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8. Brontë celebrationsJournalist and presenter Samira Ahmed visited the Parsonage a few days ago as The Telegraph and Argus reports.
This year sees the first of a series of 200th anniversaries marking the births of the Brontë siblings. First up is a programme of Charlotte-related events at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Howarth [sic] (Branwell’s birth will be celebrated in 2017 and that of sisters Emily and Anne in 2018 and 2020). A centrepiece will be a new exhibition by Girl With a Pearl Earring author Tracy Chevalier that will contrast Charlotte’s upbringing with her achievements. Charlotte Great and Small (as the exhibition is named) will run throughout the year. Entry £7.50 adult, £3.75 child (01535 642323; bronte.org.uk and bronte200.org) (James Ellis)
Part of national radio programme Front Row focusing on the Brontë family's cultural legacy has been recorded at Haworth's Parsonage Museum.Los Angeles Times reviews the US edition of Claire Harman's biography of Charlotte Brontë. (Incidentally, the US cover reminds us a lot of the cover of Lyndall Gordon's 1994 biography of Charlotte).
The programme is due to aired on BBC Radio Four on Monday evening.
Presenter Samira Ahmed visited the parsonage for the recording session.
Explaining her visit on her Twitter account she said: "On the trail of the infernal fantasy world of the Brontës, and it's link to modern fantasy gaming and romantic heroes..."
A spokesman for the museum said it had been "lovely" to welcome the veteran journalist, who as well as working as a BBC reporter has previously been a presenter for Channel 4.
Ms Ahmed is a winner of the Broadcast of the Year prize at the annual Stonewall Awards.
She joined BBC Front Row in 2014. Front Row is a live magazine programme dedicated to the worlds of arts, literature, film, media and music. (Miran Rahman)
Harman is no fan of the widower, a man of "intransigence, pride and emotional blindness." Not a pure villain nor quite as eccentric as gossip suggested, Patrick Brontë nevertheless aged into a petty tyrant who demanded absolute fealty from his children and almost wrecked Charlotte's solitary hope of marital happiness.The Globe and Mail reviews Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies.
Tough as life was at Haworth, the Brontë siblings — including the relatively pampered son, Branwell — mostly thrived there, united by their precocious literary and artistic pursuits. They fared less well when sent off, periodically, to boarding school. While away, the eldest sisters, Maria, 11, and Elizabeth, 10, contracted fatal cases of consumption (modern-day tuberculosis), nudging the surviving siblings even closer.
Branwell — creative, well-educated and "holding the trump card of maleness," as Harman pointedly notes — did the least with his intellectual assets. A failed portraitist, he had an affair with an older married woman, incurred debts and succumbed to alcoholism and opium addiction at age 31.
Despite her academic talents, Charlotte was ill-suited to work as a teacher or governess. But her otherwise disastrous Belgian sojourn inspired her to write her first novel, "The Professor," "a painfully obvious piece of wish-fulfillment" based on her relationship with Heger. Though rejected repeatedly — it would not be published until after her death — the novel drew respectful notice from her future publisher. [...]
Charlotte Brontë's end seems to have been harrowing. But at least Harman's meticulous, affectionate biography reassures us that her afterlife is in good hands. (Julia M. Klein)
“Reader, I married him.”We are sorry but we just don't see how Charlotte's brief marriage to Arthur Bell Nicholls could be interpreted as 'disappointing and depressing'. If anything, her letters point in the opposite direction
So begins the last chapter of Jane Eyre, a statement meant to be romantic but is merely incomplete. Her “quiet wedding” to Mr. Rochester is a hard-won happy ending, triumphant even though the novel’s fiery conclusion costs her new husband his eyesight, his estate and his first wife, who torches the home where she was imprisoned before killing herself. “And?” is the question I’d like to ask Jane, although I’d accept the addition of because – anything that could explain why. For instance, “Reader, I married him, because he is hot and I’m, like, 80-per-cent sure our love will last forever,” is one possible answer. Or, when taking into consideration the era in which the novel is set, “Reader, I married him, because I had to, since being an unmarried woman is so restrictive I would do almost anything else, including marrying a man who trapped his wife in an attic and lied about it.” That does not have, I admit, quite the same ring to it.
Charlotte Brontë was neither coy nor romantic when she wed Arthur Bell Nicholls, eight years after she published Jane Eyre. In Rebecca Traister’s latest book, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, she writes that Brontë accepted Nicholls’s proposal only because he would provide her father with “good aid in his old age.” Brontë wrote about her marriage – disappointing and depressing – in detail to her best friend, Ellen Nussey. Nicholls, reading over Brontë’s shoulder, insisted that his wife either stop writing or that Nussey burn the letters, terrified about what such sincere answers to the question of their marriage would do to his reputation. Nussey pledged to do as he asked; Nussey lied. Thankfully, she saved them, for our benefit and to the benefit of Traister’s book, which takes stories from real life and fiction and links them to relevant historical and statistical analysis, in an attempt to answer the forever-linked questions of why some women marry and why some women don’t. (Haley Mlotek)
Worlds of Ink and ShadowThe Elkhart Truth reviews Kate Beaton's Step Aside, Pops.
By Lena Coakley, HarperCollins
Some will see that this book is about the Brontë siblings and assume it has only niche appeal to fans. But don’t pass this one by. Your Bronte knowledge doesn’t need to be even at the Jeopardy $100 question level to enjoy it. Toronto author Lena Coakley has imbued the young Brontës with the fantastical power to enter their own stories, assume the roles of characters and essentially do anything they please (yes, Branwell Brontë does consider conjuring a brothel) – think the postpubescent Pevensie children being able to pull the strings in Narnia. It is a luscious, indulgent read about the addictive escapism of writing fiction, with Coakley making inventive and crafty use of her source material. This is part BBC miniseries and part literary Minecraft for the bookiest book lover. (Shannon Ozirny)
Be forewarned, however: Beaton’s work is not for kids. It’s smart and educational, and may encourage you to look up historical figures from Georges Danton to Tom Longboat to understand the nuances of her already funny jokes. But the humor is definitely for adults, especially since the joke frequently comes from feeding unsavory punchlines to unexpected characters: “This sh*%’s gonna be a trip!” says Nelly Dean from “Wuthering Heights,” as she passes a joint and begins to tell her story. (Jessica Baldanzi)The Sydney Morning Herald features the revival of the Shake & Stir Theatre Company's take on Wuthering Heights (premiered in 2014).
How do we love Wuthering Heights? Let me count the ways. Yes, it's that kind of book – the kind that inspires the teenaged self to (mis)quote Shakespeare [too bad you are actually misquoting Elizabeth Barrett Browning, not Shakespeare!], and wax lyrical about passion and true love. Then later, when the older, more worldly self rereads the novel – possibly even a digital version – it tends to inspire more introspection, bemusement and even the odd bit of eye-rolling. [...]The Guardian wonders why plays about sex and violence written by women still shock.
Ross Balbuziente, for one, couldn't have care less when he was assigned Wuthering Heights in his high school English class, like generations of students before and after. The artistic director of Shake & Stir Theatre Company says he was the usual nonchalant teen when confronted with Bronte's wall of emotion.
"I wasn't a fan when I first read it, purely because I guess I didn't give myself the time to get around the various voices in which the novel was written," he says.
But in the languid days of early university, he gave it another chance. It's stuck with him ever since.
The 32-year-old is now set to reprise the role of Heathcliff for the second time in his career, in Shake & Stir's second stage production of the novel that is set to launch in Canberra and tour the country from next month. [...]
He says even in the intervening two years, his own life experience has coloured his perception of the role, and it's possible that he's, even now, still coming to grips with what Heathcliff is all about.
"He's misunderstood, the poor bloke. He's often painted as the villain, but there's a lot going on, and there are a lot of reasons why he acts like he does," he says.
"It's nice to pick up where we've left off and delve deeper, and unfortunately delving deeper with this particular role means you just have to go blacker and more aggressive and more twisted."
Gemma Willing, who plays Catherine, says complicated characters who make puzzling mistakes are a gift for any actor.
"I think it's always so much easier to find a hook into a character when you can see their humane qualities, and you try and find that in every character," she says.
"Even if they're a really immoral character, you still try and find what makes them human and find sympathy for them."
She remembers loving the novel's gorgeous melodrama the first time she read it – the high emotions and complex characters.
"I love Wuthering Heights. It's such high stakes – everything's teetering on the edge of life and death and love and loss, and I love those extremes," she says.
"I might be biased, but I love the character of Catherine. I think she's that epitome of the free spirit, that's what I love about her. She's got a lot of faults and a lot of flaws, but I kind of like that about the story – I think that's the first thing I remember about reading Wuthering Heights, that every character is really flawed…They're not perfect, they make mistakes and they're just trying to figure things out."
The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts trained actor, who recently appeared in the film Looking for Grace, says she's relishing the prospect of playing both Catherine and the character's daughter Cathy – a different victim of circumstance.
"It's a really interesting process, because you try to keep in mind qualities of her mother, of Catherine, but remind yourself that she's her own independent woman," she says.
"Cathy's a great little fiery character, and very intelligent and switched on, and maybe switched on so much to her detriment…She's hyper-aware of what's going on. In a lot of ways, if she was more unaware of all of that, or blissfully ignorant, then maybe it wouldn't be so hard for her."
Like her co-star, she says re-reading the book as an adult in preparation to take to the stage, she is struck by how easily the themes seem to play out in modern life.
"You have that battle between what your head wants and what your heart wants," she says.
"By nature, you know what your soul craves, and then the culture in which you're immersed and how that affects the decisions you make…Sometimes you just let it happen."
So how does such a cluttered and baroque plot make its way to the stage? Emily Brontë – young, reclusive and ill – had what can be described as the luxury of pages and pages to unwind her ornate fantasies, but Shake & Stir has a modern theatre and a restless, 21st-century audience.
Balbuziente says Nick Skubij, who is directing the play, has adapted the work to incorporate the story's physical environment.
"All of the natural elements are on the stage within the theatre, so you can feel and smell and hear [them]. Wind, rain, fire, all appear onstage," he says.
"The atmosphere plays that final role, and the incredibly descriptive language that Emily Brontë used to really place her readers on those moors."
And while the play is faithful to the text in terms of time and place, he's hoping it will appeal to a large sector of today's youth who probably haven't picked up the book yet – at least, not by choice.
And if they haven't read it yet, they certainly should.
"[It's] the genesis of so much of what culture is nowadays for teens – so many television shows, movies and even novels are based on that love triangle-slash-revenge and wild passion," he says. (Sally Pryor)
When female writers tackle subjects of rage, frustration or violence, they are often invested in a character of a “monstrous woman” – Bertha Mason in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, for instance. And while Virginia Woolf spoke of the necessity of “killing the angel in the house” – that is, the idealised, passive woman who must be disposed of before a female writer can truly create in The Madwoman in the Attic, in their study of the woman writer and 19th-century literary imagination, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar assert that the idea of the “monstrous” woman must also be destroyed. (Laura Barton)The Madwoman in the Attic as a concept is also discussed both on article and podcast format by Sydsvenskan (Sweden). Neue Bürcher Beitung (Switzerland) has a similar discussion featuring Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea as well. Jane, Antoinette and also Cathy are also mentioned in this article from The Huffington Post:
All the literary women I have loved have been moved by an idea of love as something that is enormous, life changing, all-consuming, their raison d'être: Emma Bovary, Antoinette Rochester (the 'mad woman in the attic' from Jane Eyre who is brought to life in Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea,) and my absolute favourite, Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights, who bitterly rejects her devoted husband to wallow in a love that arguably never really existed. I also used to be obsessed with with Lana Del Rey whose lyrics tend to revolve around the same sort of love: 'I've nothing without you / All my dreams and all the lights mean / Nothing without you' and 'It's you, it's you, it's all for you / Everything I do / I tell you all the time / Heaven is a place on earth with you' and 'They say that the world was built for two / Only worth living if somebody is loving you / Baby, now you do' (I'll stop now.) It might be worth nothing that Elizabeth Grant (Lana Del Rey) is currently single. Emma Bovary killed herself, Antoinette Rochester burnt the house down and jumped off the roof, Catherine Earnshaw went mad and died, and let's not forget what happened to Juliet Capulet. Were any of these women in love with their men or were they just obsessed with the idea of their being in love, the love of their own self-image projected onto their affairs? (Chloe Tomlinson)This columnist from The Sydney Morning Herald looks back on the time she first watched the film Pretty in Pink.
Teenage romantics have to get it where they can. One of my Year 10 texts was Wuthering Heights, but that was too sophisticated for me. I didn't really understand Cathy crying, "Nelly, I am Heathcliff"; I was taking my cues from teen movies. Hollywood seemed to have moved on from the story-less breast-fests of Porky's and Animal House, and John Hughes was in ascendance. (Simmone Howell)Portland Press Herald offers a Brontë-related example from an SAT exam.
For example, in a practice test, the new SAT highlighted certain words in a passage from Charlotte Brontë’s “The Professor” and asks what those words are meant to convey. (“The references to “shade” and “darkness” at the end of the first paragraph mainly have which effect? A) They evoke the narrator’s sense of dismay. B) They reflect the narrator’s sinister thoughts. C) They capture the narrator’s fear of confinement. D) They reveal the narrator’s longing for rest.) (Noel K. Gallagher)More student-related Brontë news in The Record Live:
Orangefield High School students Katy Swiere and Jeri Agee earned first place in Declamation and Interpretive Reading, respectively, at the school-level finals of the 112th Miriam Lutcher Stark Contest in Reading and Declamation, a scholarship program sponsored by the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation. [...]Asia Golf Online features Julian Fellowes and considers we live in a 'world where Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice and Oliver Twist seem to get reinvented every other year'. Gamer (Norway) describes the videogame Firewatch as having the same 'twist' as Jane Eyre,
Agee won first place in Interpretive Reading with her presentation of an excerpt from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.