The Closet Romantic: Anne Lister's Use of and Contributions to British Romanticism



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In this thesis, I explore Anne Lister as a Romantic writer. While much criticism has focused on Lister’s place in queer history, comparatively little has examined her writing itself. Thus, this thesis aims to place Lister’s writings within popular Romantic genres and in conversation with other Romantic writers. Chapter I is an introduction to Anne Lister and the scholarship that has surrounded her since the first collection of her diaries was published in the 1980s and establishes the arguments that will be made in each chapter. In Chapter II, I examine how Lister uses Romantic works and their writers to construct her own personal identity despite her lack of participation in either the written tradition or in the major social movements of the period during her lifetime. This is done through comparing Lister specifically to Lord Byron and examining the ways in which Romantic ideas inspired both Lister’s identity and writing style. In Chapter III, I theorize that Lister’s relationship with later Romanticism mirrors that of the Ladies of Llangollen to early Romantic writers as she is often linked directly to Emily Brontë and her characters. This is done by examining the construction of queer communities among women in a period in which they were largely undefined and the chain of connection between the Ladies of Llangollen, Anne Lister, and Emily Brontë. In Chapter IV, I argue that Lister’s writing contributes significantly to the study of Romanticism by offering a new approach to life and travel writing within the period through her queering of the genres and styles of British Romanticism. When she is placed within the traditions in which she was writing, Lister not only follows specific tropes of the genres but expands upon them through her use of subjectivity and movement between gendered styles of writing. This thesis concludes that Anne Lister serves as an example of Romantic literature’s sway within British culture and the ways in which those who were not directly associated with the literary movement still contributed to it through a variety of perspectives that have often been ignored and dismissed within scholarship.



Anne Lister, Romanticism, Queer theory, Masculinity, Femininity, Gender performance, Homosexuality, Lesbianism, Nineteenth century, Travel writing, Life-writing, Diaries, Autobiography, Lord Byron, Don Juan, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Ladies of Llangollen, Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights