Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday, June 10, 2016 11:51 am by Cristina in , , , , , , ,    No comments
Mercatornet interviews Brontë scholar Christine Alexander.
The Brontë family looms large in English literature, although, thanks to their short lives, their collective output seems small. What things have gone into the making of the Brontë myth? The Brontë story of three sisters—Charlotte, Emily and Anne—and their wayward brother Branwell, living in a remote village on the English Yorkshire Moors and producing from their wild imaginations works of great literature has always appealed to readers. Early audiences were shocked by their radical views and the uncouth, unorthodox subject matter of their novels, but also recognized the genius of their writing. And despite their tragic lives, they achieved lasting fame. This has all helped to fuel the “myth” of the Brontë sisters that has been passed down through the years.
To those of us who cut our literary teeth on Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights at school, these novels were great romantic tales. As such, they have made great movies. But what makes Jane Eyre, for instance, great literature? Jane Eyre has always been something of a literary phenomenon. It’s revolutionary in both subject and style. It’s the tale of an unusual heroine—a little governess, ‘disconnected, poor, and plain’—whose huge strength of spirit and intellect enables her pilgrimage towards self-respect and true love. The novel is revolutionary on the need for women to have meaningful work and on equality in marriage. And in terms of style, Charlotte Brontë combines gothic romance and realism in Jane Eyre, and uses an ‘autobiographical’ technique of narration that allows us to understand the psychological state of her heroine. [...]
You are an expert on the juvenilia – the childhood writings of Charlotte and her siblings, much of which was written in very tiny script in miniature books. Do we know why they did that? What is the significance of this early writing for the later works? The Brontë juvenilia allow us to understand the creative development of these writers, their remarkable imaginations, the books they read, and their amazing eclectic knowledge at an early age. Their earliest productions were tiny handmade magazines in miniscule script, written for their toy soldiers and intended to imitate newspaper print. Their size also meant they could keep their risqué stories secret, since adults found them difficult to read. As they grew older, the size of their manuscripts got larger but the script remained miniscule. They wrote hundreds of poems, tales, magazines, newspapers, fictitious histories, dramas, and novelettes—all based on their imaginary worlds of Glass Town, Angria and Gondal. Charlotte’s early writing alone is larger in volume than her four novels together!
Most of Charlotte’s stories are written in the voice of a cynical male narrator who undercuts the Byronic romances of her heroes and heroines. She is constantly experimenting and playing with different styles and voices. They are great fun to read and give you an insight into the Brontës’ unconventional but relatively happy childhood. Charlotte’s later writings reveal her conflicted adolescence and sexual awakening, and a governess Elizabeth Hastings who is a prototype for Jane Eyre. [...]
Was Charlotte a feminist before feminism?  Yes, I think so. She believed strongly in the right of women to have meaningful work rather than conventional serving positions, such as teaching and dressmaking. Her novels advocate marriage founded on love (a revolutionary idea at the time) and equality in marriage, ideals taken up twenty years later by John Stuart Mill in his essay “The Subjection of Women” (1869). (Carolyn Moynihan)
The Irish Times features a student who doesn't seem to have 'cut his literary teeth' on Wuthering Heights.
The question on my single text,Wuthering Heights, was a dream: anything with Heathcliff as the subject was what I’d hoped for. I’ve read the book so many times now that it flowed very easily.
It’s funny: if you asked me two years ago would I enjoy reading and rereading books and poetry over and over again, I’d have laughed.
But after two years, I really appreciate what goes into good writing and all the columns that prop up a good story. (Seán Flanagan)
We wonder whether this student was given a 'trigger warning' by his teacher when reading Wuthering Heights. Hopefully not, as this professor argues in Hartford Courant.
Trigger warnings are the intellectual equivalent of refusing vaccinations: They are misguidedly seen as a way of protecting the young. As my colleague Kristina Dolce argues, the anti-vaccine crowd and the trigger-warning crowd both employ "fear of exposure" rhetoric, believing that exposure leads to contamination. But as Kristina argues, "Vaccines, like great works of art, make one more resilient, not less."
Here's a personal example: My mother died of a miserable illness when I was a kid. Had I spent my life avoiding dying female protagonists, I'd have stayed away from the Bible, Bambi and all the Brontës.
In trying to protect myself, I would have missed out on what I would now call "my life." (Gina Barreca)
Jane Eyre is one of '13 Beautiful Books Every Introvert Will Love Getting Lost In' according to Bustle.
Jane Eyre has a fiery spirit, but tends to recharge during her alone time — a true sign of an introvert. Jane's courage inspired me as a young introvert; I understood after reading that there's nothing wrong with being a bit overwhelmed by large social gatherings. (Alex Weiss)
A member of the staff of A.V. Club makes a similar point when discussing the adaptation of pop culture into a different medium.
A favorite book of mine, Jane Eyre, has never become a favorite movie, despite its many adaptations. That’s because the appeal of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece is in the internal, not the external; the plot is less important than how Jane’s inner voice carries her through it, her relationships status an accessory of her fierce intelligence and resolution. Instead of trying to convey that inner voice in a 90-minute romance, Jane Eyre might be better served with a Boyhood treatment, following a plain English girl through her youth spent at wicked Aunt Sarah Reed’s Gateshead Hall in the first installment; checking in with her less miserable but still not exactly happy years as a student and then teacher at Lowood Institution for girls; and allotting ample time for her adulthood both single and in the company of two men, the brooding Mr. Rochester and cold St. John Rivers. Too much of the film adaptation is placed on Jane’s relationship with Rochester, but that’s really not the main story of the novel. That story is Jane’s and Jane’s alone. A quietly thoughtful movie from Richard Linklater would far better serve Brontë’s quietly thoughtful book than any swoon-heavy adaptation has so far. (Caitlin PenzeyMoog)
Fjord Review enjoyed Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre:
Northern Ballet’s brilliance at narrative dance is proven once again in their new adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. The company’s clear and expressive style, in which classical steps merge with the fluidity of contemporary dance, quickly draws you in to the story, each step they perform filled with meaning and emotion. In narrative ballets there are so often moments where movement is indulged at the expense of the story, but in choreographer Cathy Marston’s hands, this short, two-act ballet keeps its focus. [...]
The characters throughout this production have been carefully created and are brilliantly cast, the company’s ability as actors equal to their skill as dancers. At Thornfield we encounter Rochester’s charming, excitable ward (Rachael Gillespie) and Mrs Fairfax, the chatty housekeeper, performed superbly by Pippa Moore. A character that is never still, her quick, juddering movements hint at her talkative and nervously energetic nature.
Northern Ballet’s adaptation flits through Brontë’s story but nonetheless it is condensed well. It sticks close to the novel, the only ‘gimmick’ an ensemble of ‘D-men,’ a group of imaginative figures whose presence appears to symbolise a character’s emotional distress. Yet with choreography that focuses on the emotions of its story, especially the uncertainty of the blossoming relationship between Jane and Rochester, this ensemble resist cliché and instead become a dark, menacing presence; a succinct form in which to embody the complex emotions of the story’s characters.
The duets between Jane and Rochester beautifully capture the conflict between their internal longings and the disparity of their social status. An initial sense of hesitation and propriety, their passing bodies reluctant to make any significant contact, slowly gives way to leans and lifts as they are drawn to one other, their bodies connecting in a tender mix of support and desire.
The story ends in a glowing orange blaze of light and smoke, Rochester battling with Victoria Sibson’s fabulously mad, lustful Bertha in a frantic sequence of swirling lifts. The rapid pace of the scenes in act two lead the story quickly to this point, from Jane and Rochester’s disastrous wedding, to her ensuing time spent with the Reverend St. John Rivers and his sisters, to her final return to Thornfield in the aftermath of Bertha’s destruction. At this point it is beneficial to know the story, but even without any detailed knowledge of the original novel the characters feelings are so clearly conveyed that, once you’ve established who’s who, the unfolding story is easily understood.
Northern Ballet’s “Jane Eyre” is perfectly placed; short, clear and never overdone. They are a company that can act as brilliantly as they can dance and this allows for a performance of masterful storytelling, in which dance and emotion are elegantly expressed. In the year that marks the 200th anniversary of Brontë’s birth this production by the Leeds-based company is a fitting celebration of the Yorkshire author’s most famous work. (Rachel Elderkin)
Boston Globe likens some aspects of the book The Girls by Emma Cline to Wide Sargasso Sea.
Cline’s prose captures how the Manson family straddled the line between playful and terrifying. A scene finds Evie and the girls engaged in what the Family called creepy crawling — breaking into someone’s house to disrupt their possessions, unsettle their comfortable existence. They eat watermelon, smell tubes of lipstick, rifle through closets. Harmless — if exceedingly strange — fun, at least until the owner comes home and Evie tastes her “own stale mouth, the rancid announcement of fear.”
Scenes like these help explain how freaking out the squares might evolve into stabbing them to death. But this is a psychological novel about why the Manson girls murdered Sharon Tate et al. in the same way Jean Rhys’s “Wide Sargasso Sea” is a psychological novel about Rochester’s wife’s motivations for being mean to Jane Eyre, which is to say, it isn’t just that.
Instead, like Rhys, Cline makes a literature that embodies oppression — and all the madness, fear, and sorrow that come with it. In the end, Evie is drawn to the girls because of their rejection of the scrutiny of the world around her. “I could pretend I didn’t care,’’ she notes. “I actually started not to care.” (Eugenia Williamson)
The Age (Australia) comments on a recent statement by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Judging by online comments, and a snarky Twitter hashtag mocking Turnbull's definition of struggle, nothing short of Dickensian squalor can move us. Were you put to work selling matchsticks as an infant? Ever watch a parent die of consumption? Eat sawdust for play lunch? No? Come back to us when you've got a real yarn to spin, Jane Eyre. (Jacqueline Maley)
Mother Nature Network recalls that,
For thousands of years, paper has been a precious commodity, so it has often been reused. Even when the Brontë sisters were writing, paper was so expensive that siblings Anne, Charlotte, Emily and Branwell would routinely cut up magazines and sew up bindings by hand to create small books (which they filled with miniature print). As author Deborah Lutz details in her book "The Brontë Cabinet," unused blank paper was an extravagance, even for middle-class children. (Starre Vartan)
Keighley News reports that three organisations will be donating money towards the Haworth Parish Church refurbishment scheme.
A major project to repair and refurbish Haworth's Victorian-era parish church has received an £11,500 funding boost.
This cash comprises three grants from a trio of organisations which have agreed to help fund the much-needed improvements to the historic building in Main Street.
The Garfield Weston Foundation has made a grant of £7,500, the All Churches Trust £1,500 and the Beatrice Laing Trust has contributed £2,500.
Haworth Parish Church has recently undertaken the repair and restoration of its north-facing roofs and those works are expected to be completed by the middle of July.
In addition to the roof repairs that have been grant-aided by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust, the church has been planning to make changes to its interior at the west end of the building, and these works will be completed before the church is re-opened for services.
The works will include the provision of a toilet and fully-equipped catering area. These will enable the church to provide better facilities for its congregation, as well as the many visitors to the church which contains the tomb of the Brontë family.
The north door entrance is being replaced by a specially-designed reinforced glass door which will allow easier access.
Reverend Peter Mayo-Smith, the rector of Haworth Church, said: “We want our church to be as welcoming as possible.
"The new facilities will enable us to offer better hospitality at our religious services, as well as to our visitors and to people who attend the frequent events that are staged within the building.
“The design of the new facilities is intended to blend in with the existing surroundings of the church as we are conscious that not only is it a religious building but one that has important historical connections.
“Importantly, the new toilets have been designed to be accessible to both able bodied and disabled people, which is a significant improvement on what we are currently able to offer.
"And we’re also hoping that once these improvements are complete and fully operational the church will be able to stage more concerts and community events.”
Repairs to the church's south-facing roofs and tower were finished in July 2012.
The property dates from 1879 and was built to replace an earlier church on the same site which had become unsafe.
The foundation stone of the present church was laid on Christmas day in 1879 by Michael Merrall, a local mill owner, who contributed £5,000 of the £7,000 needed to complete the new building. (Miran Rahman)
Still in Haworth, the village's Facebook page shares some more pictures from the filming of To Walk Invisible these last few days. A Reader's Inklings didn't like Wuthering Heights.

Japan--It's a Wonderful Rife discusses Japan and the Brontës, particularly Wuthering Heights. I Was Angelized First posts about Jane Eyre.


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