Saturday, May 21, 2005

"Villette" Literary Qualities

Your groups' analysis of Villette in Wednesday's seminar I'm sure produced some good insight. However, I'm not certain that we had sufficient opportunity to reduce the various ideas that you presented into a tidy enough dialectic conclusion.

Here is a list of some features of Bronte's novel that may qualify as identifying elements of the chick-lit genre.

  1. An unmarried female protagonist, Lucy Snowe, with competing rival male suitors.
  2. A text that valourises a female protagonist, and insists that her internal qualities -- character, intellect, acumen, &c -- be acknowledged and valued, while external limitations -- physical or mental state, material circumstance, &c. -- are to be ignored. The narrator emphasises the plainness of her appearance -- but presents it as a virtue, in concert with her sensible Yorkshire rusticity. Her savage denunciation of the painting in "Cleopatra" represents her attitude toward luxuriousness in dress, cosmetics and apartment.
  3. A dark and dangerous Byronic-type male: M. Paul - the fictional representation of Bronte's employer and desired lover in Brussels, the married M. Heger. Also, a fair and pliant gentlemanly object of desire: Dr. John Graham Bretton. One neuter male to be derided: the metrosexual de Hamal.
  4. Problems and complications in the matter of romance with all suitors: including their complete obliviousness to their status as suitor.
  5. Dissatisfaction, conflict, &/or lack of fulfulfilment with work: or, as the West Riding Yorkshire Bronte might have put it, "trubble a' mill!"
  6. Obssession or unhealthy degree of focus on some aspect of self: in Villette this is mental stability, specifically melancholia.
  7. A romantic setting and mood -- "romantic" used here in several senses. Villette with its dark-&-stormy-nights, its large, old, heavily-built, former nunnery, and possible haunting by a reputedly murdered Nun, applies the gothic tradition to its artistic purpose.
  8. Great emphasis on dialogue and description of place and character over plot. Suggestion of mock epic in the faux and very petty suspense that the narrator -- soon understood to be of questionable reliability -- habitually presents.
  9. Heavy-handed villainising of an "other" -- here, Roman Catholicism.
  10. Unmistakable affirmation of the narrator's system of value: in Villette an incessant and loud English patriotism. This laudation of all things English is ubiquitous in the text and is the heavy-handed antipathetic complement to the portrayal of decadent non-Protestant Europe.

So, there's a list. I'll give a synthesis sometime later. For now, I'm interested in considering your posted comments on how you summarise Villette for purposes of our research into the genre of chick-lit.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, this is being posted with no real association to the article it is being posted under,
but I am posting this hoping to get back people's thoughts and responses to get myself
to an answer of some sort. Although some people seem to be getting closer to
understanding chick and lad lit.,I am still unsure about the boundaries, or lack thereof.
I understand that most books with pink covers and martini glasses could definitely
described as chick lit. And from what I understand adventure stories or stories of
challenge and accomplishment tend to be lumped into the category of lad lit. I see how
Villette fits into the schema for chick lit., but do not understand what would deviate
from this. Are all the books written by a female, with a female voice, describing "female issues" or issues women have
considered chick lit.? For lad lit. what about books like "Angela's Ashes" or something
of a completely different style "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime"?
Do these fit under the lad lit. genre. Both are stories of struggle; both illustrate an
accomplishment which is arguably significant, but what are they? Where does a book
begin to appeal more to the female or male, and when does it belong to either femininity
or masculinity? It has already been mentioned that Villette is a universal novel, so as far
as I understand, chick lit can be universal? And what about chick or lad lit. being written
by a member of the opposite sex? I think I understand the books that definitely qualify for
chick or lad lit., but what are the limitations?

Anonymous said...

The conversation below between Professor Ogden and a classmate is concerned with what you're talking about. Maybe that will help a bit.