Faculty Mentor

Dr. Laura Heffernan, Professor

Faculty Mentor Department



The purpose of this article is to reveal Charlotte Brontë’s canonized heterosexual character Jane Eyre as bisexual and explain why critics unintentionally erase bisexuality in historical literature. Homosexuality emerged as a species in the 1800s, but the heterosexual-versus-homosexual binary scale overlooked bisexuality. Yet, bisexuality existed—and Victorian society encouraged it between women. Lesbianism and female “friendships” were promoted within female boarding schools and between women in heterosexual marriages; the precise relationships exemplified in Jane Eyre. Though Jane marries a man, her heterosexual “familial” marriage emerges only out of her bisexual nature, for she does not marry Rochester until he becomes effeminate. Despite the commonality of homoerotism, Victorian marriage-plot novels with apparently queer characters like those in Jane Eyre tend to end with heteronormative resolutions. This habitual ending reflects the era’s obsession with closure through the idealized stasis provided by the patriarchal bourgeois domestic sphere. This article argues how bisexuality’s lack of recognition in the Victorian era, along with today’s bisexual erasure, renders its historical literary representations invisible.