Skip to main content

Suspended Transitions: the Liminal Stage in the Brontës' Novels

Garcia-Cuevas Garcia, Raquel (2019) Suspended Transitions: the Liminal Stage in the Brontës' Novels. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:73425)

Language: English
Download (1MB) Preview
[thumbnail of 263Suspended Transitions DEPOT.pdf]
This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format


Charlotte Brontë’s The Professor is the first and last attempt at a traditional, generic Bildungsroman to be found among the adult literary production of the Brontë sisters. William Crimsworth’s Bildung and rite of passage turn out to be linear and successful, a vini-vidi-vinci first-person narration which ultimately sees the hero returning home to enjoy the glories of his quest abroad. This dissertation looks at the Brontës’ growing interest in narrating stories about suspended transitions, in-between states, and the representation of the psychosocial experience of the liminal hotspot, also paying attention to the stylistic challenges this approach poses for the traditional, generic Bildungsroman, and, more broadly, for realist conventions. Building on anthropological theories about liminality and scapegoating, and the more recent concept of the “liminal hotspot”, this dissertation explores the Brontës’ interest in stories of suspended transitions within developmental narratives through the lens of anthropological work on the ritual process, showing howexperiences of the liminal hotspot are at the centre of the sisters’ narratives. By focusing on and dilating upon indeterminate states, the Brontës’ novels depart from the generic Bildungsroman and propose moments of suspended transitions as theactual growth points in an individual’s rite of passage since, as my analysis and close reading of the novels shows, the liminal stage does not prevent development. This approach challenges previous readings of the novels as Bildungsromane and proposes theories about liminality as a more fluid theoretical framework to apply to the analysis of Victorian female developmental narratives. Moreover, I show how the Brontës also resist and test the bounds of realist conventions and the genericstory of maturation, thus authoring novels which blend realism, Gothic, and proto-modernism and which therefore sit in between genres.

The novels analysed in the core chapters of this work show how it is thanks to the extended experience of liminality, that is, the liminal hotspot, that the protagonists develop due to the potentiality offered by this threshold stage. Furthermore, the Brontës’ interest in indeterminate states and troubled becomings also evidences the authors’ disregard for traditional rites of passage. In fact, as I show through my close reading of key passages, these novels show a greater relianceon ‘customized’, secular rituals and relegate, if not altogether ignore, conventional rites of passage to the margins of the novels. The experience of liminality, this work concludes, is what lies at the centre of the Brontës’writings and what grants most of the protagonists a successful reincorporation into social structure which does not involve renouncing one’s identity, something which the generic Bildungsroman asks for. Moreover, I contend that the proto-feminist tone of the novels is sometimes foregrounded by the heroines becoming ‘rebellious neophytes’: a form of radical empowerment which expands their suspended transitions but which nonetheless is shown to grant the freedom considered necessary to propose new, more liberating models of womanhood.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Waters, Catherine
Thesis advisor: Lyons, Sara
Thesis advisor: Collins, Michael James
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 16 Apr 2019 12:20 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 13:15 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
  • Depositors only (login required):


Downloads per month over past year