Invisible authors: The authorial personae of Charlotte Brontë and Mary Ann Evans
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This master’s thesis centers on the idea of authorship by looking at anonymous publishing in nineteenth – century England, focusing on the authorial persona of Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot. The aim is to reveal authorship as a form of performance, rather than being something that you are. The thesis is sectioned up into three main chapters, starting with a broad theoretical background on the nineteenth-century authorship. The chapter includes sections on anonymous and pseudonymous publishing, authorial personae, the author’s gender, as well as the literary ideas and theories by Roland Barthes’ essay “The Death of the Author” and Michel Foucault’s “What is an Author”. The discussion is divided into two chapters organized chronologically after the time of the authors’ careers. The discussion starts by examining the authorial persona of Charlotte Brontë, Currer Bell, and continues with the authorial persona of George Eliot, originally named Mary Anne Evans. Each chapter involves research based on scholarly material and close readings of selected primary sources, including novels and letters. The research revealed a paradoxical behavior from both Brontë and Eliot. The research showed that they did not only create their personae as a strategy to free themselves from the cultural prejudice against female authors, but also to separate themselves from their personae by creating a cultural and creative performance as authors. The discussion does show some similarities between the authorial performances, there are also some elements that separates them. The main difference is the fact that their authorial performances resulted differently, seeing as only one of the authorial personae lives on today. Within today’s literary field, the name Currer Bell has become part of a distance past, while George Eliot has survived and left the name Mary Anne Evans as non-existing. This master’s thesis concludes that authorship is not something you simply are, it is a cultural performance leading back to the nineteenth – century.