In The Professor (1845– 46) Charlotte Brontë dwells on the paradox of a material human body containing immaterial essences, such as mind, self, and soul. The novel at once dramatizes and estranges the condition of human embodiment by portraying these ethereal inner qualities with images of enclosure in a rigid carapace. Paying particular attention to sensory experiences, The Professor presents the body as the vehicle through which the exterior world and human interiors come into contact. By construing interiority in material terms, Brontë emphasizes aspects of human experience ordinarily considered dirty and degrading, involving debased bodily functions, including masochistic sexuality. The novel invites a rethinking of prevailing approaches to masochism because it insists on the fleshy materiality of psychological entities (such as desire and conflict) that psychoanalysis usually treats as abstractions. For Brontë relations between people are embodied even before they are gendered; the male first-person narrative voice she adopts in this work affords her the opportunity to consider the strangeness of the idea of inhabiting any body at all. The novel's vaunted attention to surveillance is consequently better understood as bodily penetration than as subjective domination.

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