This book raises fundamental questions about our understanding of Victorian sexuality. Charlotte Bronte was no "other Victorian" living out a secret life in a sexual underworld, but she did centre her life"s work on exploring the complexities of our sexual nature. John Maynard shows how Bronte"s early stories and novelettes, written from her teens to young maturity for a private audience of her sisters and brother, deal openly with a "world below" of consuming passion, adultery, seduction, promiscuity, frigidity and incest. He traces how these themes are incorporated into Bronte"s mature published work, where her psychological insight into the complexities of sexual need finds its consummate expression. Bronte"s mature novels, especially Jane Eyre and Villette offer an intensely felt but finely realised vision of sexual awakening. They are however, deeply aware of the difficulties that beset sexual experience. Unlike a number of studies, this book stresses the insight, achievement and artistic mastery of Charlotte Bronte, who still challenges us to comprehend the subtleties and complexities of her impressively articulated discourse on sexuality.
'In Charlotte Bronte and Sexuality, John Maynard joins his deep understanding of the social history of the period with a full analysis of the surviving biographical information and Bronte's fiction to show how she was able to 'develop an art that examines fully the complexities of sexual experience' that justified 'the sexual life against prudes and sceptics alike' .' Donald H. Reiman, Studies of English Literature 'Maynard should be particularly commended for arguing against 'the tendency' of Victorianists, in his words, 'to diminish Bronte's work into a mere personal expression of despair over her early traumatic experiences, whether of sexual conflict, or of loss and of rage at her role as a woman in a patriarchal society'. Against this tendency, Maynard seems to offer an admirable alternative when he makes her fiction objectify Bronte's maturing self-awareness.' Nancy Armstrong, Victorian Studies