Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Flaherty

Second Advisor

Dr. Katie Simon

Third Advisor

Dr. Julian Knox


This thesis re-evaluates Anne Brontë’s critically undervalued novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) through its noisy women. By joining the fields of narratology and noise studies, I argue for the subversive noisiness of a novel that has been overwhelmingly dismissed by critics as a text of female silence, subjugation, and subordination. However, by offering a soundscape of gendered noise and proliferating female voices, Brontë privileges the sounds of women’s voices in such a way that female noise “re-voices” the masculine origins of the novel (Gilbert Markham’s frame narrative). Contrary to traditional readings of Brontë’s heroine, Helen Huntingdon proves subversively noisy on two levels: her verbal interventions in noisy drawing rooms and her noisy narration through her diary and letters. I read both instances as sources of noise in the novel and argue for Anne Brontë’s significant role in constructing a powerfully noisy (female)Victorian novel. In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, women make noise against paternal figures and paternal narratives that seek to silence them. With its drawing rooms filled with the sonic violence of drunken men and its two gendered narratives (Helen and Gilbert’s competing accounts) filled with narrative violence, the novel proves overwhelmingly noisy on multiple levels. However, because of the deafening nature of female noise, Helen Huntingdon conversely imprisons the male voice in her narrative and overwhelms male voices with her noise, undoing the male frame that threatens her imprisonment.