Cover image for Holy ghosts : the male muses of Emily and Charlotte Brontë
Holy ghosts : the male muses of Emily and Charlotte Brontë
Tayler, Irene.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Columbia University Press, [1990]

Physical Description:
viii, 342 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PR4169 .T39 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Central Library PR4169 .T39 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



Discusses their activity as women writers within a culture that saw women only as the inspiring muse, not the creative artist.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Tayler argues that the ``Holy Ghosts,'' male muses who influenced the writing of Charlotte and Emily Bronte, are central in explaining the remarkably different philosophies of the two women. With these muses providing spiritual support by serving as both guide and antagonist, each woman developed a particular mythology to account for being female while doing men's work. The struggle between the traditionally feminine mode of ``being'' and masculine mode of ``doing'' is well illustrated, as are the sisters' divergent attitudes and personalities. This work includes a brief family history and an in-depth analysis of each woman's major works. While much information is not new, Tayler's thesis gives a new perspective on the lives of the Bronte sisters. Recommended for academic libraries.--Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Connecticut at Torrington Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The first part of Tayler's work begins with what has long been established in Bronte scholarship: that the careers of Charlotte and Emily paralleled the great generic shift of the century--the movement from poetry to the novel--and as women entering a male-dominated profession, Charlotte and Emily expanded the new genre and superimposed upon it Romantic habits formerly believed to belong to poetry alone. In the second part, Tayler's thinking is deeply influenced by American feminist theory. Using an analogue from the work of the British psychologist D.W. Winnicott, Tayler argues that creativity has its origin in the female and male, in the "being" and "doing" elements of individuals. For Charlotte the muse came from a balance between the elements, but for Emily it came from a process that left the feminine present and the masculine alienated, hovering on the periphery as a spectral, destructive reminder of its absence. The search for "maleness" in female imagination, Tayler acknowledges, is an unusual approach even for a feminist. Finally, working independently in the new genre as her muse beckoned, each sister, Tayler finds, influenced the other. Charlotte's work gave Emily an understanding of the active, public nature of the muse, and Emily's work reminded Charlotte of the destructive nature of a private muse of inbalanced elements. This is an important work; unfortunately, it is made less credible and effective by abundant printing errors throughout. Graduate libraries should acquire. -R. L. Brooks, Baylor University

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