The child and the letter: Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Cocks, N. (2013) The child and the letter: Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Textual Practice. ISSN 1470-1308
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/0950236X.2013.767854
This essay engages with the question of childhood in Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Despite narrating a conflict concerning child custody, childhood is a subject rarely broached by the critics of the text. Indeed, the only instance of the child being addressed in criticism grants it the power to enclose potentially subversive narrative. This is a function attributed to the framing structure of the novel by other critics. This essay returns the child to Brontë’s text as a disruptive rather than containing force. Through a detailed close analysis of the novel I track such disruptions, and the extent to which these point to wider theoretical or methodological difficulties in critical accounts of childhood and absence in literature. The essay makes interventions into psychoanalysis, childhood studies, and the discourse of ‘framing’ within C19th literature.