Growing up in a cold, cramped house, surrounded by unforgiving landscapes and faced with an aging father, worrisome brother and uncertain prospects, it is astonishing to think that Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë succeeded in writing some of the most celebrated and passionate literature of the 19th century.

Their novels are rich with latent desire and concealed yearning that somehow perfectly communicate the thoughts unspoken and deeds undone. In this revealing event, we will examine whether these three young women, comparatively sheltered and inexperienced, used their writing as an outlet for their own repressed emotion.

Join chair, Arifa Akbar, and our panel of literary historians and erotica experts, Claire O’Callaghan, Rowan Pelling and Louise Yates, as they step into the secret lives of the Brontës and explore the brooding desire that lies at the heart of their own passion for the sisters and their writing.

About The Speakers

Claire O’Callaghan

Claire O’Callaghan is a writer and lecturer in English at Loughborough University; she joined the university in 2018, as one of their prestigious ‘Excellence 100’ appointments. She is the author of Sarah Water: Gender and Sexual Politics (2017) and Emily Bronte Reappraised (2018).

Rowan Pelling

Rowan Pelling is the editor of The Amorist and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph. She spent eight years editing The Erotic Review and has written sex advice columns for GQ and the Daily Mail. She is the editor of Dedalus’s The Decadent Handbook and Erotic Stories, a compilation for Everyman’s Library.

Louisa Yates

Louisa Yates is Director of Collections and Research at Gladstone’s Library and a Visiting Lecturer in English at the University of Chester. She writes on literary re-vision and the curious afterlife of the nineteenth century; her latest collaboration investigates Victorian manufacturing through its products. She co-directs the literature festival Gladfest.

About The Chair

Arifa Akbar

Arifa Akbar is a freelance journalist. She is a regular reviewer for Sky News, Financial Times and London Evening Standard, and has written for The Guardian, and Daily Mail among others. A former literary editor of The Independent, she is now the curator of M-Fest: a Muslim Festival of Books and Ideas, and deputy editor of Wasafiri magazine.