their contemporaries. While the works of the three sisters are anomalous within the context of their peers, both reader and critic alike have observed the similarities that exist among the family of works. As a result of their departure from societal norms, the Brontës have been recognized for their harshness and apparent rebellion; however, they were neither concerned with complete social upheaval, nor were they opposed to the culture that ventured to offer a sense of stability to their world. Instead, they appeared to be concerned with both the attempts for transcendence through cultural establishments such as religion as well as the innate human urges that many of their Victorian contemporaries attempted to stifle. While this desire for balance between culture and human nature may be easily traced through the Brontë canon, the absence of a functional vocabulary through which to discuss this phenomenon often results in a skewed perception of the Brontës' motives in creating a schism between culture and nature. The stigma associated with "culture" and "nature" often lends a reading that implies a negative/positive relationship between the two opposing aspects of existence. In arguing that the Brontës were attempting to demonstrate the necessity of culture and nature, this thesis attempts to demonstrate that to achieve an impartial reading of their novels and the relationships at work therein, a new vocabulary must be adopted. The Apollonian/Dionysian vocabulary of Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy most readily lends itself to the interconnection between culture and nature. By applying Nietzsche's interpretation of the Apollonian desire for transcendence through illusion and the suffering of Dionysian reality to Jane Eyre, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Wuthering Heights one may come to a realization of the complex relationship between Victorian culture and human nature.

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