Disciplining Control in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette

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Tanrada Lertlaksanaporn


If ever there were a novel filled with spying gazes and significant glances, it is Villette. These silent gazes and glances are significant elements of disciplinary control in this novel. According to Foucault (1980) in The History of Sexuality, Volume 1, “There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of strategies that underlie and permeate discourses” (p. 27). If we read Villette in this way – paying attention to the silences as well as what is said – the narrative that emerges from the surface bildungsroman is very different from an interpretation widely received of Lucy Snowe, to whom M. Paul Emmanuel, a teacher at an adjoining boys’ academy, demonstrates his coercive power, as M. Paul says, “you want so much checking, regulating, and keeping down” (Brontë, 2012, p. 433). Lucy, the novel’s narrator and a teacher at Madame Beck’s pensionnat for girls, is oppressed by M. Paul’s monitoring and control in this surface narrative. Various critics have sensibly commented on how men have oppressed Lucy.[1] While the surface tale follows M. Paul’s disciplinary control of Lucy and the ladies at the pensionnat, there is another narrative that tells of discipline outside gender control – school – that subjects Lucy to a range of societal norms, rules, and regulations. Lucy is also one of the authoritative people who discipline her students at the pensionnat and, probably, later at her own school.

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Lertlaksanaporn, T. (2023). Disciplining Control in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette. Manutsat Paritat: Journal of Humanities, 45(1). https://doi.org/10.1016/manutparitat.v45i1.257541
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