How Being Obsessed with Boys Made Me a Better Academic… In the End.
When reflecting on past troubles, I try to take a positive appraoch by thinking about what they taught me. I’m thinking about the things in my life that might have been too hastily categorized as neurotic or epidsodic. I think about certain parts of my life whose memories are generally suppressed and labled simply as embarrassing, weird, or shameful; memories NOT to be revisited. I ask myself: “Despite the appearance of failure or the shame of error, what kinds of skills did I unintentionally develop through these experiences?” I’m thinking about the alarming degree to which I was obsessed with boys from a very early age.
While in grad school, in a stroke of genius, I tweeted the following: “Grad school: enabling compulsive behaviour since ever”. Only through the succeeding years, have I been able to understand the truth of this statement:
I think of what’s scrawled on my hospital records: “obsessive tendencies”
I think of the ocean of post-it notes I lived in during grad school, the feverish underlining, and pouring over hundreds of articles just to find one elusive mention of dashes in poetry.
I think of the twenty-second draft of my honors thesis, and the sentence that took three days to properly punctuate.
I think of being twelve and leaving daily fruit offerings at the mailbox in hopes that some mail deity would make Daniel Radcliffe finally write me back.
I think of e-mailing advisors and scholars, over periods of months, persistently.
I think of the countless times I heard, “Actually, I just like you as a friend”
I think about not getting into a PhD program last year
I think of 7th grade and filling five journal pages with “I love Sam” at 2:00 in the morning
I think of memorizing Walt Whitman poems by writing them down at least fifteen times
I think of being thirteen and filling twenty journal pages with “I love Peter”
I think of college and hand copying all of my class notes twice.
From the age of twelve to fourteen, I would remain very much in love with Peter; crushes were only supposed to last a few weeks or so in middle school, but I was comitted to crushing on Peter. I wrote songs for him, I wrote letters to him, I listened to all of the music he liked, I often saw his band play, and he was just about the only thing I talked about to all of my friends… for two years. I mean, talk about a long-term project with sustained interest and inquiry…
From the age of twenty until… now, I’ve read John Keats every day, or have thought of him at least a few times a day. Somehow, everything in my life seems to relate to John Keats; everything I read somehow relates to John Keats. I look at my research journals with scribbled quotations and partially finished bibliographies, and they look much the same as my middle school journals did… but instead of being filled with reveries of Peter and Sam, they wax poetic about rhetorical choices, post-structuralism, and pedagogy with just as much alarming fervor.
I think back to the hospital records: “obsessive tendencies,”
and I think,
“I was building a career”
Currer Bell and the Feminist Disease
Currer Bell was a great man but nobody ever talks about him anymore. History has forgotten him and his legacy has been swallowed by a rampant tide of feminism that has inexplicably attributed his great work to his homely, adoring lover-editor and scribe: some Charlotte woman. In light of the myriad letters and unpublished manuscripts that have recently surfaced, it is high time that we honor him for his monumental contribution to literature. More importantly, we can now understand the man behind the work; his troubled life sheds new light on the deeply autobiographical aspect of his great novel. The surfacing of these documents—what is now being called the Currer Bell collection—is a revelation for nineteenth-century literary studies. It is nothing less than a Rosetta stone for academics and historians worldwide. The incredible mystery of Jane Eyre’s origins and influences may, at last, be resolved… yet no one is talking about it.
Esteemed experts and entrenched ideologues will continue to deny the existence of Currer Bell and will insist on the authorship of Miss Brönte despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This response is nothing more than the feminist tyranny that has decimated the memory of some of the greatest men to have ever lived. They will vehemently deny misandry while gleefully castrating the entire literary canon. For example, these supposedly high-minded occupants of the ivory tower refuse to acknowledge the 1845 letter written in Brönte’s own hand that describes the process by which Jane Eyre was written. In this letter, it becomes clear that Brönte served as nothing more than a scribe who recorded Bell’s narrative—something he was unable to do in his blindness. Brönte, Bell’s devoted illegitimate lover, was the only person still at his side after he went mad and seared his eyes out with a hot poker.
Simply for the sake of reserving another great work for a woman, it is puzzling now that scholars contend the legitimacy of the marriage license issued to a Mr. Currer Bell and a Miss Antoinetta Poole. Nor will they acknowledge the records of Bell’s inheritance of an old aristocratic manor in the moors. Currer Bell definitely existed and the Currer Bell Collection ought to be embraced by the status quo because of the complex and illuminating relationship it details between him and Bronte. If anything, these social justice warriors should rejoice in the reality of Miss Bronte’s outspoken, sensual character. Her shameless sexual exploits and tremendous intellectual prowess should be a banner for feminists everywhere, but not at the expense of Mr. Bell. The establishment cannot accept that although Bronte did not author Jane Eyre, she was still a fascinating figure in her own right. According to them, it is not acceptable to chalk her up to another great woman behind a great man (even though this is the unmistakable truth).
Bell’s romantic idealism and subsequent struggles with Victorian-era social norms provide ample material for “gender studies” as well as the actual truth, and it is disappointing that scholars cannot adjust their own blatantly false preconceptions to accept it. Bell’s virtuous loyalty to his emotionally distant wife Antoinette, despite his all-consuming love for Miss Bronte, locates the torment from which Jane Eyre arose. The recently-discovered correspondence between Bell and Bronte is as beautiful as it is informative and possesses an almost Keatsian effusiveness that is missing from his earlier, unpublished work. A letter from July 8th, 1843 serves as a perfect example of his hidden poetic sensitivity:
“My sweet Girl,
Your letter gave me more delight than any thing in the world but yourself could do; indeed I am almost astonished that any absent one should have that luxurious power over my senses which I feel. Even when I am not thinking of you I receive your influence and a tenderer nature stealing upon me. All my thoughts, my unhappiest days and nights, have I find not at all cured me of my love of Beauty, but made it so intense that I am miserable that you are not with me: or rather breathe in that dull sort of patience that cannot be called Life. I never knew before, what such a love as you have made me feel, was; I did not believe in it; my Fancy was afraid of it, lest it should burn me up. But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, ‘twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures.“
Thwarted by the prospect of scandal and the legal intricacies of inheritance, Bell’s extramarital relationship with Brönte would remain a secret until his descent into madness, but this secret ultimately became the seed of one of the most revered stories of all time. Bell’s defamation was inevitable when it was discovered that his lover was just a lowly, young governess who looked after his bastard daughter. After a heated argument with Antoinette, Bell’s insanity became fully manifest in the form of the mangled, fleshy craters that were once his eyes. Ashamed and alone, Bronte became his caretaker and would remain his dedicated partner until his death. In fact, his dying words to Bronte were “I have two luxuries to brood over: your loveliness and my hour of death. “
In a letter to her sister, it would seem, Bronte bemoaned the long hours of transcription by candlelight at Bell’s bedside. Declared “unfit for society”, his ostracism became his solace as he spent the rest of his days with Charlotte, who embodied the enchanting romance of his innermost self. She was, in many ways, his mirror to such a degree that she would ultimately replace Currer Bell altogether as the author of Jane Eyre. Bronte was only an aspiring writer, whereas Bell was an old master, yet their voices are almost indistinguishable in their respective extant manuscripts, which affords Bronte at least some modicum of respect.
The collective conflation of Bell and Bronte is fair in this regard, and also in that Bronte outlived Belle by some 20 years and was the one to actually get the novel published after his death. The only thing more mysterious than the origins of Jane Eyre is the fact that the academy continues to blatantly disregard the infallible evidence that has been discovered which has the capacity to demystify the whole thing. This is the battle cry to academics everywhere: JUST ACCEPT THE TRUTH.