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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 January 2013

Katherine Hallemeier*
Queen's University


For much of the twentieth century, literary criticism tended to be relatively dismissive of Anne Brontë's novels. While recent scholarship has argued for the complexity of gender and class dynamics in Agnes Grey (1847), there is little consensus as to what, precisely, those dynamics are. Elizabeth Hollis Berry suggests that Agnes “takes charge of her life” (58), and Maria H. Frawley argues that her narrative is a “significant statement of self-empowerment” (116). Maggie Berg and Dara Rossman Regaignon, however, highlight the continued subjugation of Agnes in the course of her narrative. These scholars’ divergent readings demonstrate how Agnes Grey and Agnes Grey can be read both as illustrative of what Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has famously described as the nineteenth century “female individualist” (307), and as instructive of the social strictures that circumscribed this identity. In this essay, I outline how shame works in and through the novel to bridge these opposing readings.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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