Author: Carol Bock
Category: Literary Criticism
This intelligent study offers a new and appreciative understanding of Charlotte Bronte as a narrative artist. With care and precision, Bock counters the prevailing view of Bronte's fiction as unconsciously confessional, clearly showing her persistent concern with the reader's collaborative role in the storytelling experience. Bock begins with an examination of the creative milieu at Haworth, where Bronte initially gained an understanding of her craft, and continues with a look at Bronte's relationship with her first audience, Branwell, Emily, and Anne, as well as the influence of her early readings in Scott, Byron, and Blackwood's Magazine. Bronte's juvenile tales are used to describe the model of storytelling that she conceptualized during these formative years - a model which reflects her belief that author and reader meet on the border of actuality and imagination in order to pursue the truths that narrative fiction can contain. Individual chapters discuss the motif of reading and storytelling in The Professor, Jane Eyre, Shirley, and Villette and consider the narrative methods which characterize Bronte's relationship with her readers in each of these novels. Bock traces Bronte's development as a storyteller from an early struggle to reconceptualize her audience as she tried to enter the literary marketplace with The Professor to, in her final novel, Villette, a complex acknowledgment of the ways truth may be encompassed - contained, named, and observed - in fictional narrative and a hopeful account of the creative event in which readers and writers participate. Charlotte Bronte and the Storyteller's Audience also includes a history of the critical reception of Bronte's novels, pointing out some of the interpretive constraints by which the practice of reading her fiction as unconscious confession has limited our understanding of her narrative skill and literary concerns.