Friday, January 01, 2021

Friday, January 01, 2021 12:30 am by M. in    No comments

So, 2020 is over now. It's history. History, for real. We thought that 9/11 was the beginning of the 21st century, the year that redefined our world and brought a slow transition to a new era. But we were wrong. The real disruption came in 2020. It had to be a virus, the humblest things that God has put upon this earth, quoting H.G. Wells, which demoted the human race (for once, a planetary species) of their self-attributed power over the planet. We know, of course, that it is naive to think that this lesson in humility will last. When the pandemic is over (and eventually it will be, like the ones that preceded it) humankind will return to its old ways. But in a different world... Lampedusa style. You know: "everything must change so that everything can stay the same".

But, we don't want to be in a dark mood entering this new year. We want to believe that 2021 will be better and we have some objective facts to help convince ourselves: a change of administration in the US, the depressing (but the alternative was even worst) Brexit deal and above all, the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines... Yes, 2020 has been an awful year but in its last weeks it seems to have been trying to redeem itself.

The 2021 Brontë year will not be very different from the non-Brontë one. Uncertainty is the new currency. Mostly we don't know but these are the few things that we do know:

We know that the Brontë Parsonage Museum, when it opens again, will continue for the whole year with its Anne Brontë exhibition Amid the Brave and Strong abruptly interrupted in March. Hopefully, the No Soft Nonsense mini-exhibition at the Morgan Library in New York will stay open until February, as originally planned. The Brontë Society bicentenary conference, 'I wished to tell the truth': Anne Brontë at 200 has been rescheduled for September. Same place, Scarborough, just one year later. On the other hand, in Thornton, we expect some news for the Brontë Birthplace this January: "a recognisable change at The Bronte Birthplace working with Bradford Civic Society, author Dr Michael Stewart and photographer Craig Sugden".

The performing arts scene is, of course, the one that has suffered most deeply the effects of the pandemic. Virtually shut down since March, it's still unclear when or how it will return to normal, or new normal or post-normal. Anyway, there are some projects around that might see the light at some point of 2021: the National Theatre and Wise Children Wuthering Heights new production, directed by Emma Rice, was going to be one of the highlights of the 2020 Fall season. In the new year, it is scheduled to be performed in Edinburgh (March), but time will tell.

Another exciting project is a new adaptation (by Sara Gmitter) of Villette to be performed by the Chicago based Lookingglass Company. Originally intended to be premiered in February, it is unknown when it will finally go on stage, but the good news is that it is still listed among the company's upcoming season shows.

We wonder when or if these other projects which are uncertain right now will finally be staged: the 25th-anniversary production of Wuthering Heights (adapted by Jo Clifford) by The Norwich Players (February), The Tynemouth Priory Theatre production of Jane Eyre (April), a West Wickham Theatre62 Jane Eyre production (June)...

Some of these projects may finally go online. But we know for sure one that will be premiered virtually. The rock band musical Glass Town by Miriam Pultro will premiere online at the Adelaide Fringe Festival (March).

The literary world will, once again, be very present in Brontë News. We have retellings: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins reimagines Jane Eyre in Alabama 'pairing Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense' (January); another Jane Eyre retelling as a thriller where our heroine 'must question everything she thinks she knows about love, loyalty, and murder' in Rochester's Ghost by Lindsay Marcott (July). It's also possible that Luccia Gray will publish her prequel of her Eyre Hall Trilogy, Harvest Moon in Eyre Hall. And, in the retelling-wtf twilight zone, you might enjoy Rose Lerner's The Wife in the Attic where 'the governess falls in love with the wife in the attic, and together they wreak fiery vengeance on the tyrannical master of the house (audiobook, February).

We have fiction around the Brontës themselves: Bella Ellis's third Brontë Mysteries novels, The Rise of the Red Monarch where all of the Brontë siblings 'take a secret trip to London, after being called upon to help by Anne’s former charge and Branwell’s mistress’s daughter Lydia who recently eloped with a young actor. Her new husband has been kidnapped' (November).

Scholar books will be represented by The Sexual Politics of Jane Eyre. Representations of Fear and the Construction of Text in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre by Ann Erskine which 'offers a radical rethinking that differs from previous explorations of Jane Eyre from both feminist and post-colonial positions' (February).

A couple of books will explore Jane Eyre as a religious book. Vanessa Zoltan's Praying with Jane Eyre. Reflections on Reading as a Sacred Text by is 'brimming with a lifelong love of classic literature and the tenderness of self-reflection, the book also reveals simple techniques for reading any work as a sacred text' (July). Rooted much more in Christian orthodoxy, Jane Eyre. A Guide to Reading and Reflecting by Karen Swallow Prior 'will show you how to read it in light of the gospel, and to the glory of God' (March). 

This very Brontë-ish kind of genre bordering biography, popular history and tiptoeing into literary criticism has also some representatives in 2021: Juliet Gardiner's The World Within will be republished in a revised edition under the new name, The Illustrated Letters of the Brontës, 'a unique and privileged view of the real lives of three women, writers and sisters' (April). In Charlotte and Ellen: The Brontës' Best Friend, Nick Holland  'tells the full story of Ellen Nussey and Charlotte's close sisterhood for the first time and adding to the rich Brontë legacy' (April). Michael Stewart will publish his collection of essays Walking the Invisible which is a literary study of both the social and natural history that has inspired writers and walkers and the writings of a family that have touched readers for generations' (June).

And we will have some new editions of the novels, like this Jane Eyre illustrated by Marjolein Bastin (February). And the second and revised edition of The Poems of Anne Brontë (February), "the definitive edition of the poems by the leading modern editor" Edward Chitham.

We are cautiously excited by the latest Brontë film project presented in the Cannes Market Festival last year. Emily is written and directed by Frances O'Connor with a cast featuring Emma Mackey (Emily), Joe Alwyn (William Weightman), Emily Beecham (Charlotte) and Fionn Whitehead (Branwell). It was scheduled to be shot in Yorkshire in early 2021, but it's not very likely that, even if the project goes on, it will be premiered in 2021.

But we can hope. As we can hope that, little by little, 2021 will be leaving behind the thick 2020 fog and, step by step, lets us glimpse those beautiful blue skies and golden sunshine (a nod to David Lynch) that will mean that 2021 has been a very Brontë year at last.

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