What can readers imagine about the Brontës’ childhoods based on their writing? Did it mirror the bleak seclusion of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall or the harsh oppression in Jane Eyre? Was it filled with life-changing passion and lovelorn ghosts, as seen in Wuthering Heights?

This panel explores the Brontës’ adolescence in depth, searching for catalyst moments in their lives and reflecting on the environments and figures that went on to shape their literary masterpieces. Brontë historians and writers Emma Butcher, Sophie Franklin and Claire O’Callaghan gather together in discussion with Juliet Barker.

About The Speakers

Juliet Barker

Juliet Barker is an internationally recognised authority on the Brontës. A former curator and librarian of the Brontë Parsonage Museum at Haworth, she is author of the seminal biography The Brontës. Her ability to combine groundbreaking scholarly research with a highly readable style has made her one of Britain’s most popular historians.

Emma Butcher

Emma’s interests lie in Romantic and Victorian literature and culture. She was awarded a PhD for The Brontës and the Military at the University of Hull. In 2017 Emma was named as one of the BBC/AHRC’s New Generation Thinkers and is regularly involved with the media having worked on programmes for the BBC as well as writing for The Guardian, BBC History Magazine, PN Review, and History Today. Emma has also worked closely with the Brontë Parsonage Museum, where she curated their 2015 exhibition, ‘The Brontës, War and Waterloo’.


Sophie Franklin

Sophie Franklin is a researcher based at Durham University, where she recently completed her PhD on violence and the Brontës. Her first book, ‘Charlotte Brontë Revisited: A View from the Twenty-First Century’, was published in April 2016 by Saraband and was reissued in September 2018.

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).