Tuesday, August 30, 2016

We wonder why sometimes the most trivial piece of news becomes global. For instance, Claire Harman is not the first (Dolores Monet here or John J. Ross in Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough: The Medical Lives of Famous Writers (2012) ...) , and certainly will not be the last biographer or scholar, who has claimed that Emily Brontë was on the spectrum (ASD), Asperger's syndrome is one of the preferred claims but not the only one. But it seems that her recent talk at the Edinburgh Book Festival was on that subject. The Guardian (please, editors of The Guardian: stop using this unconfirmed and wrong portrait of Emily Brontë!) :
Claire Harman says several of the Wuthering Heights author’s character traits – including a dislike of leaving home and bursts of frustration – could indicate autism.
Emily Brontë may have had Asperger syndrome, according to the literary biographer Claire Harman.
At an event at the Edinburgh international book festival, Harman, author of the recent biography Charlotte Brontë: A Life, said several of Emily’s character traits, including her genius, her dislike of leaving home, her discomfort in social situations and her sudden bursts of anger and frustration could have been symptoms of Asperger’s. (...)
At the event, Harman also dismissed the theory that all the Brontë books were written by one sibling, and that Emily’s brother Branwell wrote part of Wuthering Heights – an idea Harman said only existed because the novel was “so peculiar”.(...)
The Wuthering Heights author shared many behavioural qualities with her father Patrick. “He gave them an immense latitude in terms of his interest in issues of the day that transferred very readily. The children liked nothing more than to read a parliamentary report around the fireside. They were a very unusual family in that respect, and he did not restrain them intellectually. But he was a very chilly man, very emotionally strange. He was clearly hugely egotistical and I think, also a bit Asperger’s-ey too.” (Sian Cain)
We are all for neurodiversity here, but these kinds of claims are quite difficult to substantiate. Part of Emily Brontë's 'peculiar' behaviour comes from the very few and sparse things we know directly about her life. It's easy to pick the elements you find more thrilling and build your own special Emily: the Asperger/Autistic/OCD Emily, the incestuous Emily, the asexual/lesbian/pansexual Emily, the anorexic Emily, you name it.

Kudos to the press department of the Edinburgh Book Festival because the news have been disseminated all over: International Business Times, Observador (Portugal), Actualitté (France), Dagens Nyheter (Sweden),Thể Thao & Văn Hóa (Vietnam), RTV Slovenija (Slovenia), Múlt-kor (Hungary), Nol (Hungary)  ...

Keighley News has an alert for next September 6 at the Brontë Parsonage Museum:
Charlotte And The ‘Woman Question’ is the title of a talk on Tuesday, September 6 at the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
The Haworth museum will host the lecture about what was a hot topic in the Brontë family’s day.
It will examine Charlotte’s response to the issue, and the fascinating way she explored this theme in her writing.
The talk is at 2pm and forms part of this year’s Brontë200 programme celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë. (David Knights)
The screenwriter Hossein Amini on adapting novels in The Guardian:
Similarly, every adaptation will be different depending on who’s writing it. An Aaron Sorkin adaptation of Wuthering Heights will bear no resemblance to the Quentin Tarantino version, even though they come from the same source.
And we would love to see both of them.

Diana Garrisi has a curious project. We read on The Big Issue:
What does a book say about the sentimental life of its reader? Objects inadvertently left in library books by customers when the books are returned might have the answer. In the past two months I have visited 20 public libraries in and taken pictures of more than 100 objects found inside books. (...)
Journeys are made not only across space but also across time. A London transport bus ticket issued in the 1970s was found inside The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë.
The Nevada Daily Mail presents the novel Murder Takes Central Stage by Tracy Comstock:
Comstock explained that much of her inspiration comes from Charlotte Brontë, William Faulkner, Carolyn Hart, and Jane Austen. She took creative writing courses while studying at PSU and has had her work published in the Cow Creek Review, a PSU publication featuring student's writing. (Gabe Franklin)
Le Monde (France) recommends Jane Eyre 2006 (September 6, 13 at 20.55h on Numéro 23):
Adaptation du grand roman de Charlotte Brontë par la BBC, cette mini-série est incarnée par une actrice qui y faisait ses premiers pas dans un rôle principal, à savoir Ruth Wilson… que l’on attend avec impatience de revoir dans la troisième saison de « The Affair » (cet automne, sur Canal+ Séries).
Que les plus jeunes qui ne connaissent pas ce classique de la littérature anglaise ne se méprennent pas à la lecture de son « résumé » : il y a plus que de la romance et des larmes dans ce chef-d’œuvre du XIXe siècle. Jane Eyre ne reste pas une petite Cosette toute sa vie, même si rien ne se présente vraiment bien pour elle au départ. (Martine Delahaye) (Translation)
And The Guardian remember what happened at Haddon Hall when Thornfield Hall's fire scene was shot in 2006:
In 2006 the local fire brigade was bombarded with calls from horrified neighbours who believed the mansion was engulfed in flames: in fact they were witnessing a sophisticated pyrotechnic display while the house was used as a substitute for Thornfield Hall in the BBC’s adaptation of Jane Eyre; Thornfield is eventually gutted in a blaze started by Mr Rochester’s crazed wife. (Maev Kennedy)
Il Foglio (Italy) mentions Jean Rhys's stay in Paris:
Ecco allora Jane Rhys, pseudonimo di Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams, nata in Dominica nel 1890 da padre gallese e madre creola, conosciuta come l’autrice del prequel di “Jane Eyre” – “Il grande mare dei sargassi” – che la rese celebre solo nel 1966, già vecchia. (Annamaria Guadagni) (Translation)
Charleston Currents reviews Lyndsay Faye's Jane SteeleMy Life in Words by Bina Awan and The Misfortune of Knowing post about Wuthering Heights.

Finally, The Mighty has a selection of several tattoos from people who have been affected by suicide. This one is heart-wrenching:
“This is a passage from the classic book, ‘Jane Eyre.’ It was my mom’s favorite story. She died by suicide in 2011. ‘May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonized as in that hour left my lips: for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love.’” — Lesley Haley Hudson (Article by Sarah Schuster)


  1. It seem whatever the hot new mental condition of the day is , it is applied to Emily. Wasn't she supposed to be bipolar a few years ago?

  2. Why not just talk about the GENIUS of Emily and the wonderful poet that she was!! that is what made Emily special and peculiar, and there is no one like her.
    An admirer of Emily