Charlotte Brontë’s Anglo-Saxon Attic: An Ecofeminist Reading of “The Wife’s Lament”

Yıldız N.

The 18th Conference of the Australian Early Medieval Association, Sydney, Australia, 28 - 29 September 2023, pp.1

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Sydney
  • Country: Australia
  • Page Numbers: pp.1
  • Karadeniz Technical University Affiliated: Yes


In the elegiac Anglo-Saxon poetry, men’s worlds are primarily portrayed, as fashioned by wars, exile, and separation. The poetry that represents Anglo-Saxon women’s perspectives is extremely sparse, but women do show some of this chaotic realm in which men define their roles and concomitant identities. This poetry foregrounds a gender-driven hierarchy of power directly linked to ecofeminism and the socioeconomic status of women. Ecofeminism suggests that the source of the hitches of women and nature is common: Male hegemony. Then, to ecofeminists, women and nature can be liberated together. Of the works exemplifying the plight of Anglo-Saxon women due to the male-dominated society, “The Wife’s Lament” is a conspicuous piece. The Wife’s remarks plagued by intense pain stem from “deep sadness” as a result of her banishment. The woman, probably a peace weaver, laments her life in seclusion when her lord abandons her, most likely due to a blood feud. The predicament of the woman is embodied in the wilderness- dark valleys, high mountains, and a shelter full of thorns- in which she is left alone to live in seclusion, in particular by a cave metaphor. Her role as a woman consists of sitting in her cave and suffering as a hopeless, homeless, and outcast. This cave depiction is similar to Charlotte Brontë’s renowned attic analogy in Villette, which is the equivalent of a woman’s prison life in a male-dominated society. Accordingly, this paper seeks to read nature in “The Wife’s Lament” parallel to women’s quandary and gender inequality with an ecofeminist lens.