The University of Wisconsin Press

Literature & Criticism

Charlotte Brontë
The Self Conceived
Helene Moglen

The evolution of Brontë's feminism from Byronic romanticism. A major biography fusing the making of literature and the formation of personality.

The lives of literary figures have always provided a source of fascination; the tragic life of Charlotte Brontë is no different. In this interpretive critical biography, Helene Moglen “takes for granted earlier, exhaustive studies” done on Brontë to produce an analysis that incorporates not only the facts of her life, but also their influence upon her works. Through her study, Moglen seeks to examine the two dimensions that are essential to any study of Brontë: the life she lived and the life she created within the pages of fiction.

By examining the paradoxical personal tragedy and artistic fulfillment that made up Charlotte Brontë’s life, Helen Moglen shows the evolution of Brontë’s feminism. Through Brontë’s growth, Moglen then is able to “explore explicitly formations of the modern female psyche.” Considered to be a major biography fusing together the making of literature and the formation of personality, Moglen offers a new critical insight into Brontë’s struggle for self-definition and how it can be reflected through the lives of readers more than a century later.

"It was for these reasons that I came to write this ‘life.’”
Helene Moglen

“[Moglen’s] dynamic handling of Charlotte’s dialectic progress as woman and artist toward ‘the self conceived’ makes the traditional scholarship of previous, larger biographies pale by comparison.”—The New York Times

“This is a fine biography, thoroughgoing and provocative … Not only is it a biographical design particularly suited to a study of an emerging 20th-century woman, but it employs a combination of analytic tools which provoke thought in a way the historical recording of a life’s events simply cannot.” —The Washington Post

“In this compelling study of Brontë’s life and art, Moglen transcends…traditional limitations, and breaks through to a consistently intelligent interpretation of the interactions between Brontë’s personality and fiction. She combines an unusually subtle and coherent psychological analysis of biographical data with detailed readings of each major novel to develop both a convincing portrait of a personality matured through writing and of fictions informed more and more richly by psychological awareness.”—Studies in Romanticism

“An excellent and compelling biography. Moglen has achieved what I have long hoped for: a critical-biography study of a woman writer which understands and presents with clarity the major force in the development of a female psyche. This biography is in every way likely to add importantly to our knowledge of Brontë and of women writers.”—Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Columbia University

Helene Moglen is Professor of English Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is also the author of The Philosophical Irony of Laurence Sterne.

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October 1984
LC: 84-017199 PR
256 pp.   5 1/2 x 8 1/2
ISBN-10: 0-299-10144-4

ISBN-13: 978-0-299-10144-2

The cloth edition of this title is out of print but the paperback is available.

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