Masculinity and Gossip in Anne Brontë's Tenant

Priti Joshi, University of Puget Sound


This paper examines Anne Bronte's novel against debates about women and women's influence. It argues that Bronte forges a middle ground between Mary Wollstonecraft and Hannah More, rejecting not only the former's repudiation of women's culture but also the latter's aggrandizement of women's influence. Bronte exposes some of the most dearly held fictions of femininity, even as she sympathetically explores its engagement with the production of a "new masculinity." To this end, she offers the very "feminine" behavior of "gossip" or "idle chat," rather than women themselves, as a tool to rehabilitate men who are drawn to a hypermasculine culture of violence.