Constituting a ‘lived experience’: Emily’s postcard from Haworth

Emily outside the Bronte Parsonage, October 2013

Emily outside the Bronte Parsonage, October 2013

Why I went…

I’d read quite a few Brontë novels and, although my academic life has taken me in a slightly different direction, I wanted to see what the wild Yorkshire moors of the novels was like. The Brontë sisters had such a strong connection to their home and it felt important to get a sense of what the idea of ‘home’ really meant for them.

What I got out of the experience…

Walking through the village of Haworth, and in the rooms in which the family lived and wrote, you get a real sense of a close community. Although there’s a wide expanse of moor essentially in their back garden, I also got a feeling for Haworth as a lived-in place. Charlotte, Emily and Anne became much more three-dimensional, not only characterised by their novels but also by their connection to contemporary life. Clothes, hair combs, books, pictures – all these things come together to constitute lived experience, challenging the reductive, ghostly image of the authors I had held. I also started to reflect on my own role as a literary tourist – one in a long line beginning, in the Parsonage’s case, in the mid-nineteenth century. It’s sometimes difficult to reconcile the private lives of authors with these kinds of moving, evocative, but very public, exhibitions.
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