This book explores Charlotte Brontë's novels and the feelings they continue to stir in her readers. For generations, Brontë's novels have stirred their readers to intense and passionate response. Theirs is a world very different from those configured by the great Victorian social novelists: a world not of subtle moral discriminations, but of black-and-white difference and life-and-death struggle, of primitive emotion and ‘feverish disquiet’. The experience they offer is of suspense, of excitement, of repulsion; one takes sides with the hero or heroine, or recoils in dislike or ‘pain’. Indeed, as Brontë's first reviewers' uneasy sense of her novels' ‘blasphemy’ and ‘painfulness’ has been replaced in more recent criticism by a charting of her ideological blind spots, it has become perhaps more severe. Her works are now more confidently judged as responses to a ‘history’ whose essential questions and contours are assumed to be well known.
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