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Anca Vlasopolos


Charlotte Brontë's novels have often been discussed as examples of an emerging feminism in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. What popular critiques have failed to acknowledge is the significance of Nature to this new feminism. In this dissertation, I contend that Brontë develops her own vision of the sublime as a way to enhance the often pejorative connotation of the relationship between women and Nature. Where society tried to incorporate woman into Nature, Brontë forged a more egalitarian connection. She suggests that a relationship with Nature can and should be considered as a boon to the human experience, not a way of demoralizing part of the population. In the second chapter, I focus on the importance of Brontë's version of the sublime as it relates to recent configurations of the "feminine sublime." She tries to work within the confines of a decidedly masculine version of the sublime, but finds that this version is incompatible with her specifically female experience. By the time she writes Jane Eyre--my focus for the third chapter--Brontë has a stronger capacity for articulating the intricacies of the relationship of woman and Nature. She clarifies that the interconnectedness between woman and Nature is beneficial even when viewed through the auspices of what is termed the "wilderness." The last novel published within her lifetime, Villette, is the topic of the final chapter. By this time, Brontë has come closer to a complete vision of the feminine sublime. She develops Lucy Snowe as a woman who finds balance between her sense of identity and Nature. Lucy uses the garden space as a canvas on which she can express her independence. Through Brontë's novels, it is clear that each heroine performs the sublime: each elevates her seemingly common existence to the realm of art in the search for identity, and each emerges successfully.

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