My article “‘A still ecstasy of freedom and enjoyment’: Walking the city in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette” has beenpublished online in the Journal of Victorian Culture. In this piece, I suggest that Brontë’s writing of women’s city walking makes a significant contribution to the idea of the flâneuse. Through a reading of Brontë’s letters from Belgium and her 1853 novel Villette, I argue that Brontë writes herself and Lucy Snowe into a growing canon of strolling city women, and that she brings a new perspective to the construct of the flâneuse through an embodied articulation of urban city wandering.
I start by looking at the prevalence of travel in Brontë’s letters, locating her within a new wave of women on the move in the mid-nineteenth century. There is a competing tension between the desire for mobility – “such a strong wish for wings” – and the reality of containment within the home, that runs through her letters, and this goes on to shape her fictional writing.* I then turn to her letters from Belgium: the city afforded Brontë new opportunities for “threading the streets”, and she starts to develop an attentiveness to the relationship between body, mobility and space that is developed more substantially in Lucy Snowe’s city encounter in Villette. Here, the thrill of city walking – “a still ecstasy of freedom and enjoyment” – emerges as an acutely embodied experience, and I argue that through this Brontë carves out a new discursive space for her woman walker, shifting from the spectatorship of the flâneur to a more fully sensory experience of the urban environment. This becomes crucial to the strong sense of autonomy and agency that walking affords women; at the same time, Brontë recognises the difficulties of mobility for women, and in the final section I look at how she negotiates this tension through highly embodied accounts of Lucy’s wandering in later sections of Villette.
IAS Travel and Mobility Studies Network Conference
Friday 11th July 2014
Key-note address: Professor Miriam Cooke, Duke University
Guest speakers include Professor Haideh Moghissi and Professor Evelyne Accad
Call for Papers
In recent years, discussions of travel narratives have examined the creation of the diaspora, highlighting themes of loss and exile using the centre-periphery framework. This symposium seeks to develop discussions through a focus on feminism in travel narratives, examining how centre-periphery discourses are complicated, challenged, subverted, or reinforced through gendered accounts of migration, ethnicity, identity conflicts and political connections. The Symposium will explore how migration and diaspora formations are gendered to develop a centre-periphery narrative which juxtaposes traditional and conventional discourses often associated with the marginalised experience. Questions to be addressed include: how does travel through forced or voluntary migration create new opportunities to liberate or oppress women? How do women of different socio-cultural and historical locations/parameters formulate their relationship to feminism? We also invite papers to reflect anew on the “centre” and “periphery”. Where (if anywhere) are they located and what is at stake in mapping these spaces today? What does peripheral status imply? How can we re-imagine the centre-periphery dynamic for the current age?
The organisers invite proposals for 20 minute papers which seek to respond, but are not limited to the following topics:
• Multifaceted journeys with(in) feminism
• Geographies of diasporic spaces
• Geographies of feminism
• Transnational feminism
• The transnational exilic and migratory experience
• Body politics in the diaspora
• Forced migration and displacement
• Pedagogies of crossing
• Political mobilisations
• Labour and the economics of migration
• Dismantling stereotypes of the Muslimah
• Debates on Islamic Feminism
• Historiography of third world feminism Please send 250 word proposals by Friday 25th April 2014 email@example.com