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The biographical process: writing the lives of Charlotte Brontë

Mitchell, Barbara (1994) The biographical process: writing the lives of Charlotte Brontë. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Focusing on multiple versions of the life of Charlotte Bronte, I explore the development of biography over a period of 140 years, examining a range of biographical forms, the process of re-visioning the subject, and the relationships between biographies and their historical placement. Eight versions of the life of Charlotte Bronte, from Elizabeth Gaskell’s first Life published in 1857 to Rebecca Fraser’s 1988 biography, are examined in detail, with consideration of ten additional Bronte biographies. The impact of the discoveries of new documents is noted, but of particular interest is how strategies of interpretation and form have altered, thereby influencing the conceptualization of the subject. A study of versions of Charlotte Bronte’s life illustrates that, within one relatively stable set of documents, there can be numerous stories. Versions of Bronte biographies interact with one another manifesting an interesting development from competitive displacement to complementary inclusiveness. In following the development of the genre, I examine the impact on biography of changing attitudes to subjectivity and objectivity, completeness and definitiveness, the relationship of the biographer to the subject, the construction of self, and the use and types of novelistic strategies. One dominant mode of conceptualization, the view of Charlotte as a divided personality, has significantly changed over this period, particularly as a result of the different emphases adopted by feminist biographers and by the postmodern challenges to the concept of a unitary self. Each chapter of the thesis deals with specific developments in the genre, illustrating the particular contributions of individual biographers and the correlation between interpretation, form and historical placement.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of English (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.595050
Depositing User: Digitisation Studio Leeds
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2014 14:34
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2014 10:49
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/5489

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