- Greetings from the Editor
Victorians Journal of Culture and Literature #132, Winter 2017, opens with two impressive contributions to Victorian scholarship: one advancing our understanding of the era’s religious debates and one adding fresh insights to a perennial literary favorite, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
Studies of Harriet Martineau and her work have proliferated, especially over the last quarter-century, addressing her writing about politics, history, sociology, and a range of social-reform issues. But one striking absence is an extended treatment of Martineau’s contributions to theological thought, contributions that are consistent throughout her career. Susanne Calhoun’s “Interpreting Divine Unity: Harriet Martineau’s Interreligious Essays” addresses that absence by analyzing Martineau’s prize-winning Unitarian Association essays. These early essays, effectually her first professional success, marked her as a thinker and writer whose intellectual authority extended to theological discourse. According to Calhoun, Martineau’s “Unitarian theology established the framework of her thought”; central to her thesis is this provocative claim: “To understand the secular Martineau, one must understand the religious Martineau. … Her early interreligious writings awakened her curiosity and compassion toward different faith traditions and cultures.” Professor Calhoun here performs significant recuperative work by treating Martineau’s Unitarian essays with the serious scholarly analyses they deserve.
A striking contrast to those little-known essays is Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, one of the most analyzed novels in Victorian literary studies. Trish Bredar, in “The Possibility of Taking a Walk: Jane Eyre’s Persistent Mobility,” offers refreshing insight through a distinctive perspective that aligns Jane’s travels with her personal growth. But Bredar’s analysis considers this dynamic as more than just metaphorical bildungsroman: “Those who investigate Jane’s progress often gloss over her material movement, taking a broad approach to her travels and thus eliding the core of the protagonist’s development—her shorter excursions on foot”—her “perambulations,” their “theoretical implications,” and their “formative role in Jane’s development.” Bredar’s analysis casts Jane as a character who, far from a victim of circumstance, moves unerringly and inevitably toward autonomy. In this iteration, the novel’s fairy-tale ending—for many, a disappointment—represents the culmination of Jane’s progress, the ultimate expression of individualism.
This number shifts to our special section on women journalists of the fin de siècle, introduced by guest editor, Alyson Hunt. It has truly been a pleasure working with Alyson on this volume. My best thanks go to all the contributors to this number for their fine work.
I am grateful to Western Kentucky University for its enduring support of Victorians Journal, and particularly to Potter College Dean, Larry Snyder, and to English Department Head, Rob Hale. [End Page 100]