Project summary

The project investigates the way social anxieties provoked by the strangeness of Charlotte Bronte's unorthodox novels were converted into aesthetic pleasures by publishing institutions and practices. Combining methods from editorial scholarship, literary/cultural history, digital humanities and literary criticism, the project proposes an innovative new scholarly print/digital edition of Brontë’s novels, together with a pioneering online critical archive of Brontë manuscripts, texts and contexts, and a ground-breaking book-length interpretive study. 

Supported by prestigious international cultural institutions (The British Library, Morgan Library, Brontë Parsonage Museum), this project aims to transform our understanding of Brontë's fiction.


  • Undertakes a completely new scholarly print/digital edition of Charlotte Brontë’s novels: the first in nearly half a century; the first to feature Brontë’s original manuscript versions as reading texts; the first digitally available edition of the Brontës; and the first edition to cross-reference its reading text to stable digital page images of manuscripts and print editions in the author’s lifetime, to be provided by partners the British Library and Morgan Library.
  • Provides readers, students, critics, and scholars with open access to a unique “critical archive” of searchable, collated digital versions of the original manuscripts and early editions, complete with enriched annotations and commentary, and illustrated with images of significant items from the unrivalled Brontë Parsonage Museum. This is a space for new stories to be told about the Brontës and their significance to new communities of readers and visitors to our partner institutions.
  • Offers a reinterpretation of Brontë’s novels, a re-evaluation of Brontë’s achievement, and a reassessment of the relations between textual transmission and ideological transmission in mid-Victorian society and culture.
  • Proposes a coordinated solution to problems of the sustainability and longevity of digital text repositories in literary studies which is also an enduring research environment for different knowledge communities—students of literature, critics, textual scholars, heritage institutions, academic publishers—to work together for their mutual benefit.

Benefits & impacts

Charlotte Brontë’s novels are stranger, more unsettling, and more artistically and socially challenging than the available editions lead readers to believe. This strangeness, so apparent in her manuscripts, is moderated in all print versions of the novels because Brontë’s punctuation was radically altered by the printers who normalised it for the first editions, with significant effects on the novels and their interpretation. 

This project restores the MS versions in a new scholarly print/digital edition, reproduces them along with the print versions in an innovative online critical archive of Brontë texts and contexts, and analyses them in a book-length reinterpretation of the novels that will transform our understanding of Brontë’s achievement. 

The potential impact on the Brontë cultural and critical heritage is far-reaching and highly significant for our partners, the British Library, Morgan Library, and Brontë Society, who will be working with us to research and disseminate the findings to a wide and diverse readership. Cambridge University Press will publish both the print and digital editions of what they refer to as this “major scholarly endeavour”.


CI: Emeritus Scientia Professor Christine Alexander – School of the Arts & Media, UNSW 

Partner CI: Emeritus Professor Tim Dolin – School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts, Curtin University, WA.

Funding body 

Australian Research Council / Linkage Grant

Research area 

Literary and textual studies