This essay explores Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs (2009) as a neo-Victorian rewriting of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847). Initially praised as a campus novel or a coming-of-age narrative, Moore’s book is starting to be seen as a more ambitious text: a post-9/11, ‘state of the nation’ novel, a work of feminist metafiction, a commentary on ethnicity. However, no one has approached it as a neo-Victorian narrative, though doing so illuminates intersections among these interpretations, highlighting its participation in debates on race, feminism, and ‘home’ security, and its formal innovations. Moore reworks Brontë’s characters, gothic tropes, and themes to update Jane’s quest for acceptance and narrative agency, and rebellion against patriarchy, to a contemporary setting. However, she uses parody and metafiction to interrogate Jane Eyre’s more conservative elements and to transform its ending. Moore’s intertextual allusions and humor serve to criticize Tassie’s passivity (which makes her accountable for the suffering of her loved ones), and to expose Jane Eyre as similarly complicit in perpetuating damaging social fictions. Reading the novel as a neo-Victorian text suggests its significance goes beyond domestic concerns to encompass wide-ranging literary and political critiques, and helps to clarify the boundaries of this genre itself.


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pp. 343-363
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