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’.


Claire O’Callaghan

Claire O’Callaghan is a Lecturer in Humanities at Loughborough University. Her research focuses on Victorian and neo-Victorian fiction. She is an expert on the lives and works of the Brontës has published widely on their works, and she is the author of Emily Brontë Reappraised (2018).