Week 7

Week VII Outline
Miriam Hauser and Cathy Park
Victorian Literature and Culture: English 111
25 February 2013

The Narrator/Authorial Voice

Lucy’s relationship with the reader via Maddie’s close reading:

Lucy’s position as unbiased observer of character vs. Lucy’s position as subjective creator of narrative

Why does Lucy withhold information and what effects does this have on the reader? Do we feel close to or distant from Lucy? How does her unreliability affect how we interact with the text and her disclosures?

Lucy’s relationship with the author:

Where do we feel the separation or tension between the narrator and the author? Are there parts where the authorial voice intrudes upon the narratorial voice?

Flashback! Cathy and Christina’s Seminar Papers:

Autobiographies vs. First-Person Narration: Where do we see the similarities in the “divide/non-divide” between author and narrator? How do we understand the project of realist fiction in terms of the first-person narrative?

2 pg. 220 – Danielle’s quote

Danielle’s close reading:

“Throughout Villette, Charlotte Bronte reveals the compounded tensions that come with a female protagonist expressed in the first person, a female authorial voice, and Bronte’s own feminine identity as author.”

“The three voices she constructs–her own, the narrator’s, and that of Lucy’s, complicate that potentially all-powerful fictional authority.”

Lucy’s relationship with other characters

How does her stance as conscientious narrator, involved in a project of observing and analyzing, affect the relationships she forms with other character?

Keyword: Surveillance.

Is Lucy as a narrator engaged in a process of surveillance as narrator, as Paul and Madame Beck are involved in a project of surveilling her?

What about the book and Lucy’s character prevent the development of a plot of female

In the plot of female amity, female friendships prepare for heterosexual marriage. Sharon Marcus sees Lucy’s inability to form and maintain female friendships as being linked to her inability to be married.

Why are the friendships that Lucy does develop (with Paulina, the Brettons and even with Paul) insufficient to prepare for heterosexual marriage? Though this is not a question we can fully answer, what prevents Lucy from developing closer friendships with Paulina and the Brettons?

Lucy and the Brettons: “When I had said my prayers, and when I was undressed and laid down, I felt that I still had friends. Friends, not professing vehement attachment, not offering the tender solace of well-matched and congenial relationship; on whom, therefore, but moderate demand of affection was to be made, of whom but moderate expectation formed; but towards whom my heart softened instinctively, and yearned with an importunate gratitude, which I entreated Reason betimes to check.” (199)

Lucy and Paulina: “I liked her. It is not a declaration I have often made concerning my acquaintance, in the course of this book: the reader will bear with it for once. Intimate intercourse, close inspection, disclosed in Paulina only what was delicate, intelligent, and sincere; therefore my regard for her lay deep. An admiration more superficial might have been more demonstrative; mine, however, was quiet.” (411)

“I might have had companions, and I chose solitude. Each of the teachers in turn made me overtures of special intimacy; I tried them all.” (p. 140)

Why is Lucy unable to find and maintain friendships, particularly with other women? In what ways and for what reasons does she undermine the development of intimate relationships with other characters?

“In the plot of female amity, women who love the same man refuse to compete for him and thus smooth the way for marriage by affirming the femininity that Victorians equated with altruism and reciprocity. Since women’s desire for men in Villette always involves rivalry, female friendship cannot generate marriage.” (Sharon Marcus)

“the marriage market [is envisioned] as a corrosive force that turns friendly gestures into blistering attacks.” (Sharon Marcus)

Lucy is able to find friendship finally outside of female bonds with Paul. However, she recognizes that this relationship is threatened by the potential of matrimony; she cannot be true friends with him if he is married to someone else. Why is Lucy able to develop a friendship with Paul as she is unable to do with the other characters in the novel? In what ways is this friendship affected by their difference in gender?

“I was willing to be his sister, on condition that he did not invite me to fill that relation to some future wife of his; and tacitly vowed as he was to celibacy, of this dilemma there seemed little danger.” (453)


Alison’s Criticism Summary:

“Unlike many of her counterparts, Lucy roundly rejects female intimacy, a
move which Marcus just reads as an internal repression of female desire (or an enactment of queerness) and as a formal subversion of the marriage plot.”

“Lucy’s desire for other women is expressed but not enacted.”

Lucy and Ginevra

Frivolity vs. Moral Tuptitude – See the chapter “Isidore”

Given Lucy’s distaste for Ginevra’s behavior and mannerisms, why does she continue to allow Ginevra to confide in her, and why does she favor her, as through always sharing her food?

In what ways is their relationship queer? See, particularly, the play performance.

Sharon Marcus: “Lucy’s desire for Ginevra is inescapable from erotic contests” (104)

“The erotic heat associated with negative, aggressive affects like jealousy, humiliation, and punishment circulates freely between Ginevra and Lucy, but the warmth generated between them dissipates into what each sees as a more primary contest over men.”( 105)

How do we see queerness in Lucy’s other relationships?

To think about: Paranoia and friendship

Religion – Protestantism vs. Catholicism

Protestantism and Catholicism within the relationship of Lucy and M. Paul:

How is the divide between Protestantism and Catholicism mediated by the friendship?

Lucy’s encounter with Catholicism? (pg. 457)
“The voice of that sly little book was a honeyed voice; its accents were all unction and balm. Here roared no utterance of Rome’s thunders, no blasting of the breath of her displeasure. The Protestant was to turn Papist, not so much in fear of the heretic’s hell, as on account of the comfort, the indulgence, the tenderness Holy Church offered; far be it from her to threaten or coerce; her wish was to guide and win.” (457).

Catholicism in contrast with Protestantism

“the more I saw of Popery the closer I clung to Protestantism; doubtless there were errors in every church, but I now perceived by contrast how severely pure was my own, compared with her whose painted and meretricious face had been unveiled for my admiration…” (466)

Keyword: Surveillance

How are aspects of surveillance attributed to certain religions over others?

Lucy’s relationship with God

Relationship with God as a Protestant?
“I told him how we kept fewer forms between us and God; retaining, indeed, no more than, perhaps, the nature of mankind in the mass rendered necessary for due observance.” (466)

Relationship with God as a sufferer?
“These struggles with the natural character…they certainly make a difference in the general tenor of a life, and enable it to be better regulated, more equable, quieter on the surface…take it to your Maker – show Him the secrets of the spirit He gave – ask Him how you are to bear the pains He has appointed – kneel in His presence, and pray with faith for light in darkness, for strength in piteous weakness, for patience in extreme need.” (200)

“when I thought of sin and sorrow, of earthly corruption, mortal depravity, weighty temporal woe—I could not care for chanting priests or mumming officials; that when the pains of existence and the terrors of dissolution pressed before me—when the mighty hope and measureless doubt of the future arose in view—then, even the scientific strain, or the prayer in a language learned and dead, harassed: with hindrance a heart which only longed to cry—”God be merciful to me, a sinner!”” (466)

Religion vs. Fate? How is Fate represented in the language of the novel?
“I had wanted to compromise with Fate…Fate would not so be pacified; nor would Providence sanction this shrinking sloth and cowardly indolence” (42)

“Where Fate may lead me” (61)

Science and Reason as represented in the novel

Mr. Home as a man of science (9)

Lucy refers a lot to Reason and science


How are we, as readers, to think of science and Reason when inside such religious language?

First time throughout the novel that we’ve been presented with such language. What are we to think?

CONTRAST: Figure of nun vs. Hanging image of white dressed figure in Great Expectations

In Villette, the ghostly figure of the nun is unpacked, and the “observation” explained by a simple letter sent from Ginevra. How does this comment on superstitious images/beliefs?

How do we use our WordPress seminar archive? What does it look like now? What is our experience working with it?

The Colonial Project/ What is English?

English women

“Foreigners say that it is only English girls who can thus be trusted to travel alone, and deep is their wonder at the daring confidence of English parents and guardians. As for the ‘jeunes Miss’, by some their intrepidity is pronounced masculine and ‘inconvenant’, others regard them as the passive victims of an educational and theological system which wantonly dispenses with proper ‘surveillance.’ (59).

How is English female education and relationship to sexuality different from that of France? How is it related to the question of Protestantism vs. Catholicism?

Chapter 19 “The Cleopatra,” M. Paul says to Lucy, “You nurslings of Protestantism astonish me. You unguarded English women walk calmly amidst redhot ploughshares and escape burning. I believe, if some of you were thrown into Nebuchadnezzar’s hottest furnace you would issue forth untraversed by the smell of fire.” (228)

On M. Paul’s abuse of Englishwomen: “I specially remember his abuse of their tall stature, their long necks, their thin arms, their slovenly dress, their pedantic education, their impious scepticism (!), their insufferable pride, their pretentious virtue” (378)

Who are English women being compared to in the first place? English men? Women of France?

Patriotism for the women? Patriotism for the country? For the men?

“For some time the abuse of England…fastening not only upon our women, but upon our greatest names and best men; sullying the shield of Britannia, and dabbling the union jack in mud — that I was stung. With vicious relish he brought up the most spicy current continental historical falsehoods — than which nothing can be conceived more offensive. Zélie, and the whole class, became one grin of vindictive delight; for it is curious to discover how these clowns of Labassecour secretly hate England. At last, I struck a sharp stroke on my desk, opened my lips, and let loose this cry: –‘Vive l’Angleterre, l’Histoire et les Héros! A bas la France, la Fiction et les Faquins!” (379).

How do we read the French used in the novel? How would it have been read at the time produced?

Keyword: Surveillance

Surveillance and Colonialism go hand in hand!

England’s relationship to Colonial Subjects

How is Guadaloupe portrayed? Does the narrator mention the oppressive forces employed? What is conveyed when the language does not divulge the whole extent of “servitude”?

“Why is it his duty to go into banishment?…Basseterre in Guadaloupe…[the words] ran athwart the darkness around and before me, in zig-zag characters of red or violet light” (487)

Parallels between Paul and Guadaloupe:

“But the distance was great, and the climate hazardous. The competent and upright agent wanted, must be a devoted man. Just such a man had Madame Walravens retained for twenty years in her service, blighting his life, and then living on him, like an old fungus; such a man had Père Silas trained, taught, and bound to him by the ties of gratitude, habit and belief. Such a man Madame Beck knew, and could in some measure influence…so the three self-seekers banded and beset the one unselfish. They reasoned, they appealed, they implored; on his mercy they cast themselves, into his hands they confidingly thrust their interests. They asked but two or three years of devotion — after that, he should live for himself: one of the number, perhaps, wished that in the meantime he might die.” (510)

The language of colonialism

How much is mentioned and isn’t?

“(the doll, christened by Graham; for, indeed, its begrimed complexion gave it much of an Ethiopian aspect” (43)

“Madame Walravens was hideous as a Hindoo idol” (509)

How much does the language seep through everyday life/writing of everyday life?

Freedgood- the effect on readers/what does it say about the culture of readership?

Paranoia and Surveillance

Paranoia and Criticism

Eve Sedgwick

Danielle’s criticism summary

“Sedgwick “discusses “performative” knowledge as a means of reengaging Paul Ricoeur’s famous “hermeneutics of suspicion.” In short, critical knowledge need not be taxonomic or categorical for proper explanation. The very attitude of suspicion can recover meaning, as Freud, Nietzsche, and Marx’s critical stances well show.”

Paranoia tells us less about what society considers perverse and more about what society upholds as “normal.”

Latour “Has Critique Run out of Steam?”

What is Latour suggesting as an alternative to overly suspicious readings and what is the risk he sees in those readings?

Paranoia and Villette

Sierra’s paper:

“I want to suggest Villette dos not just mimetically reproduce but is fundamentally about hermeneutics”

How does Villette both attract and repel overly suspicious readings?

Surveillance in Villette:

Madame Beck (see 80-81)
“She seemed to know that keeping girls in distrustful restraint, in blind ignorance, and under a surveillance that left them no moment and no corner for retirement, was not the best way to make them grow up honest and modest women; but she averred that ruinous consequences would ensue if any other method were tried with continental children: they were so accustomed to restraint, that relaxation, however guarded, would be misunderstood and fatally presumed on.” (80-81)

M. Paul see (334-335)
“He ‘had his eye on me: he at least would discharge the duty of a friend, and not leave me entirely to my own devices’” (335)
iii By her careful observations and through narrating this story, is Lucy involved in a process of surveillance herself?

Why is surveillance linked to Catholicism? Does Lucy see Catholicism as serving a panoptic force, maintained by its followers? Why does Lucy antithetically link surveillance and morality and why is surveillance connected with the Continent? Is this a disavowal of the role of surveillance and of the presence of panoptic forces in England?

Close reading of the ending – harken back to the beginning, compare with ambiguity in the ending of Pip (pg. 545-546)
a How do these publisher determined endings interact with the culture of readership? Do they reflect on the reader’s desires? Shape the reader’s desires?

Foreshadowed imagery?

“Far from saying nay, indeed, I will permit the reader to picture me, for the next eight years, as a bark slumbering through halcyon weather, in a harbour still as glass – the steersman stretched on the little deck, his face up to heaven, his eyes closed: buried, if you will, in a long prayer. A great many women and girls are supposed to pass their lives something in that fashion; why not I with the rest?
… I too well remember a time – a long time, of cold, of danger, of contention. To this hour, when I have the nightmare, it repeats the rush and saltness of briny waves in my throat, and their icy pressure on my lungs. I even know there was a storm, and that not of one hour nor one day. For many days and nights neither sun nor stars appeared; we cast with our own hands the tackling out of the ship; a heavy tempest lay on us; all hope that we should be saved was taken away. In fine, the ship was lost, the crew perished.” (39).

What does the shadowing tell us about the narrator/narrative structure?