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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 April 2005

Mary A. Armstrong
California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo


JANE EYREIS A NOVEL INTENSELY CONCERNED with reading and being read. It is a text fixated on acts of literacy and states of legibility, and it produces reading as a compelling, multivalent locus for narrative pleasures and for the articulation of desire. Jane Eyre grants the greatest possible significance to every form of literacy, frequently structuring its articulations of the erotic through reading: reading books or watching others read them, successfully (or unsuccessfully) reading the faces and heads of others, and controlling or failing to command one's legibility. These many crucial literacies do not originate from a chance narrative enthusiasm, but are centrally linked to the novel's equally intense interest in the classificatory arrangements of phrenological systems. Phrenology, that famous nineteenth-century pseudo-science of reading, enables the production of the novel's multiple erotic strands, structuring not only a considerable portion of the heterosexual romance plot(s), but articulating and enabling the novel's female homoerotic dynamics, as well.

© 2005 Cambridge University Press

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