The Poisoned Gift of Forgiveness in 'Jane Eyre'

Wednesday 1 May 2013, 5.30PM

Speaker(s): Henry Staten (University of Washington)

In the mid-19th century the new materialist 'physio-psychology' of Alexander Bain, Herbert Spencer, and G. H. Lewes, which reduced 'mind' and 'soul' to movements of 'nerve energy', held sway.  Under its influence, the Brontës and George Eliot developed a radical new form of novelistic moral psychology, one that was no longer bound by the idealizing presuppositions of traditional Christian moral ideology, and which is closely related to Nietzsche’s physiological theory of will to power (itself directly influenced by Spencer).  This lecture explains how, through the figure of St. John Rivers, Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre investigated the 'free gift' of forgiveness in terms of the physio-psychology of vengeance - a paradigm case of the poisoning of the aggressive instincts when they are repressed by a moral ideology that ignores their physiological hydraulics, forcing them to find covert expression.

Location: Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building, Heslington West Campus

Admission: All welcome, admission free

Email: matthew.campbell@york.ac.uk