Friday, February 15, 2013

Agnes Grey is still teaching

First of all, good news from Brontë Country, as reported by The Telegraph and Argus (EDIT: and the Brontë Parsonage Blog):

One of several recent applications to build a wind turbine in the Worth Valley has been thrown out because of it could put tourists off visiting Bronte Country.
The Brontë Society recently spoke out against the number of turbine planning applications being proposed for the area, which attracts tourists from around the world, eager to see the moor landscapes that inspired the sisters.
And Bradford Council planning officers held a similar view with one of these applications, a 15 metre high turbine on Bodkin Lane in Oxenhope. Submitted by David Feather, of Colton in Norwich, the application was refused after officers decided the harm it would do to the landscape outweighed the “limited” environmental benefits. And they acknowledged that the area was sensitive to change because of its literary significance.
Officers also felt the turbine could harm the area’s wildlife. It would be located just 210 metres from the South Pennine Moors Special Protection Area, described as an “internationally important” site for birds.
Christine Went, heritage and conservation officer at the Brontë Society, said: “We are delighted that Bradford Council has given sensitive consideration to this application.
“It is good they have acknowledged the importance of this heritage landscape, and internationally renowned heritage area. We’ve been arguing for some time that turbines have a negative impact on this landscape.” (Chris Young)
Now for some Brontëites. Heading the list is well-known Jane Eyre enthusiast Dave Astor, who takes 'A Look at Hypocritical Characters in Literature' in The Huffington Post.
Two-faced protagonists are often (but not always) of the religious variety. One prime example is Mr. Brocklehurst in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. Jane and the other unlucky girls at his Lowood school/institution are denied adequate food, heat, clothing and compassion while the "pious" Mr. Brocklehurst and his family live a life of luxury -- even as he argues the "merits" of a miserable, austere life for the poor.
The New York Times interviews writer Karen Russell:
What book had the greatest impact on you? What book made you want to write?Oh, it’s hard to isolate just one. “Jane Eyre.”  “The Grapes of Wrath.”  “The Lord of the Rings.”  “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.” The Brothers Grimm. “Great Expectations.”  “Middlemarch.”  “The Day of the Triffids.”  “Antigone.”  “The Waves.” “Dune.” (Louise Erdrich)
Another writer, Blythe Gifford, also likes Jane Eyre. She discusses her childhood favourites in USA Today:
Finally, Jane Eyre remains one of my all-time favorite stories and I strive to write the sort of angsty, often repressed passion Charlotte Brontë did so well. On the other hand, I've always thought the plot device of the secret in the attic was a little … over the top. (Joyce Lamb)
El País (Uruguay) interviews screenwriter (and illustrator) Robert Lence.
Tan duro fue ese camino que siempre dice que la canción que lo define es "The Long and Winding Road" de The Beatles…
-Es que siempre sentía que me sacaban del camino, con tantos desvíos y obstáculos, pero seguramente era porque alguien había diseñado algo mejor. Por ejemplo, cuando fui a estudiar me gradué en literatura inglesa, y también en derecho, era algo totalmente distinto. Fui feliz leyendo tanta literatura clásica, Dickens, las hermanas Brontë, Shakespeare… y esas historias clásicas fueron las bases de todo lo que hice después en mi carrera. CalArts y sus increíbles artistas me formaron a nivel de dibujo, pero la Universidad de Michigan me enseñó el arte de contar historias, y mi trabajo es ese. (Eleonor Wauquier) (Translation)
The Gulf News features Nadeem Aslam and his novel The Blind Man’s Garden which
was written in his brother’s cottage in the Peak District, a bus ride from “Heathcliff country”. Aslam concedes that “Wuthering Heights” may have entered his novel “subliminally” — if not in its anguished love triangle, then in its characters’ “youthful intensity”. (Maya Jaggi)
The Atlantic has a very interesting article on 'What Betty Friedan [author of The Feminine Mystique] Could Have Learned from Reading 'Agnes Grey''.
For post-Friedan folks, then, looking at a pre-Friedan feminism can be jolting. That was my experience, anyway, when I recently read Anne Brontë's Agnes Grey. The 1847 novel reads today as a feminist denunciation of the hardships and inequities faced by female governesses. Brontë's portrait of the unfair, demeaning, constrictive plight of those women matches, in its quiet, righteous fury, Friedan's portrait of the unfair, demeaning, constrictive plight of housewives.
But the fury and the feminism are, perhaps, where the similarities end. In fact, Agnes Grey can almost be read as a deliberate, impassioned point by point refutation of the Feminine Mystique. Agnes Grey, a poor clergyman's daughter, decides to become a governess. She explains that she wants "to go out into the world; to act for myself; to exercise my unused faculties; to try my own unknown powers; to earn my own maintenance"—all motives of which Friedan would approve.
But in the event, employment for Agnes is not an exercise in self-actualization. Instead, the work is thankless and degrading. The families that hire her treat her, not as a professional, but as a menial. The children, seeing that she is not respected, misbehave and refuse to learn anything—for which, of course, the governess is blamed.
Work, then, doesn't lead to empowerment. But Brontë goes further than that, and actually rejects the goal of empowerment itself. The children Agnes watches all desire mastery and self-actualization—and that desire leads them not to healthy individualism, but to selfishness and sadism. One of the boys Agnes looks after relishes finding small birds and torturing them to death. Another charge, Miss Matilda Murray, also enjoys hunting and killing animals. She cheerfully displays the broken body of a rabbit caught by her dog and explaining with relish that "It cried out just like a child." In our enthusiastically self-actualizing culture, we like to think of these outcomes as abnormal or deviant—but Brontë doesn't present them that way. Instead, the brutality to animals is the natural consequence of untamed selfishness and self-seeking.
Rosalie Murray, Agnes' oldest student, doesn't torture animals. She is thoroughly vain, though, and amuses herself with flirtation and breaking men's hearts—until she marries a rich, dissipated lord for his money. The marriage is unhappy and she sinks into misery, prompting Agnes' pity. She suggests to her former pupil that she can perhaps find happiness by devoting herself to her child—and Rosalie shows the depths of her shallowness when she replies, "I can't centre all my hopes in a child: that is only one degree better than devoting oneself to a dog." Agnes, in contrast, does end the novel devoting herself to children—not to those she is hired to watch, but to her own, as she marries a worthy clergyman and settles into happy domesticity as the angel of the house. (Noah Berlatsky) (Read more)
More Anne Brontë enthusiasm in a review of the book The Dazzle by Robert Hudson in the Daily Mail.
I have been visiting Scarborough since I was a child and have long thrilled to its connections with Piers Gaveston and Anne Brontë. (Wendy Holden)
La Nación (Argentina) features Silly Novels by Lady Novelists by George Eliot.
Eliot destaca en el primer grupo, el de las que escriben bien, a Elizabeth Gaskell y a Charlotte Brontë (a quien menciona como Currer Bell, seudónimo con el que publicó Jane Eyre), pero ante todo lamenta "la fatídica atracción de la escritura para las mujeres incompetentes", cosa que ocurre menos con artes como la música o la pintura porque "todo arte que precise un absoluto dominio técnico queda, hasta cierto punto, protegido de las intrusiones de la torpe imbecilidad". (Eduardo Berti) (Translation)
New Media Rockstars interviews Lindsay Ellis, creator of the Fifty Shades of Green web series.
Why do you think these types of romance novels are successful? How do you think these authors sell these books in “a bad way”?We think that these books appeal to the very worst in women. You see in film and rom coms, they usually follow the “Pride and Prejudice” model; more and more, romance novels have been using the “Wuthering Heights” model with the brooding, borderline abusive male lead (or straight up abusive in the case of “50 Shades of Grey”). So we have an abusive male lead romanticized in a way that we’re supposed to find appealing, and the female leads are just awful, awful people with no self respect and no respect for anyone else. I’ve read many romance novels before that follow a similar rubric, but I feel like it really says something about us that “50 Shades” was the breakthrough erotica of the new millenium. Same for “Twilight” and paranormal romance, for that matter. (Ed Carrasco)
We have some leftovers from Valentine's Day yesterday. Flavorwire helps you diagnose 'Your Romantic Issues Based on Your Favorite Literary Couple'.
Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, Jane Eyre You think of yourself as an easygoing, accepting person. But there is such thing as too accepting. Here’s your mantra: if he looks like a creep, acts like a creep, and locks his wife in the attic, he’s a creep.
Catherine and Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights As Charlotte once chided, you may suffer from “perverted passion and passionate perversity.” That’s probably why you guys fight so much. (Emily Temple)
The latter (and in some way the former too) make it onto the 'Top 6 romantic couples in classic literature' selected by Hypable.
Catherine and Heathcliff from ‘Wuthering Heights
Type of love: Super depressed, romantic and crazy
This couples from Wuthering Heights begun conventionally enough, progressing from childhood playmates and sweethearts to a lady too fine for her unkempt suitor. Then it becomes a little more complicated, with both marrying other people, and then there’s the obstacle of Catherine’s death and subsequent haunting of Wuthering Heights. Catherine and Heathcliff are not the only romantic couple who fit into this category, there is also a certain Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester, but we like their twisted story best. (Marama Whyte)
The Huffington Post looks at the contenders for the greatest book about love.
The book: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
There's no doubt about Jessica's selection. The Assistant Manager in Online Marketing at Random House even owns a shirt expressing her love of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. Now that's real love!
The precis: Brontë's masterpiece introduced the world to a radical new type of heroine, one with defiant virtue and moral courage. [...]
The book: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Bhavna, editorial assistant with M&S, revealed in a quick conversation that she had to go with perennial favourite Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.
The precis: You can hardly think of the word "moor" without thinking of the love story between Catherine and Heathcliff, a passionate and all-consuming love story that has lasted through the years. (Based on this post from the Random House blog)
More couples in Exeposé, as chosen by readers.
Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë) – Charlotte Broadbent
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
166 years on, Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester’s romance is one which overcomes all obstacles, transcending social boundaries, centuries and generations.  Ultimately, it is Eyre’s independence and strength, culminating in her refusal to live with Rochester out of wedlock in order to uphold her personal values, which secures Rochester’s respect as well as his love.  A romance of mutual reverence, Eyre and Rochester are a literary couple which have stood the test of time.  Eyre simultaneously follows her heart and uses her head, refusing to marry St. John but gracefully offering to travel with him to India as his sister.  She maintains a strong sense of her identity in the face of her turbulent love story with Rochester.  It is this mutually respectful, supportive relationship which should be aspired to, the reason that Eyre and Rochester are a duo who should be eternally appreciated. (Georgina Holland)
Barbara Taylor Bradford discusses 'romantic heroes' in The Telegraph.
In Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Brontë, Heathcliff is the typical Byronic-style hero. Temperamental, troubled, the underdog, he is also mysterious. And possessive of Catherine Earnshaw, with whom he grew up on the Yorkshire moors. [...]
When Jane Eyre goes to work at Thornfield Hall, as governess to Mr Rochester’s young ward, Adèle, she soon falls under his spell, despite the fact he is evasive, secretive, a liar and would-be bigamist.
Policymic picks 'The Best, Worst, and Most Dysfunctional Romances in Literature' and features those couples as well.
Fast-forwarding a few thousand years through the courtly romances and star-cross’d (i.e. doomed) pairs we know so well (Tristan and Isolde, Lancelot and Guinevere, Romeo and Juliet, etc.), we’ll stop at the English lads and ladies that frequently top the best literary couples lists: Austen’s Elizabeth and Darcy, (Emily) Brontë’s Cathy and Heathcliff, and (Charlotte) Brontë’s Jane and Mr. Rochester. On closer examination, they’re all a bit dysfunctional (cartoonist Kate Beaton hits some home runs in this category) — or downright creepy, as Kate Bush highlights so well in her classic homage to Wuthering Heights. (Jane Olin-Ammentorp)
And speaking of Romeo and Juliet, YA writer Na'ima B Robert selects for the Guardian's Children's Books the 'top 10 Romeo and Juliet stories'.
5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
My favourite A Level text, Jane Eyre gets a mention due to the social, cultural and personal forces at work to keep her and Mr Rochester apart. I also love the fact that, although it is undoubtedly a love story, Jane is not a typical romantic heroine. By her own admission, she is plain, but she is also sensible and intelligent and, above all, principled. Which makes the fact that she finally does marry him, when all is set right again, all the more satisfying.
6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
A wild, tempestuous setting for a love that was never meant to be. Heathcliffe (sic) and Catherine are the quintessential star-crossed lovers – and from beyond the grave at that. I included this one because, again, it is a story of class and family prejudice that is moving on so many levels. Another fine example of a Brontë sister in fine form.
Seeing all the above, Palatinate states the obvious:
Romeo and Juliet are nearly always at the top of lovers’ lists, closely followed by a slightly happier (though still deeply troubled) couple, Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester. (Charlotte Meredith)
And The Boar adds:
We all long for our happily-ever-after fairy tale romantic end, but unfortunately, the world of literature offers us as much despair as hope (see Romeo and Juliet, Cathy and Heathcliff, Gatsby and Daisy, et al). (Chiara Milford)
El Mundo de Córdoba recommends Wuthering Heights 1939 while BBC America's Anglophenia invites readers to 'Warm Up with Heated British Costume Drama Scenes', which include one from the latest screen adaptation of Jane Eyre.

Scholars and Rogues discusses Austen and the Brontës. Rebecca Heflin includes Cathy and Heathcliff and Jane and Rochester on her top five most romantic couples while Native Audio Grrrl chooses Jane Eyre as one of her 10 favourite romance films. On the more earthy side of things, Flickr user blackwatch55013 has uploaded a few pictures of a 1914 steam tractor named Jane Eyre.

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