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The Stable Self and the Fluid Self : Gendered Identities in Charlotte Brontë’s First and Last Novels, The Professor and Villette


  • Rayanne Rhiannon Eskandari Varzali

Summary, in English

This paper addresses the issue of gendered identity as presented in Charlotte Brontë's first and last novels, The Professor and Villette. As both of these novels are fictional autobiographies, and as the former is narrated by a man and the latter by a woman, they serve as good objects of analysis in that each of them represents its narrator’s understanding of him- or herself. Taking nineteenth-century essentialist definitions of identity as its starting point, this study thus examines how each novel represents such definitions. Located within the dominant ideology of its time, Crimsworth's narrative, in The Professor, shows how he has achieved socio-economic markers of success to portray him as the hero of his own life and in possession of a stable masculine identity. There is, however, a gap between Crimsworth's narrative (as the site of production) and the text (as the site of consumption), so that indications of instability can be found in the text, despite Crimsworth's narrative declarations that his identity is stable (that is, he acts according a stable masculine nature). Located on the margins of hegemonic discourse, Lucy's narrative and the text, in Villete, represent the concept of identity as fluid and changing. Through setting up a binary system and narrative 'undecidability,' Lucy shows that her own identity is fluid, and that identity, in general, is a contingent concept and can change according to a number of factors. Ultimately, both The Professor and Villette, the former in the gap between the narrative and the text and the latter in the unity of the narrative and the text, expose essentialist definitions of identity as inadequate.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


  • Languages and Literatures


  • gender identity
  • selfhood
  • contingency
  • Brontë
  • identity
  • fictional autobiography
  • Charlotte Brontë
  • Villette
  • The Professor
  • autobiographical novels
  • autobiography
  • Victorian Literature
  • Discourse
  • Counter-discourse
  • Victorian Self-hood
  • Victorian Identity


  • Birgitta Berglund (FD)