Deborah Wynne will be presenting her talk, ‘Charlotte Brontë’s Frocks and Shirley‘s Queer Textiles’, at 2pm on Wednesday, 17 November 2010. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University Humanities Building, Room 2.48.
Charlotte Brontë’s ‘condition-of-England’ novel Shirley (1849) engages with the issue of textile manufacture and use in the age of mass production. It offers insights into the ways in which cloth functions as a language through which identities can be forged. This talk examines why textiles, particularly women’s clothes and needlework activities, are important in Shirley. It focuses on Brontë’s anxieties about her own metaphorical cross dressing as the ‘male’ author Currer Bell and her complex representations of dress, particularly the homosocial potential of clothing rituals, as she depicts her female characters dressing and undressing their friends. The paper also considers the importance of Brontë’s unpublished Preface to Shirley, entitled ‘A Word to the Quarterly’, an attack upon Elizabeth Rigby, a hostile reviewer of Jane Eyre. Brontë’s satirical essay helps to explain why Shirley offers an extended engagement with the topic of women’s dress.
About the speaker
Deborah Wynne is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of Chester. Her research interests include 19th-century literature and culture, women writers, Charles Dickens, Henry James, and costume drama and film adaptations of the 19th century. She has written articles on sensation fiction, property, hysteria and Victorian women’s writing, and she is the author of Women and Personal Property in the Victorian Novel (2010) and The Sensation Novel and the Victorian Family Magazine (2001). She is currently working on a book called Literary Fabrics: Texts, Textiles and Costume Dramas, a study of the literary and filmic representations of textile manufacture, retailing and use in 19th-century texts and contemporary costume dramas.