Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 10:38 am by Cristina in , , , ,    No comments
Yesterday, on Charlotte Brontë's birthday, her novel Villette got a vindication. From The Huffington Post:
This year, on Charlotte Brontë’s 198th birthday, it’s time for me to finally admit a secret that’s been haunting me for some time. I think Jane Eyre, Brontë’s masterpiece, is kinda overrated. I know what I’m saying sounds radical. It's one of the great Victorian classics -- and trust me, I would never advocate for totally dismissing this beloved novel. When I first read Jane Eyre as a teenager, I fell passionately in book love with it, and I was inspired to make the rounds of the Brontës, inhaling Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Emily’s Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre, over and over again.
Jane Eyre spoke to my very soul, summing up all the adolescent angst that had plagued my uneasy transition into young adulthood. The Brontës and Jane Austen initiated me into the world of classic literature, but Jane Eyre was the book that felt most viscerally true and resonant. So it was with surprise that I realized, upon rereading it some years later for a college course, that I no longer found the novel virtuosic in its verisimilitude. It seemed maudlin, overwrought, almost absurd at points, and the triumphant finale of Jane’s marriage to the deeply flawed Mr. Rochester troubled me. Reading A Room of One’s Own, I agreed with Virginia Woolf’s assessment that Brontë’s anger at the restrictions she faced as a woman weakened her control as a writer, leading to unevenness and bizarre shifts in tone throughout Jane Eyre. Studying the racist, colonialist and anti-feminist implications of Rochester’s imprisonment of his “mad” Creole wife Bertha Mason caused me to further question my formerly high regard for the book. For the same course, I read Villette for the first time, and I found myself wondering why Brontë’s fourth novel hadn’t achieved greater fame than the second novel I now found so patchy and weak. [...]
Villette, of course, is not itself free of mixed messages about female empowerment. But it offers an alternate and equally valuable narrative, one with equally compelling lessons that hold true for women today. Villette bears a certain Brontëan resemblance to Jane Eyre -- gothic mysticism, spiritual intensity, bursts of passionate lyricism, a plain heroine making her way in an unfriendly world -- but is in many other ways its inverse. Jane Eyre works in sharp black and white, while Villette works in psychological and even factual grey areas. Where Jane’s specialness is stipulated, despite her poverty and plain looks, the heroine of Villette, Lucy Snowe, is an unassuming figure who spends the majority of the novel as a quiet observer. Jane insists on her own agency, while Lucy is reactive at best. Yet it is Lucy who truly breaks free of the expected domestic fate.
A more psychological and subdued novel, Villette features a young woman struggling with the internal conflicts most of us grapple with here in the real world. With the high melodrama turned down, the nuance is turned up. [...]
Despite my troubled history with Jane Eyre, my love for the novel will always endure. Villette, however, contains subtle, poignant pleasures that deserve acclaim at least on par with its more attention-seeking counterpart. To celebrate Charlotte Brontë’s birthday, let’s all give Villette a little more respect. (Claire Fallon)
The Telegraph has a report of the celebration at the Brontë Parsonage Museum together with an appeal from the museum curators:
Curators at the Brontë Parsonage Museum are appealing to local people to search their attics for hidden scraps of manuscripts, letters and belongings that might shed new light on the Brontë sisters.
The museum, in Haworth, Yorkshire, is marking Charlotte Brontë’s 198th birthday by giving visitors a rare chance to examine the author’s possessions, letters and manuscripts up close in the museum’s research library, instead of viewing them behind glass.
But staff believe there are still undiscovered treasures hidden in attics that may have been given away to villagers by her family.
Millions of book lovers have made a pilgrimage to the Parsonage Museum, known around the world as the home of the Brontë sisters.
Museum spokeswoman Susan Newby said: “We are appealing for people to rummage in their lofts and attics for anything that may have belonged to the Brontës that might reveal even more about them.
“They were a generous family and gave away a lot of possessions to their servants. It would be wonderful if there was a real gem of a poem or letter lurking out there that we don’t know about.”
Ann Dinsdale, the museum's Collections manager added: "We know there are a lot of letters and manuscripts still waiting to be discovered. We don't know where they are. They are more likely to be books they wrote as children. We don't believe there are any undiscovered novels still out there, although you never know.
"There are poetry manuscripts by Emily Brontë that are missing. We did a campaign a few years ago to persuade people to come forward with items they might like to donate. Recently we were given a collar that belonged to one of the Brontë's dogs complete with a dog hair, and we also had a child's bodice worn by one of the sisters.
"A few years before that we were given a big collection from Canada from a descendant of Arthur Bell Nicholls, Charlotte's husband and that included a miniature manuscript which was incredibly exciting." (Keith Perry)
The Washington Post's ComPost also celebrated Charlotte Brontë's birthday:
The question of “What Would Jane Do” — you would never dream of asking this question of her sister Emily’s Heathcliff or Cathy — remains relevant today, and the advice that comes from asking it remains remarkably sound. (Alexandra Petri)
As a way to celebrate, New Republic shares 'an appraisal of Charlotte and Emily's unique brilliance from 1918'.

According to this columnist from La Nación (Argentina), once you read Little Women and Jane Eyre you can't help but go on to read Mills & Boon sort of books.
Las niñas se abismaban en Mujercitas de Luisa May Alcott, que luego se prolongaría en Jane Eyre de Charlotte Bronté [sic], y en los inevitables libritos de Corín Tellado. (Rolando Hanglin) (Translation)
A couple of reviews of the new TV adaptation of Jamaica Inn mention the Brontës:
Deepest, darkest Cornwall, brought back to me tales of  school trips, not enticing but could be exciting? After all we’ve had other great adaptations on moors; Jane Eyre, Hound of the Baskervilles; but in Jamaica Inn even the moor isn’t that interesting. (Kate Bellamy in Metro)
There were beautiful moments of picturesque Wuthering Heights-reminiscent moors, with Mary standing, Cathy-esque, amidst the sound of the wind blowing in the grass. (Alex Hoskins in the Cheddar Valley Gazette)
Effusions of Wit and Humour reviews Jane Eyre 1998. Reading, Writing, Working, Playing recommends Jude Morgan's The Taste of Sorrow. YA Book Shelf posts about Michaela MacColl's Always Emily.


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