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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: May 2019

Introduction - Human Subjects


The idea of the human received distinctive and complex treatment within the Brontës’ particular ethical and aesthetic visions. Alexandra Lewis identifies three key interlinked areas – science, psychology, and education; human rights, ethics, and religion; and creativity – where the imagination and the idea of the human intersect in the Brontës’ works. Lewis outlines why a re-evaluation of the Brontës’ writing along these lines is important for twenty-first-century scholarship in Victorian studies and literary theory (including the ‘post-human’) more broadly. The Introduction establishes how, for the Brontës, boundaries between the human animal, the non-human animal and even the shapes through which humans conceive of the spiritual and supernatural realms are often blurred. Pressing questions about what it meant to be human at a particular time and place in the nineteenth century were intricately connected with powers of memory and story-telling, gendered expectations, and the language of rights, responsibilities, and basic human needs. The reader of the Brontës’ works (and subsequent creative revisionings) is challenged by Lewis to consider how our twenty-first-century perspectives on the human and imagination might be informed by looking back to nineteenth-century works and the interpretive history they have engendered.