The Coarseness of the Brontës: A Reappraisal (Conference, 10 – 11th August 2017)

By Tim Green from Bradford (Bronte Birthplace plaque) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Registration is now open for this two-day conference which aims to re-evaluate the charge of ‘coarseness’ so often directed at the Brontë family. How and in what ways does ‘coarseness’ manifest in and across the lives and works of the Brontë family? What did it mean to be labelled ‘coarse’ in the early to mid-nineteenth century? And how have shifting meanings of what constitute ‘coarse’ expanded and/or changed our understanding and reading of their lives and works?

The Coarseness of the Brontës will feature over 20 papers, keynote talks from Dr Sarah Wootton and Professor Marianne Thormählen, and a guest talk by Robert Edric, author of Sanctuary (2014). There will also be a poetry reading, and opportunities to tour Durham Cathedral and join the Branwell Brontë Book Club.

A draft programme is below. To register, please visit the conference website. This is a collaborative event between Durham University, Brunel University, and the Brontë Society.


9.00 – 10.00    Registration and refreshments (Entrance & Quad)

10.00 – 10.15  Conference Welcome (The Chapel)


10.15 – 11.15 Keynote Lecture (The Chapel)

 Professor Marianne Thormählen, Lund University

“Horror and disgust”: Reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Chair: Professor Stephen Regan, Durham University


11.30 – 13.00 Panel Sessions 1

1A. “Vulgar” Victorians (Williams Library)

Chair: TBC

  1. Ceri Hunter: “Rude-bred kindred”: Rethinking Cousin Marriage in Wuthering Heights
  2. Ann Erskine: Reappraising the “repulsive vulgarity” of Jane Eyre
  3. Amber Pouliot: “Swallow it”: Fantasies of Incest in Brontë Biographical Fiction and Drama

1B. Reappraising Religion (Brewis Library)

Chair: TBC

  1. Catherine Paula Han: Coarseness & Christianity: Recent Re-Readings of Anne Brontë’s Life and Art
  2. Timothy Gao: Playing God in the Brontë Juvenilia
  3. Angharad Eyre: “I am a very coarse commonplace wretch”: Understanding the Brontë Sisters’ Coarseness within Victorian Evangelicalism

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch (Dining Hall)

14.00 – 15.30 Panel Sessions 2

2A. Branwell: The Coarser Brontë? (Williams Library)

Chair: TBC

  1. Kimberley Braxton: “I fear you will burn my present letter on recognising the handwriting” – The Many Personas of Patrick Branwell Brontë in His Epistolary Writing
  2. Catherine Rayner: The Tenant of Wuthering Heights
  3. Pam Lock: “[A] morbid love of the coarse, if not of the brutal”: Making Drunkenness Public in Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall


2B“A law unto themselves”: Coarse Identities (Brewis Library)

Chair: TBC

  1. Emma Butcher: “Those Black Rascals Fought like Devils”: Racism and Coarseness in Charlotte and Branwell Brontë’s Early Battle Writings
  2. Tammy Lai-Ming Ho: Why Branwell Brontë?: The Treatment of Branwell in Scholarship and Justine Picardie’s Daphne
  3. Laura Varnam: Coarseness, Identity, and Understanding in Daphne du Maurier’s The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë

15.30 – 16.00 Refreshments (Quad)

16.00 – 17.00 Break

17.00 – 18.00 Guest Speaker: Robert Edric, author of Sanctuary (2014) (The Chapel)

18.00 – 18.30 Poetry Reading (The Chapel) – in partnership with the Centre for Poetry and Poetics, Durham University

18.30 – 19.30 Wine Reception (Quad) – supported by the English Studies Department, Durham University

18.45 Reception Welcome (Quad) – Professor Simon James, Head of the English Studies Department, Durham University

19.30 Dinner (St Chad’s College Dining Room)



9.00 – 9.30      Registration (Entrance & Quad)

 9.30 – 10.30    Keynote Lecture (The Chapel)

 Dr Sarah Wootton, Durham University

“a faded, hollow-eyed vision”: Violent Self-Erasures in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette

Chair: Professor Fiona Robertson, Durham University

10.30 – 11.00 Refreshments (Quad)

11.00 – 12.30 Panel Sessions 3

3A. Queering Coarseness (Williams Library)

Chair: TBC

  1. Caroline Bayliss-Green: Overcompensation, Coarseness, and the Closet in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights
  2. Ludovic (Ludo) Foster: “A wild, wicked slip she was” The Coarse Tomboyhood of Catherine Earnshaw
  3. Claire O’Callaghan: “He is rather peculiar, perhaps”: Jane Eyre in a Queer Context – Reading Mr Rochester’s “Coarseness” Queerly

3B. Under the (Coarse) Influence (Brewis Library)

Chair: TBC

  1. Lucy Sheerman: “Gross flattery”: Branwell’s Search for the Worth of Words
  2. Ann-Marie Richardson: “I must bring my pen to order!”: The “Unladylike” Writings of Maria Brontë, née Branwell, and How this Demonstrative Conduct Influenced the Works of Her Daughter, Emily Brontë
  3. Hannah Pyle: The “Coarse” Influence of James Hogg (1770 – 1835) on the Works of Patrick Branwell Brontë

3C. “Morbid, coarse, repulsive”: Charlotte Brontё’s Jane Eyre (The Chapel)

Chair: TBC

  1. Jessica Cox: The Ungentlemanly Mr Rochester: Reading Jane Eyre through Charlotte Brontё’s (Anti) Hero
  2. Helena Habibi: “The volume was flung, it hit me”: Coarseness in the Bird Imagery of Jane Eyre
  3. Alison McManus: Setting, Subversion and Symbiosis: Jane Eyre’s Legacy of Ambivalence

12.30 – 14.00 Lunch (Dining Hall)

13.15 – 14.30 Cathedral Tour – meet in the entrance lobby of St Chad’s College

13.30 – 14.30 Branwell Brontë Book Club (The Chapel)

14.30 – 15.00 Refreshments (Quad)

15.00 – 16.30 Panel Sessions 4

4A. “Coarseness of diction and even of sentiment” (Williams Library)

Chair: TBC

  1. Sophie Franklin: “Ay, ay, divil, all’s raight! We’ve smashed ’em!”: Translating Coarseness and Decoding Violence in Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley
  2. James Quinnell: “It is well that he does remain there”: Joseph and Wuthering Heights
  3. Jo Waugh: “My Accent? My Gender? My Size?”: “Coarse” Brontës in To Walk Invisible (2016)

4B. Writing Coarsely (Brewis Library)

Chair: TBC

  1. Amber Regis: Through a glass, coarsely: Reading Brontë Prefaces
  2. Lucy Hanks: Coarseness and Revision on the Manuscript of The Life of Charlotte Brontë
  3. Drew Lamonica Arms: “I may have gone too far”: Reappraising Coarseness in Anne Brontë’s Preface to the Second Edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

16.45 – 17.00 Closing Remarks from the conference organisers (The Quad)

17.00 Conference Ends


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