Content Category

Literary Criticism

Abstract/Description

Anne Brontë’s 1848 novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall has long been called a seminal text in the feminist literary canon. Although a fair amount of recent scholarship has been written on the element of domestic violence found within its pages, most critics concede that Brontë stops short of depicting actual physical abuse between Helen Huntingdon and her husband Arthur. However, this paper suggests that scholars have overlooked Helen’s explicit reports of being sexually assaulted by her husband and their significance. By including the element in her story, Brontë entered her description of marital sexual abuse into the public discourse at a time when this concept was neither widely discussed nor considered a crime. Through a close reading of the text and an analysis of its historical implications, this paper shows how Tenant reveals the concept that a nonconsensual sexual relationship can exist within marriage to its Victorian audience.

Location

B112 JFSB

Start Date

19-3-2015 1:15 PM

End Date

19-3-2015 2:45 PM

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Mar 19th, 1:15 PM Mar 19th, 2:45 PM

“I Could Do with Less Caressing”: Sexual Abuse in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

B112 JFSB

Anne Brontë’s 1848 novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall has long been called a seminal text in the feminist literary canon. Although a fair amount of recent scholarship has been written on the element of domestic violence found within its pages, most critics concede that Brontë stops short of depicting actual physical abuse between Helen Huntingdon and her husband Arthur. However, this paper suggests that scholars have overlooked Helen’s explicit reports of being sexually assaulted by her husband and their significance. By including the element in her story, Brontë entered her description of marital sexual abuse into the public discourse at a time when this concept was neither widely discussed nor considered a crime. Through a close reading of the text and an analysis of its historical implications, this paper shows how Tenant reveals the concept that a nonconsensual sexual relationship can exist within marriage to its Victorian audience.