Review - Villette at the West Yorkshire Playhouse - *Review by Richard Wilcocks* Charlotte Brontë’s *Villette*, which was recognised by knowledgeable readers in nineteenth century Brussels as a close parallel...
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With Stratford Upon-Avon just over the road, you must have been living under a rock if you haven’t noticed the inundation of all things Shakespeare to mark the four hundred year anniversary of his death. But as 23 April comes around, make sure you’re not so busy appreciating the Bard that you miss the bicentenary of another of Britain’s most acclaimed writers, just two days before. Charlotte Brontë’s 200th birthday is being celebrated across the country on 21 April. Don’t worry if you’ve missed her off your calendar – the Brontë society is doing its best to ensure she can’t be overshadowed by hosting events that run right through the year. (Poppy McIntosh)Lyndsay Faye, author of Jane Steele, writes about Jane Eyre on LitHub.
“It is a very remarkable book,” critic Elizabeth Rigby wrote of Jane Eyre in March of 1849, in Vanity Fair. “We have no remembrance of another combining such genuine power with such horrid taste. Both together have equally assisted to gain the great popularity it has enjoyed; for in these days of extravagant adoration of all that bears the stamp of novelty and originality, sheer rudeness and vulgarity have come in for a most mistaken worship.”We would like to add, though, that Elizabeth Rigby's article didn't appear in Vanity Fair. Her review was published in the Quarterly Review. The mistake might come from the fact that she was also reviewing W.M. Thackeray's Vanity Fair.
I admit it: I don’t remember reading Jane Eyre. I do remember re-reading Charlotte Brontë’s best known literary achievement, because that’s what I did when I was a kid and something grabbed me by the eyes and tugged. (Read more)
Happy 200th birthday, Charlotte Brontë.Virginia Woolf, writing closer to Brontë’s 100th birthday, said the difference between male and female genius was the man’s enviable lack of rancor. The poetry of Shakespeare, she wrote, “flows from him free and unimpeded,” because he has no cause for protest, no desire to “make the world the witness of some hardship or grievance.” The woman, in contrast, writes from a position of anger and indignity, having been reminded, time and time again, that the world is not only indifferent to her work, but actively hostile to it. This can only cripple her art: “Her books will be deformed and twisted. She will write in a rage where she should write calmly. She will write foolishly where she should write wisely.” Woolf’s example? A passage from Jane Eyre in which Jane bemoans the narrow lot that has been assigned to women. “Nobody knows,” Brontë writes, “how many rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth.”The Huffington Post celebrated the bicentenary as well.
But tastes and standards change. We no longer expect the author to be at a god-like remove—“invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails,” as Joyce put it. And it is precisely Brontë’s rage, which still scorches the page two centuries after her birth, that many contemporary readers find so appealing. It is present at the very beginning of Jane Eyre, in her heroine being unjustly punished to solitary confinement in the “red-room” after being assaulted by a boy tormentor—a setting that is not only symbolic of the character’s ire, but suggestive of the awesome color of Brontë’s mind. (Ryu Spaeth)
I didn’t know I loved Jane Eyre until I began teaching it. You would think that after hours of research and hundreds of student papers, there would be nothing new to say about a novel nearly two centuries old. And yet, time and again I found that the little lessons to help students develop critical reading and writing skills had far-reaching effects. Students read and reread, gathered and annotated passages, and the results were some of the most interesting papers I’ve ever read (for example, one looking at the many fires in the novel and following a pattern in the imagery to better understand Jane’s feelings of isolation). I think this is because Jane Eyre is a true masterpiece, a nuanced and complex novel that takes motif and turns it into metaphor. It creates its own language of images and emotions, and the time spent culling passages is rewarded with meaningful insights into the characters and conflicts.The Huffington Post also lists '14 Books That Celebrate the Literary Icon'. Patheos reflected on 'the radical christian feminism of charlotte brontë, on the bicentennial of her birth'. La opinión de Murcia (Spain) has selected 7 books by Charlotte Brontë, obviously including juvenilia. On ABC (Australia) David Malouf argues that, 'the enduring legacy of the Jane Eyre author is hardly surprising'.
But I am not naïve. I know there must be people (perhaps even some former students) who never finished the novel. To many readers, Jane Eyre is hundreds of depressing pages about a childhood like Harry Potter’s, if he had never found magic. Or it is the tale of a simplistic but unlikely romance between a plain governess and her wealthy, attractive employer. But there is much more in those nearly 200,000 words, and I do not only refer to the mysterious shrieks coming from the third floor of Thornfield Hall. (S. F. Siddiqui) (Read more)
STEPH CHA: Why Jane Eyre? Was that book essential to the initial conception of your book?A Jane Eyre-inspired Warwick love story on The Boar.
LYNDSAY FAYE: Well, from the beginning, Jane Steele was based on a thought exercise. I was rereading Jane Eyre, as I do sometimes — being a big fan of rereading favorites — and young Jane’s defiance over her presumed wickedness seemed to me both marvelous and suddenly rather peculiar. Her aunt, her cousins, her servants, her headmaster — everyone says she’s wrongheaded and she stands there and replies, “No, I have my own moral center and you’re hypocrites.” How likely is that, really? Was it an expression of Brontë’s own defiance? So then I thought, what if a little girl in the identical situation didn’t insist on her goodness but actually agreed with the majority and thus — because she’s willing to commit dark deeds, or at least unconventional and rebellious ones — was considerably less easy to kick around?
Jane Eyre is already a character with a tremendous amount of backbone. I mean, my god, look how she handles Captain Byronic Manchild Whoops-I-Have-an-Attic-Spouse. But she’s a woman who believes in certain conventions. Murder would never enter her mind; lying to get out of a scrape wouldn’t either; becoming a man’s mistress is a horrifying prospect. So for Jane Steele, by making her “bad,” I simply stripped all that away. Her motives are nearly always self-defense or defense of someone weaker than she is, which is a hard position to argue with, but her techniques are rooted in the fact she really believes she’s irredeemable.
PATRICIA PARK: I’m fascinated by the construct of the Victorian orphan. Jane Eyre, like all those other eponymous Dickensian orphans, is called epithets like “wicked” and “mischievous”; her parentlessness makes her of questionable morality and background. I was 12 when I first read Jane Eyre, and it reminded me of when I used to misbehave as a child. My mother would scold me, in her limited English, “You act like orphan!” For her and her generation of Koreans, to be an orphan was to act shamefully, as though you had never received “a good family education.” My mind drew a link between the Korean and Victorian constructs of the orphan, and that’s how I came to Re Jane. (Read more)
For this new production, Cathy has brought onboard composer Philip Feeney to compile and arrange a score for Jane Eyre made up of original compositions and existing work. In addition, Patrick Kinmonth, who has worked closely with photographer Mario Testino and has designed over 20 theatrical productions, will design the sets and costumes. Completing the creative team, Alastair West, whose Northern Ballet credits include Giselle, I Got Rhythm, A Christmas Carol and The Architect, will design the lighting.New York to Paris has visited Haworth and Kate Walker remembers a former visit; Jorie Loves a Story reviews Rita Maria Martinez's The Jane and Bertha in Me; Books and Things is vlogging about the Brontë; videos about The Professor, Agnes Grey, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Shirley and Jane Eyre. FRMS reviews Wuthering Heights 2011.
Cathy Marston said: 'Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre was a novel far ahead of its time and when I think of Jane I feel inspired by images of her passionate but 'impossible' relationship with Mr Rochester, the fire and emotional destruction symbolised by Bertha Mason - the infamous 'woman in the attic', the contrasting icy moorland through which she seems to run from one chapter of her life to another, and of course her final reunion with Rochester. But these images only touch the surface of a character and a book that continue to provoke and move - generation after generation, re-read after re-read.'