Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Department

English

First Advisor

Sue Zemka

Abstract

Monetary language pervades the love, romance, and marriage plots in Charlotte Brontё‟s final novel, Villette (1853). Taking a close look at this theme, I find that Brontё develops a market metaphor—in this case a romance market—that makes the text decidedly economic in its theme and genre. The market trope is developed in two ways—firstly through the commodification of love and identity as the characters interact in the romance market, and secondly through Lucy Snowe‟s narration which, while claiming the reliability of an economic history or bank record, is decidedly manipulative of the reader‟s narrative expectations of both a marriage novel or even an economic text. Through the lens of the critical works of the New Economic critics, Mary Poovey and Regenia Gagnier, I argue that Villette’s market reflects the changes occurring in economic and literary-aesthetic ideology as well as angst over monetary systems in the mid-19th century. As such, the market trope in the novel allows the reader to question both money and love as systems of the abstract idea of value as well as literature and economics as fictions that attempt to explain and interpret value.

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