"The maniac bellowed" : queer affect and queer temporality in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre
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Charlotte Brontë's novel, Jane Eyre, is commonly read as a feminist bildungsroman in which a young woman claims her independence. In opposition to these readings, I instead choose to question the ways in which the novel's feminist potential is elided by its simultaneous imperial project. Using the figure of Bertha Mason, I trace the ways in which Jane Eyre's relationship with Edward Rochester is constructed through Bertha's dehumanization in order to reassert the dominance of the healthy Anglo-European family. I examine Jane Eyre's claims to subjectivity, alongside Bertha's very few textual interventions, through the lens of affect theory to show the way in which Bertha Mason, rather than Jane Eyre's mad double, represents nineteenth-century prejudices about creole bodies and undomesticated women. Finally, I engage with theories of queer temporality to read the novel in a way that makes Bertha Mason's agency legible while also evading the novel's troubled relationship to traditional feminist theory. I ultimately suggest that the climactic destruction of Thornfield Hall represents a repudiation of sympathetic feminine bonds in favor of the patriarchal institutions of marriage and respectability.