Reading Amazon Fragments: Queering Shirley

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Department 1



In this article, I investigate Shirley, Charlotte Brontë’s most neglected novel, to focus on its subtle allusions to unexplored sexualities and to propose the possibility that Anne Lister and her relationship with Ann Walker influenced the construction of both the novel’s plot and the relationship of its two heroines. A Yorkshire lesbian landowner, Lister lived only 10 miles away from Haworth, and, from the autumn of 1838 to the spring of 1839, Emily Brontë taught in a school one mile away from Lister’s ancestral home. Most important, the novel is threaded with images which capture the threatening seductiveness of hidden and haunting women. Though the novel ends with both heroines securely married (identified only as ‘Mrs. Robert’ and ‘Mrs. Louis’) and with the Amazon threat of Shirley’s masculinity curbed, the power of Shirley’s peculiarities echoes in the conclusion’s recollection of a last sighting of a ‘fairish [fairy] in Fieldhead Hollow’.


Original version available from publisher at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14748932.2016.1186937?journalCode=ybst20

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