Romantic Cartographies

Principal investigator
Asko Nivala
Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher
Adjunct Professor of Cultural History
University of Turku


Jane Eyre imagines the Arctic

Jane Eyre's opening scene merges England with the Arctic. Confined inside of feminine domestic space, Jane is reading Bewick's History of Birds and imagining a wide open horizon of the Arctic space. Moreover, Franklin's Arctic expedition was launched in 1845, serving the colonial interest of England.1


  1. Jen Hill: White Horizon: The Arctic in the Nineteenth-Century British Imagination. SUNY Press, Albany 2009, pp. 89–112. 

Jane builds a superimposed map projecting the Arctic zone over the bleak domestic reality of Gateshead Hall (based on Stone Gappe):

"I returned to my book – Bewick’s History of British Birds: the letterpress thereof I cared little for, generally speaking; and yet there were certain introductory pages that, child as I was, I could not pass quite as a blank. They were those which treat of the haunts of sea-fowl; of 'the solitary rocks and promontories' by them only inhabited; of the coast of Norway, studded with isles from its southern extremity, the Lindeness, or Naze, to the North Cape –

'Where the Northern Ocean, in vast whirls, Boils round the naked, melancholy isles Of farthest Thule; and the Atlantic surge Pours in among the stormy Hebrides.'

Nor could I pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak shores of Lapland, Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland, with 'the vast sweep of the Arctic Zone, and those forlorn regions of dreary space, – that reservoir of frost and snow, where firm fields of ice, the accumulation of centuries of winters, glazed in Alpine heights above heights, surround the pole, and concentre the multiplied rigours of extreme cold.'"

(C) 2022 Asko Nivala