Senior Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Thesis (Open Access)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in English



Faculty Advisor(s)

Daniel Pollack-Pelzner

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Literature in English, British Isles


Charlotte Bronte’s famed novel Jane Eyre was among the first novels celebrated by early feminist theorists in the 1960s for its portrayal of an independent and enviable female protagonist; both Charlotte Bronte and Jane have since been heralded as examples of the modern Western woman. Feminist theorists have taken to Jane Eyre because of the text’s rebellion against Victorian ideals: rather than passively follow orders, governess Jane instead follows her own code of morality. Jane is an appropriate early feminist heroine, and that, perhaps, is Bronte’s greatest achievement and Jane Eyre’s most lasting success. Feminist interpretations of the novel have proven valid and extremely useful yet, from a more contemporary perspective, these readings of Jane Eyre come across as one-sided: they are so Jane-centric and focused on her liberation that other characters of the novel are disregarded.

The purpose of this paper is not to discuss feminist critical responses to Jane Eyre, but to expand the critical conversation to include the novel’s other central figure: Edward Rochester. Rochester is often absent from critical theory – or if he is discussed, it is to paint him as nothing more than a one-dimensional Byronic hero who serves as a test of Jane's agency. As an academic discipline, masculinity studies is growing in popularity, and texts from the literary canon are being revisited and re-read from this perspective; however, an updated gendered interpretation of Jane Eyre is missing. This paper will look at Jane Eyre via masculinity studies predominantly through three frameworks: performance, religion, and society – a term which, for this paper, will specifically explore the tension between public and private lives. This paper will conclude with a queer studies analysis of Rochester, especially with regard to his cross-dressing scene.