Friday, January 01, 2016

Friday, January 01, 2016 12:23 am by M. in    No comments
2016 is, of course, the Brontë200 year. The 200th anniversary of Charlotte Brontë's birth will monopolise the Brontë events and news of the year. It will be the prelude of the many Brontë years to come: 2017 for Branwell, 2018 for Emily and 2020 for Anne, but it's unlikely that any of the upcoming anniversaries will have the media echo of Charlotte's. Some items of the Brontë 200 programme of events are known but many of them are still to be unveiled. Therefore, take the following information with a pinch of salt as we are quite sure that there will be many more unexpected events in this new and most exciting Brontë year.

Three exhibitions will mark the main events of the 200th anniversary. Charlotte Great and Small will open at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in February. Commissioned by Tracy Chevalier who has designed 'an exhibition which, through objects and quotations, explores the contrast between Charlotte’s constricted life and her huge ambition':
Highlights include Charlotte’s child-size clothes, tiny books and paintings she made, a scrap from a dress she wore to an important London dinner party, and a moving love letter loaned by the British Library especially for the bicentenary. Quotes from Charlotte’s letters and writings will be projected onto the walls to demonstrate the scale of her hopes and dreams.
Contemporary art installations will also be displayed throughout the Parsonage, with UK and international artists responding to the idea of the miniature. These will include a small bed embroidered with words by and about all of the Brontës, as well as a Knitted Jane Eyre!
Almost simultaneously (it opens a few days later but also in February) the National Portrait Gallery in London will hold  Celebrating Charlotte Brontë: 1816 – 1855:
This display explores Brontë’s life and literary career through portraits and includes treasures on loan from the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
Central to the display will be the presentation of new research into the only surviving painted portraits of Charlotte with her two sisters, Emily and Anne, by their brother Branwell, in the Gallery’s Collection. This will explore the intriguing story of its discovery folded on top of a wardrobe, subsequent acquisition by the Gallery and its restoration.
This exhibition will cross the Atlantic and in September it will open at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, we suppose with the addition of several of their own Brontë treasures. It will close in January 2017.

Of course, 2016 will be a year of books. Many of them related to Charlotte Brontë or Jane Eyre, but not all of them.

Lena Coakley narrates how the Brontës created and tried to overcome their juvenilia creations in what promises to be a historical fiction with a YA fantasy world flair: Worlds of Ink and Shadow will be published in January. Biographical accounts for young readers will also be available, like  Mick Manning and Brita Granström's The Brontës - Children of the Moors: A Picture Book.

The yearly dose of sequels and retellings will begin with Sam Baker's revisitation of Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall for HarperCollins: The Woman Who Ran.Penguin Random House will promote Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye featuring Jane Eyre 'as a gutsy, heroic serial killer'.  Not exactly a sequel but certainly inspired-by, Reader, I Married Him is a collection of twenty-one stories, edited by Tracy Chevalier and, arguably, will be a central piece of the Brontë 2016 celebrations. And the comic adaptation Rochester by Ramon Fernandez has been in the works for several years and certainly this could be a good year to finally appear.

Several other works will be published somehow featuring the Brontës in the background: Mick Jackson's Yuki Chan in Brontë Country; pieces of local history like The Real Wuthering Heights: The Story of The Withins Farms by Steven Wood and Peter Brears; poetry books like The Jane and Bertha in Me by Rita María Martínez.  But surely, one of the books that will be reviewed often and featured in headlines will be the first novel by Catherine Lowell: The Madwoman Upstairs or something like an Agatha Christie mystery inside the Brontë narrative:
Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. Since her father’s untimely death, she is the presumed heir to a long-rumored trove of diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts passed down from the Brontë family—a hidden fortune never revealed to anyone outside of the family, but endlessly speculated about by Brontë scholars and fanatics. Samantha, however, has never seen this alleged estate and for all she knows, it’s just as fictional as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. 
Nick Holland will publish his most awaited new biography of Anne Brontë: In Search of Anne Brontë. The first solo biography on Anne Brontë since the Chitham biography in 1991. Samantha Ellis is also preparing an Anne Brontë biography but it will probably not be published this year.

The scholar world will explore the microcosm inspired by Brontë’s debut novel in Abigail Heiniger's Jane Eyre's Fairytale Legacy at Home and Abroad. The big release of the year will probably be A Companion to the Brontës, edited by Diane Long Hoeveler and Deborah Denenholz Morse: thirty-five contributions with the big names of Brontë scholarship: Christine Alexander, Lucasta Miller, Tom Winnifrith, Edward Chitham, Ann Dinsdale...
Scheduled for 2016 is Christine Alexander's authoritative and (definitive?) edition of Charlotte Brontë juvenilia: Early Writings of Charlotte Bronte 1837-40. Another book announced for 2016 but not confirmed is Charlotte Brontë from the Beginnings: New Essays from Juvenilia to the Major Works  (Edited by Judith E. Pike and Lucy Morrison). And last but not least, this year's Brontë Society Conference will analyse the condition of women in Charlotte Brontë's day. It will be held in Manchester and it will count with speakers like Germaine Greer, Sally Shuttleworth, Claire Harman or Christine Alexander.

The film and TV front seems to be covered by the BBC productions that were unveiled a few months ago: the feature length production To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters written by Sally Wainwright will explore the 'increasingly difficult relationship [of the sisters] with their brother Branwell.' Living Like a Brontë will be a sort of docudrama meets reality TV where three known journalists will be 're-living the sisters’ daily routines, visiting key places in their world and immersing themselves in their letters and diaries, and through the sisters’ interactions with each they’ll discover what it was that served as their sources of inspiration.' Finally Brontës at the BBC will 'dig deep into the BBC’s archive to explore the Brontës’ famous works and discover the fascinating lives these sisters lived'. Maybe it will be a chance to see images from Villette 1970?

And what about the Brontës independent biopic written and directed by David Anthony Thomas? We don't know but we are not very optimistic as there are no news and no updates since last summer.EDIT (01/01/2016): Nevertheless intriguing pictures published on instagram by N Ø R R films gives us hopes that a Brontë biopic is indeed in the works... who knows?

The big Brontë theatre event of 2015 was without doubt the Jane Eyre performances at the National Theatre directed by Sally Cookson. Hurry up if you want to see it. Later the company will return to Bristol and in February the production will tour in Nottingham and Hong Kong! We are not sure what the equivalent production will be, if any, in 2016. But a solid contender is the world premiere of the Northern Ballet production of Jane Eyre choreographed by Cathy Marston, with music by Philip Feeney.

Not the only Jane Eyres around, of course: new adaptations in Malmö (Sweden) and Wiesbaden (Germany),  the Gordon & Caird musical in Canyon, TX, Kingston (Ontario), Orem (UT), Mission (KS) or Warrenton (VA)

The Yale Repertory Theatre will present the world premiere of The Moors by Jen Silverman, a sort post-modern gothic suspense blended with dark comedy. Also in February, another premiere will take place in Toronto, a new adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's Villette by Chris Coculuzzi will be performed by the Amicus Productions.

And Publick Transport will continue touring We Are Brontë!; the Slovak National Theatre will rescue its Jane Eyrová adaptation for some new performances in January with English subtitles; Mel Dodge's Miss Brontë will tour Australia ...

Yes, 2016 will be a very (Charlotte) Brontë year.


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