Thursday, July 19, 2007

Jane Eyre, Part III: For Teachers

Following is a sample of unit assignments designed to go along with classroom study of Jane Eyre. These assignments are specifically selected with the high school student in mind, but can easily be adapted to work with middle school and lower-level undergraduate courses as well. Although the assignments are designed as a cohesive unit plan of study, each will also work well on its own.

I. Reading Journal

1. Reading Journal. At the end of each reading session, jot down a few notes on the following questions in your journal*:

  • What did you notice?
  • What did you question?
  • What did you feel?
  • What do you relate to?
  • What do you predict?
  • What did you observe about the writing?
Your answers to these questions will serve as the backbone for class discussions.

*Questions taken from Rockford, 2002

2. Character study. Once you have read the novel, jot down a short response to each of the following questions in your reading journal*:

  • What character(s) do you particularly like? Why?
  • What character(s) do you particularly dislike? Why?
  • Do any of the characters remind you of someone you know?
  • Are you like any character in the novel?
  • What fears or concerns do you have for the characters?
Choose one of your answers and develop it into a well-written, three-page essay. This essay will undergo the writing process and you will read it aloud to the class once it is completed.

*Questions taken from Bushman and Haas, 2006

II. Exploration of the Novel

1. Found Poem. Choose one page from the novel that particularly appeals to you or that holds a deep significance to the story. Create a poem from the text on this page by eliminating words and phrases. Once you have completed your poem, create an image to go along with it and incorporate the poem within the image. Write a paragraph summary that explains what your poem is about, how it connects to the story, and what it means to you personally.

2. Discussion Circle. In your group, each student takes an assigned role: Discussion director, Passage master, Connector or Investigator. Complete a different role for each of the two(three) weeks we spend studying this book. Bring your completed role (2 pages maximum) to class for group discussion. (See below for further explanation of discussion circles, including grading rubric).

3. Web research project. Again working in your discussion group, complete the webquest for this novel(see webquest link below).
Web Quest

Using your webquest research as a starting point, write an 8-10 page research paper exploring some aspect of Victorian life as it relates to Jane Eyre. Be certain to follow MLA guidelines on this paper.


Discussion Circles

At the beginning of the unit, I will assign you to a discussion circle. Each week, you will choose and be responsible for a role in your group (role responsibilities are outlined below). On Mondays, you will meet in small group sessions to discuss the reading, using your role assignments as the basis for the discussion. At the end of the sessions, we will come together as a class to discuss your findings. This will enable you to see a variety of responses to the reading and to clarify your own thinking in preparation for journal and essay writings.

Group roles

Discussion Director: The discussion director is responsible for coming up with four questions based on the reading. One question must deal with a literal aspect of the work in question: character, symbolism, theme, setting, etc. The second question should deal with a more interpretive aspect: what does the author intend for us to see via his/her use of various literary techniques? The final two questions should be application-based: how does the author relate this work to real-world scenarios and events? How is this work still relevant for modern readers? Your questions should be carefully developed in terms of the work you are reading, should help your group members come up with a better understanding of the text, and should indicate your own reading. Write or type your questions and bring them to class on Monday.

Passage Master: The passage master is responsible for identifying four to six passages from the text that you feel are significant to the reading. These passages may reflect key events, provide insight into the characters or themes, or in some other way contribute to the overall importance of the work. Write or type out your passages and bring them to class on Monday.

Connector: The connector is responsible for writing a two-page, personal connection to the work being read. You should discuss a personal reaction to the reading. What personal memory/memories does it bring to mind? How does it relate to other literary works, films, television programs you have encountered? What important social, political or cultural events does it remind you of? Choose one subject for your response. Write or type out your response and bring it to class on Monday.

Investigator: The investigator is responsible for writing a brief report on some aspect of the reading. You can choose to write about the author’s life, a historical figure found in the text, or a topic or issue that is relevant to the work being read. You may gather your findings from books, articles, internet sources, or other sources of credible information. Your report should be no more than two pages long. Write or type out your report and bring it to class on Monday.

Discussion Circle Rubric

Discussion circles will center around the work you bring to class on Monday. Each group member is responsible both for presenting his/her own assignment and for responding to the work of other members of the group. The grading for discussion circles is broken down below:

Role Responsibilities /Scores

Scores : 5 / 4 / 3/2 / 1 / 0

1. Creates a quality role assignment.










2. Responds to each group member’s work.










3. Stays focused and on-task

All of the time

Most of the time

Some of the time

Does not stay on task

4. Contributes to overall understanding of the work

Contributes a great deal

Contributes a lot

Contributes somewhat

Does not contribute

5. Completes assignment on time

Assignment is on time

Does not complete assignment

Total: possible 5 pts. per category:

TOTAL: ______________

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jane Eyre, part II: The Dame Darcy Connection

Okay, so I admit it, when I first heard that a graphic novel (in layperson's terminology, read: comic book) illustrator/writer had illustrated Jane Eyre, I was somewhat taken aback. I mean - "comic books" and "Jane Eyre" don't exactly roll off the tongue together! But, ever the optimist, I bought and opened the illustrated version. And, frankly, had to put it down to go get a very large piece of humble pie. Not only did the illustrations look fine, they worked. Essentially, what Dame Darcy has done is to usher Jane Eyre into the modern world through her graphic, yet Gothic, artwork. Brilliant! It's akin to the discovery the Reese's company made when they put chocolate and peanut butter together. Of course, not everyone thinks so...naturally, when you take an established classic and do anything to it that reeks of modernity, someone is going to raise a stink. Read on to find out more about the book, Dame Darcy, and the controversy...

by Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer
Posted: August 15, 2006 — More From This Author

The novel "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë remains one of the most famous and influential novels of all time, continuously adapted over the years to a variety of mediums whether it be the 1996 film starring Anna Paquin or the upcoming BBC mini-series. It's the story of one woman and the adventure life takes her on from her youth as a poor orphan haunted by visions, to the woman she grows into and the challenges she faces during that journey. It's a story filled with tragedy, love and strength that has inspired artists and writers for over a century and a half.

Dame Darcy is just one of many who've been influenced by "Jane Eyre." Her gothic/neo-Victorian artistic style has been hailed by many, including the New York Times who said, "Darcy's comics are aesthetic manifestos… Darcy is a star." The creator of Fantagraphics' "Meat Cake" as well as a member of the band Death By Doll will shortly bring her unique artistic style to the pages of "The Illustrated Jane Erye," an illustrated novel from Viking Studio, an imprint of Penguin Books. The book is the perfect pairing of words and art as it reprints Brontë's original story accompanied by hundreds of Darcy's illustrations. The book sees publication September 21st. CBR News spoke with Darcy by phone last week about the book and why she was attracted to this project.

Darcy discovered she had fans at Penguin through her work on "Meat Cake." In 2003, Darcy completed her graphic novel "Gasoline" and asked her literary agents to shop it around. As they pitched it around town, they discovered that Penguin was doing a classics series and were interested in having Darcy illustrate "Jane Eyre." "I was so elated by that news - it's one of the best things that's ever happened to me in my life," Darcy told CBR News. "I really love 'Jane Eyre' as a classic feminist novel, but also I'd like to do other ones in the future, like 'Wuthering Heights.' I hope this one goes well so that I can do that one.

"It's weird because Jane's psychology is really interesting," continued Darcy. "She approaches feminism in a really different way than I do, but I'm really glad that someone in the 1840s was feminist and was writing stuff like this and that it's lived on to today. It can still apply to today's world. It's a classic for a reason."

Illustrating "Jane Eyre" took Darcy almost two years, beginning work on it in 2004 and finishing in 2005. She explained she was left to choose which elements of the story she felt were worth bringing to life with her illustrations. "When I was reading the book I'd choose those scenes that felt the most visual to me," said Darcy. "That's usually how it works with all my freelance work. Someone will hire me to illustrate a book or an article for a magazine or paper, I'll read it and then whatever scene comes to my mind is what I'll sketch out and send to the client. Once they approve it, I'll finish it up. People usually don't ask me to change that much or have a problem with what I pick. I'd say 90% of the time people are pretty chill with my choices."

Darcy was first exposed to "Jane Eyre" while in art school where it had an immediate impact on her. "It's just so gothic and awesome. I really like how all this surreal weird stuff goes down, while the rest of the time is spent drinking tea and staring out the window - which I think is actually kind of cool. I enjoy doing that, too! [laughs]"

Penguin gave Darcy a lot of room to play with in working on "The Illustrated Jane Eyre" and every illustration she created for the book will see print. "What's really great is they asked me to do the cover and it could have been any image from the entire book, but I thought the way to make it really kind of punk rock for the new generation of goth girls that it'll appeal to was to take the scene where Jane Eyre is freaking out while the giant mansion is burning behind and Jane Eyre is written in bloody red letters. That's how hard core Jane Eyre gets! People think it's this classic about a governess, but it's not necessarily about that - I mean, she gets called a witch about 7000 times and everything demented and tragic goes down during the book. I thought that should be portrayed. Plus, she's seriously Catholic-damaged, which is probably true for most of my fan base. [laughs]"

Darcy described the process she went through to illustrate the novel. "I draw everything in pencil and once I get the pencils approved I'll go and ink them," said Darcy. "After that I'll paint over top. Lately I've been doing this thing where I paint with acrylics, but I water them down to use them as water colors because I want them opaque or translucent depending on the need. When they dry, I put this kind of sepia tone wash over the top to make them look a little older. Now, you can't do that and still have a water color effect with water colors, but you can with the acrylics."

While hundreds of illustrations accompany the book, there is one scene in particular that Darcy enjoyed illustrating the most. "There's one piece where Jane has had a dream, and in the dream she saw the burnt down mansion and the full moon rising over the top and bats were living in the burnt down mansion and she's holding a crying baby and is just staring at it. That's my favorite one, I think. I think it captured what dreams are like."

Article available on-line:


book blitz: All about fiction.

Governess Gone Goth: A new edition of Jane Eyre reveals its truly subversive message.

Click image to expand.Judged by its cover, the Viking Studio/Penguin Group's new The Illustrated Jane Eyre might well make a grown-up reader bridle: What is this, a great book decked out for the Goth-teen crowd? A hefty paperback with flaps, its demure spine is done up to look just like a scuffed leather-bound first edition, while the campy cover was drawn by underground comic-book artist Dame Darcy, whose neo-Victorian, funky, Addams-family-style creations have won her a cult following. Aiming to make the novel look "really kind of punk rock for the new generation of goth girls," she picked "the scene where Jane Eyre is freaking out while the giant mansion is burning behind," Darcy explained to an interviewer. In a black cape and hood, her huge eyes heavy with kohl, a pale-faced Jane weeps while orange flames jag upward and blood-red letters spell out the title in the black sky. The back cover, where you might expect some reminder of Brontë, features a sepia photograph of Dame Darcy instead. She poses in the decadently frilly fashions she has made her signature garb.

But since when should a book—especially a book by Charlotte Brontë—be judged by its cover? Brontë's guiding insight into life and literature, to simplify only somewhat, is that surfaces are suspect: Beware of assuming they are a reliable sign of the real passions within. Her own title page in 1847 (a facsimile of which appears in the Viking edition) was purposely misleading: Brontë adopted the male-sounding pseudonym of an editor named "Currer Bell" and presented the novel as an "autobiography." This immediately sparked debate about the real identity of the author. Subsequent biographical treatments of Brontë only added to the gallery of mythic personas. And of course, Brontë's most famous character, the "Quakerish governess" Jane, is a prime case of deceptive packaging herself. Out of a "poor, obscure, plain, and little" victim emerges a commanding—and demanding—narrative voice, proclaiming a right to bold self-creation almost as jarring today as it was a century and a half ago. A mistreated orphan at the start, Jane goes on to script her own dramatic fate—and to alter the destiny of her "master," Mr. Rochester, who falls under her spell. In a story tricked out as a melodramatic romance, Jane embodies a force that still deeply discomfits us: a female refusal to be valued as less than an equal, which blossoms into a fierce ambition to make her mark on the world.

Click image to expand.For alienated Goth girls drawn to the macabre whimsy of the Dame Darcy edition (which contains 40 illustrations), a surprise therefore awaits. What is spookiest about Jane Eyre is not that it taps into fantasies of craggy-featured lovers and ghoulish horrors, but that it endorses desires for creative dominance, as Jane lights her own way from dependency to heretical authority. By now, the bats-and-bloodstained-petticoats stuff, a staple of dark comics, has minimal power to shock. Even in the staid days when Jane Eyre first caused a sensation, parents who hid the book were worried about more than the racy luridness—disturbing though that was. ("The love-scenes," one stunned reviewer wrote, "glow with a fire as fierce as that of Sappho, and somewhat more fuliginous.") It was the bold "I" expressing herself on every page, and the outsized imagination behind it, that had Jane Eyre's original audience truly alarmed, as the fevered speculation about the reality behind Currer Bell reveals: Who, reviewers wondered, would dare conjure up a female capable of speaking with such "a clear, distinct, decisive style," such "hardness, coarseness, and freedom of expression," such "power, breadth, and shrewdness"?

You might think that by now such a declaration of feminine independence would have lost its subversive force. Yet it's precisely that uninhibited voice that still gives Jane Eyre its power. I'm not sure the outspoken "I" looms quite so large for adults as for children; on revisiting Jane Eyre, an older reader may be distracted by assorted kinky undercurrents his or her 13-year-old self missed completely. But for adolescents approaching the novel as a classic (its days as illicit fare are long since over), the immediacy of address is startling. Within the first few pages, Jane the marginalized victim has already begun taking revenge, pinning her brutal aunt and cousins to the page with a merciless ear and eye—"I mused on the disgusting and ugly appearance of him who would presently deal [the blow]." She is the deeply intimidating child on whom nothing is lost.

In an era when everybody—from the Girl Scouts to guidance counselors to the Gossip Girl series—peddles the "you-go-girl" message, Jane Eyre is a book that evokes the struggle for self-definition as a truly harrowing one. This isn't a coming-of-age story about absorbing the counsel of wise mentors, overcoming temptation, and thus learning to "be yourself." As Edward Mendelson astutely observes of the novel in The Things That Matter, Jane sets about doing something much lonelier and harder. She insists on finding "her beliefs by herself," in her own way, as she weathers exile after exile, first from her past (a hellish home and school) and then from a future that seems, fleetingly, to await her with Rochester. She doesn't come to accept others' values as her own, as the protagonist of the traditional novel of education does. Instead, "[w]hat Jane learns," Mendelson writes, "is not how to act, but how to believe."

Such a quest is a creative ordeal that demands self-reliance and an inner core of confidence to embark on in the first place. I know I'm not alone in having subliminally assumed that Jane Eyre was a portrait of the artist as a young woman when I first read it (which I would swear I did huddled, Jane-style, on a window seat behind a curtain—except that my parents' house had no such perch). And when you think about it, I was right. Jane isn't just a frail governess who ends up a wife and mother, happily ever after; she is also a published author, both within the "fiction" of the novel (narrated to us) and as a reflection of its real author, Charlotte. Brontë, remember, called the book an "autobiography" as a ploy to push readers closer to her lowly narrator—but also as a gesture toward the truth. Brontë, who at 20 sent poems to the poet laureate and told him she yearned "to be for ever known," channeled her own unbounded literary ambition into Jane, who refuses to be treated as a marginal figure. In turn, the indomitable Jane has a way of enlisting her readers, especially the adolescents among them, in the dream of being recognized as an assertive original.

"Reader, I married him"—the often cited opening sentence of the novel's conclusion—is a line that has yet to lose its galvanic power. There is, of course, that decisive "I," where you would expect a demurer and more domestic "we." But it is Jane's confident invocation of "Reader" there that is truly thrilling. She is claiming the status of a writer—and, more, the authority of someone able to command an attentive audience, not just of intimates. In closing, the former outcast asserts that hers is a voice worthy of being listened to beyond the hearth, a voice that might spur others on to a triumphant path.

Dame Darcy is not the first, nor the last, to heed that voice and fall under the heady spell of Brontë's ambition. Just look at her assuming center stage in that photo on the back cover, and listen to her on her MySpace page, where she rallies her Goth-girl fan base to her latest production: "Calling all Bats! (and fairies, we mustnt forget the light) The Halloween season is drawing nigh and with it comes the Dame Darcy's Bi-Costal tour! Yes! BOTH COASTS of the good Ol' USA. I will be signing my latest graphic novel The Illustrated Jane Eyre, Published by Putnam Penguin." In her own mind, the cult queen of the alt-comics/zine universe has evidently usurped the author's place. It's an act of creative presumption that Brontë—who fought her way up from the fringe herself—would probably forgive, especially if it helps get the book on the bats' radar.

Review available on-line:

Review: Michelle Boule, MLS

The Illustrated Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Illustrations by Dame Darcy

This book has been sitting on my desk for about two and a half weeks waiting to be reviewed, so Slate beat me to the punch. Their review is quite nice, so feel free to go read it as well.

This volume belongs in the library of any Bronte aficionado. There are many things which will endear this book to its readers. After the title page of this volume, a replica of the title page from the original first edition appears with the author appearing as Currer Bell, the name under which Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre. The original foreword by the author to the second edition is also included and was a joy to read. The pages are rough cut, like folio pages. All of this would have been enough to make this bibliophile swoon, but then there are also illustrations.

The illustrations, of course, are what make this a truly lovely volume. Dame Darcy, of whom I had not previously heard, has created drawings that are gothic, dark, and playful. They reminded me a bit of Edward Gorey, though Dame Darcy has a style all her own. Most of the illustrations are in black and white, but there are some very wonderful ones in color. Some of the drawings are full page depictions of the novel’s events and others grace the margins. Dame Darcy is able to show both the bleakness of the human condition always present in Bronte’s work while also including the notion of hope that the characters hold for the future.

It has been a few years since I delved into Jane Eyre and this beautiful rendition of a much loved book, makes me want to romp on the hills of the Rochester Estate once more.

Highly Recommended – Great for Charlotte Bronte newbies and essential for lovers of the original

This entry was posted on Saturday, October 14th, 2006 at 4:24 pm and is filed under book reviews.

Available on-line:


The Little Professor: Things Victorian and Academic
October 15, 2006

Jane Eyre, Goth-style

In yet another attempt to sex up Jane Eyre, Penguin has released the Illustrated Jane Eyre; the illustrations in question come courtesy of Dame Darcy. While I've not yet seen this new edition, there's some moderately irate discussion on the VICTORIA list about Ann Hulbert's article at Slate. Presumably, Hulbert cannot be blamed for the article's subtitle--"A new edition of Jane Eyre reveals its truly subversive message"--which, in the space of a short sentence, manages to claim that a) readers were unable to pick up the "message" on their own before this new marketing coup, b) the message thus kindly "revealed" to us is the true one, and c) the true message in question is somehow "subversive." (Of what? Has anything been subverted? If so, shouldn't we have noticed by now?) As one VICTORIAnist points out, however, It's a little harder to forgive either Hulbert or, indeed, Viking/Penguin for failing to notice that Dame Darcy misremembered the novel: "Aiming to make the novel look 'really kind of punk rock for the new generation of goth girls,' she picked 'the scene where Jane Eyre is freaking out while the giant mansion is burning behind,' Darcy explained to an interviewer." And what scene would that be? Perhaps this is what some critics call a "symptomatic" mistake--rather like confusing Frankenstein and his creature. In any event, the Jane on the front cover looks like a Goth Little Red Ridinghood (black hood, of course, not red); one wonders just how big Rochester's teeth are.

Hulbert rightly observes that "Brontë's guiding insight into life and literature, to simplify only somewhat, is that surfaces are suspect: Beware of assuming they are a reliable sign of the real passions within." And she is also right to observe the strength and verve of Jane's speaking voice. But her excited rush to claim the novel as a "declaration of feminine independence" leads her to trample that voice's complexity, as well as its moments of self-critique. In a sense, and probably inadvertently, Hulbert writes in post-Gilbert & Gubar mode, with Jane as the very model of a major proto-feminist speaker. Perhaps that explains Hulbert's ringing account of the novel's conclusion: "In closing, the former outcast asserts that hers is a voice worthy of being listened to beyond the hearth, a voice that might spur others on to a triumphant path." Yet the novel quite famously does not conclude with Jane at all, but with St. John Rivers, on his way to an apparently glorious death in the course of his missionary work. (Another symptomatic mistake?) Jane, meanwhile, happily settles down in ultra-remote Ferndean. The voice may travel, but down what sort of path?

More problematically, Hulbert gives in to the siren song of biographical interpretation:

Jane isn't just a frail governess who ends up a wife and mother, happily ever after; she is also a published author, both within the "fiction" of the novel (narrated to us) and as a reflection of its real author, Charlotte. Brontë, remember, called the book an "autobiography" as a ploy to push readers closer to her lowly narrator—but also as a gesture toward the truth. Brontë, who at 20 sent poems to the poet laureate and told him she yearned "to be for ever known," channeled her own unbounded literary ambition into Jane, who refuses to be treated as a marginal figure. In turn, the indomitable Jane has a way of enlisting her readers, especially the adolescents among them, in the dream of being recognized as an assertive original.

Now, I don't mean to trample on Dan Green's territory here, but as critical responses to Jane Eyre and Jane Eyre go, this one is reductive--and traditionally so, as Lucasta Miller has shown. It's fair enough to say that Jane yearns to be "recognized as an assertive original," but problematic to argue that she is a "reflection" of Brontë, let alone of Brontë's "unbounded literary ambition." (Again, that Brontë had "unbounded literary imagination" is also fair enough--and I suspect that, contra Hulbert, she would be unamused at finding herself displaced by her illustrator.) And while Jane does indeed need "self-reliance and an inner core of confidence," as Hulbert says elsewhere, there's no mention in the essay of whence it derives: a slightly idiosyncratic and universalist Protestant faith. Like Gilbert & Gubar, and unlike more recent critics like Maria LaMonaca, Kathryn Sutherland, and Marianne Thormahlen, Hulbert skates over the novel's Christianity--even though Jane's faith is an integral part of her passion. Whatever else Jane Eyre is, it isn't a secular self-help book for teenagers, Goths or otherwise. Whether or not it can be read--or illustrated--as one is, of course, a different matter entirely.

Available on-line:


Dame Darcy's webpage:

Showcase Gothic: Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte's classic Victorian Gothic masterpiece, Jane Eyre, which was published in 1847, continues to enchant and delight modern readers. One aspect in particular which makes this novel relatable is its heroine, the original "plain Jane". Not particularly beautiful, particularly, clever, or particularly good, Jane is a normal if highly intelligent and fanciful woman dealing with extraordinary events, and readers respond to her because of her very normalcy. In this blog posting, I intend to shine the spotlight on this novel, offering a wide array of information, resources, and activities for teachers, students and laypersons.

Image credit: Double-click on the image and it will open up the website from which the picture was taken.

Summary of the Novel

In addition to being a Gothic romance, Jane Eyre is also something of a Bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story. The novel begins with Jane, an orphan, living with her uncle's wife and children and trying her best to avoid being tortured by these relations more than is absolutely necessary. Following a particularly harrowing encounter with her aunt, Jane is sent away to boarding school, where she is educated and eventually becomes a teacher. Wanting more, she posts an advertisement for a private teaching position and finds herself employed at Thornfield, a gothic manor, where she is in charge of the education of a young girl named Adele Varens. Life at Thornfield quickly becomes routine and, although pleasant, fairly dull, until Jane encounters a stranger one day who turns out to be Edward Rochester - Adele's guardian and Jane's employer. Rochester (No spring chicken or Adonis himself) becomes smitten with Jane despite her physical plainness as a result of her mind, and more so when one night she rescues him from a mysterious fire set to his bed while he is in it. Strangely, despite evidence of his feelings for Jane, Rochester chooses to leave Thornfield and when he returns, it is with a party of house guests, a young woman among them with whom he seems to be carrying on a flirtation. One of these guests is inexplicably stabbed in the arm in the middle of the night, yet another mysterious occurrence at Thornfield...

But, life goes on. Rochester tells Jane he is going to marry the young woman, and against his objections Jane returns to her childhood "home" briefly when her aunt has a stroke, and learns that she is to inherit her uncle's fortune. Upon her aunt's death she returns to Thornfield, where Rochester reveals that he was only trying to incite jealousy within her and thereby secure her affections for him; he then proposes marriage. A third strange incident - a mysterious woman who comes into Jane's room at night and rips her wedding veil in two - causes Jane to question the marriage idea (who can blame her?) At the wedding ceremony, Rochester is called out as an unavailably married man - and he admits this is true! His wife is mentally insane and he keeps her locked away in the attic of Thornfield (the "madwoman in the attic"). It is she who has been perpetrating the fires and personal attacks in the manor. Desperate to keep her, Rochester proposes that he and Jane run off to the South of France and live together anyway. Jane leaves Thornfield rather than give in to his indecent proposal.

In fairly short order, Jane's money runs out and she finds herself starving and homeless. She is taken in by a clergyman and his sisters and given another position teaching at a charity school. Through a strange reversal of fortune, Jane's uncle Eyre, whom she has never met, dies and leaves her a fortune; stranger still, it turns out the clergyman and his sisters who so kindly took her in are her cousins; she has family! He is planning a missionary trip to India and asks Jane to marry him and come along, but she refuses to marry him because he doesn't love her and she still loves Rochester. She has a premonition that something is amiss with Rochester, and returns to Thornfield only to find that the manor has burned to the ground (Rochester's pyromanic wife has finally managed to accomplish her mad goal, and threw herself from the roof of the house as it burned, thus committing suicide.) Which, of course, leaves Rochester free to marry...but he has lost a hand and his eyesight in the fire and doesn't think Jane is up for it anymore. Jane rallies and marries him anyway, completing her path to fully-realized womanhood and self-realization by giving birth to their son - whom as it happens Rochester is able to see, miraculously regaining vision in one of his eyes in time for the occasion.

Summary credit: summary is my own.

Gothic Elements in the Novel

The most prevalent Gothic elements in this novel are:

  • a setting in a castle, ancestral family home, vault or crypt.
  • a damsel (or 2, or 3!) in distress.
  • unexplainable events.
  • an unrequited love, or illicit love affair or romance.
  • an atmosphere of suspense and/or terror
However, Bronte is not one to mindlessly follow the crowd! She also turns some of the traditional elements of Gothic literature on their head:

  • The "supernatural being" turns out to be a very human, albeit insane, woman.
  • There is no ancient prophecy foretelling doom. Instead, there is a secret letter from Jane's uncle foretelling wealth and prosperity. Also, Rochester, disguised as a fortune teller, tells Jane's "fortune", again neglecting the gloom and doom part.
  • The book takes place in England and there's nothing particularly exotic about the setting.
  • Most interestingly of all, although Rochester rather lords it over Jane, at least in the beginning of their acquaintance, it is women, and not men, who tyrannize Jane throughout the novel, in particular her aunt and Bertha, Rochester's mad wife.
Gothic elements adapted from:

A Brief Biography of Charlotte Bronte
(Abridged from the Victorian Web)
Available on-line:

Charlotte Brontë was born in 1816, the third daughter of the Rev. Patrick Brontë and his wife Maria. Her sisters Emily and Anne were born in 1818 and 1820.

In 1824 the four eldest Brontë daughters were enrolled as pupils at the Clergy Daughter's School at Cowan Bridge. The following year Maria and Elizabeth, the two eldest daughters, became ill, left school and died. Charlotte and Emily were brought home.

In 1831 Charlotte became a pupil at the school at Roe Head, but she left school the following year to teach her sisters at home. She returned to Roe Head School in 1835 as a governess: for a time her sister Emily attended the same school as a pupil, but became homesick and returned home. Ann took her place from 1836 to 1837.

In 1838, Charlotte left Roe Head School. In 1839 she accepted a position as governess in the Sidgewick family, but left after three months and returned to Haworth. In 1841 she became governess in the White family, but left, once again, after nine months.

Upon her return to Haworth the three sisters, led by Charlotte, decided to open their own school. In 1842 Charlotte and Emily went to Brussels to complete their studies. After a trip home to Haworth, Charlotte returned alone to Brussels, where she remained until 1844.

Upon her return home the sisters embarked upon their project for founding a school, which proved to be an abject failure: their advertisements did not elicit a single response from the public. The following year Charlotte discovered Emily's poems, and decided to publish a selection of the poems of all three sisters: 1846 brought the publication of their Poems, written under the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Charlotte also completed The Professor, which was rejected for publication. The following year, however, Charlotte's Jane Eyre, Emily's WutheringHeights, and Ann's Agnes Grey were all published, still under the Bell pseudonyms.

In 1848 Charlotte and Ann revealed the true identities of the "Bells." In the same year their brother Branwell Brontë, an alcoholic and a drug addict, died, and Emily died shortly thereafter. Ann died the following year.

The Rev. A. B. Nicholls, curate of Haworth since 1845, proposed marriage to Charlotte in 1852. The Rev. Mr. Brontë objected violently, and Charlotte, who, though she may have pitied him, was in any case not in love with him, refused him. Nicholls left Haworth in the following year, the same in which Charlotte's Villette was published. By 1854, however, Mr. Brontë's opposition to the proposed marriage had weakened, and Charlotte and Nicholls became engaged. Nicholls returned as curate at Haworth, and they were married, though it seems clear that Charlotte, though she admired him, still did not love him.

In 1854 Charlotte, expecting a child, caught pneumonia. It was an illness which could have been cured, but she seems to have seized upon it (consciously or unconsciously) as an opportunity of ending her life, and after a lengthy and painful illness, she died, probably of dehydration.

Similarities Between Charlotte Bronte and Her Heroine, Jane Eyre:

(autobiographical elements in Jane Eyre)

1. Both lose loved ones to tuberculosis/consumption in school

  • Charlotte loses her older sisters
  • Jane loses her friend, Helen
2. Both become teachers at the school where they were formerly pupils:

  • Charlotte returns as teacher at Roe Head School
  • Jane stays on as teacher at Lowood school
3. Both seek and obtain new positions as private teachers:

  • Charlotte goes to the Sidgewick (and White) families
  • Jane goes to Rochester's ward, Adele Varens, at Thornfield
4. Both are proposed to by clergymen whom they respect but do not love:

  • Charlotte is proposed to by the Rev. A.B. Nicholls
  • Jane is proposed to by St. John Rivers
(Credit: this compilation of similarities is my own)

Major Themes in Jane Eyre
(The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but should provide a starting point for discussing or thinking about the novel's major themes and motifs)

  • Confinement versus freedom
  • Insanity
  • Illicit/forbidden love
  • Education as equalizer
  • Fantasy vs. reality
  • Religion/charity
  • Class consciousness
  • Wealth/portable property
  • Morality vs. desire
  • Supernatural elements
(Credit: This list is my own)

Jane Eyre on the Web:

A list of internet sources for further information

Victorian Web:

A comprehensive website devoted to all aspects of Victorian life and culture.

The Bronte sisters web:

A comprehensive search engine site from Japan with a number of links to biographical and critical sources for all three of the literary Bronte sisters.

A searchable online text of the novel.

A list of study questions arranged by chapter.

Jane Eyre: An Introduction:

Joyce Carol Oates' preface to the 1988 Bantam edition of the novel, also published as "Romance and Anti-Romance: From Bronte's Jane Eyre to Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea." Virginia Quarterly Review (Winter, 1985)

Jane Eyre Adaptations

(list from Wikipedia; I have no reason to believe it is erroneous, but take all wikipedia entries with a grain of salt, remembering it is an open-edited forum and not a scholarly one)

Jane Eyre has engendered numerous adaptations and related works inspired by the novel:

Silent film versions

  • Three adaptations entitled Jane Eyre were released; one in 1910, two in 1914.
  • 1915: Jane Eyre starring Louise Vale
  • 1915: A version was released called The Castle of Thornfield.
  • 1918: A version was released called Woman and Wife.
  • 1921: Jane Eyre starring Mabel Ballin
  • 1926: A version was made in Germany called Orphan of Lowood.

Sound film versions

Musical versions

  • A musical version with a book by John Caird and music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, with Marla Schaffel as Jane and James Stacy Barbour as Rochester, opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on December 10, 2000. It closed on June 10, 2001.
  • An opera version was written in 2000 by English composer Michael Berkeley, with a libretto by David Malouf. It was given its premiere by Music Theater Wales at the Cheltenham Festival.
  • Jane Eyre was played for the first time in Europe in Beveren, Belgium. It was given its premiere at the cultural centre "Ter Vesten".
  • The ballet "Jane," based on the book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, was created in 2007, a Bullard/Tye production with music by Max Reger. Its world premiere was scheduled at the Civic Auditorium, Kalamazoo, Michigan, June 29 and 30, performed by the Kalamazoo Ballet Company, Therese Bullard, Director.

Television versions

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Timeline of Gothic Literature published in England during the "Long 19th Century"...

1764… Horace Walpole publishes The Castle of Otranto, which is widely acknowledged to be the first Gothic novel. He labels it a “gothic story” and includes in the preface of the first edition the disclaimer: “The following work was found in the library of an ancient catholic family in the north of England. It was printed at Naples, in the black letter, in the year 1529….If the story was written near the time when it is supposed to have happened, it must have been between 1095, the era of the first crusade, and 1243, the date of the last, or not long afterward.” In the preface to the second edition, Walpole abandons the pretense, stating that “The favorable manner in which this little piece has been received by the public, calls upon the author to explain the grounds on which he composed it.” The tale is that of the doomed Manfred, prince of Otranto, seeking by any means moral or immoral to shelter himself and his family from the prophecy that will bring about their ruin and end.

1778...Clara Reeve publishes The Old English Baron, and states in the preface to this work that it is "the literary offspring of The Castle of Otranto, written upon the same plan, with a design to unite the most attractive and interesting circumstances of the ancient Romance and modern Novel, at the same time it assumes a character and manner of its own, that differs from both."

1791...Ann Radcliffe publishes the first of her Gothic n
ovels, Romance of the Forest. In Ann Radcliffe: The Great Enchantress (1995) Robert Miles writes that Radcliffe's work is "a consolidation of the plot of the female Gothic" (101).

1794... Ann Radcliffe publishes The Mysteries of Udolpho. In Gothic and Gender, Donna Heiland writes that "Radcliffe's interest all along seems to be less in dismantling patriarchy than exposing its workings and exploring the roles open to women within it" (69). In this novel, E mily St. Aubert, orphaned and penniless, is imprisoned by her evil guardian Count Montoni within the walls of his gloomy, medieval fortress and must find a way to escape his schemes for her future if she is to find and marry the man she loves, M. Valancourt. Radcliffe herself is careful to point out that hers is a work of terror and not horror, and she relies heavily on a reworking of the Burkean philosop hy of the sublime within her novel. In the same year, William Godwin publishes Caleb Williams, in which the main character discovers that his employer, Ferdinando Falkland, has committed a murder and allowed two other men to be sentences and executed for his crime. Horrified by this knowledge, Williams calls his employer out publicly and Falkland is tried and confesses. When Falkland dies shortly thereafter, Williams becomes cons umed with guilt over his deed.

1796...Matthew Lewis publishes The Monk. Labeled as a work of "horror gothic," the graphic violence of this novel shocked readers.

1797... Radcliffe publishes a third Gothic novel, The Italian. Of this novel, Heiland writes that it "explores the placement of women in patriarchy...again scrutinizing the social structures that conspire to render women invisible, and again recognizing the Burkean su blime as the aesthetic that serves to mask these structures" (63-64).

1798...Samuel Taylor Coleridge publishes "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." The story of a man doomed to walk the earth relating the tale of his dealings with the supernatural following his slaying of an albatross at sea has become a time-honored favorite poem. One of the greatest instances of foreshadowing in narrative poetry occurs near the beginning of the second part, as the Mariner says:

"And I had done an hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe :

For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch ! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow !

Famously, Gustave Dore the French engraver created a series of special illustrations for the poem (1877)

1816...Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes (but does not complete) the poem "Christabel." The story deals with Christabel and her encounter with a stranger called Geraldine, who claims to have been abducted from her home and ravished by a band of errant knights. Christabel takes Geraldine home with her and appears to fall in love with her. Disgusted by his daughter's evident sexual attraction to Geraldine, her father, Sir Leoline, turns his affections from Christabel to Geraldine, ordering a g rand procession to announce her rescue and appearing to want to marry her. Geraldine is one of the most vague and controversial female characters in literary history, being called by various critics a vampire, a demon, a ghost, and a lesbian. The poem serves as an influence for the character of Christabel Lamotte in A.S. Byatt's novel, Possession.

1818...Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey is published posthumously. Written in 1798, the novel famously pokes fun at the Gothic style and the typical heroines of eighteenth-century novels. The heroine, Catherine Morland, leaves her parents and many siblings to spend some time with the Tilney family at their home, Northanger Abbey, where she has trouble distinguishing between reality and the fantasy she concocts in her head surrounding the Tilney family and the secrets of their home. In one memorable passage, Austen has Henry Tilney deliberately work Catherine into a frenzy with his satirical rendition of the Gothic; this passage can be found online at:

Of course, this good-humored satire pales in the Gothic tradition alongside another novel published in the same year - Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Among the most beloved horror novels of all time, this story of the young scientist Frankens tein and his attempts to create life from death has spawned numerous copycat tales, satires, parodies, sequels, an entire genre of horror films, and even a Broadway play (Young Frankenstein). Dealing with themes of physical and emotional transgressions, religion, racism, prejudice, science versus nature, good versus evil, morality, beauty, and creation versus destruction, the novel was an incredibly ambitious undertaking and assures Mary Shelley of a place among the literary immortals.

1819... John Polidori publishes The Vampyre. The first book-length tale dealing with these legends from the eastern European region, Polidori took the lower class creature and polished it up a bit, bringing the vampire story to the middle classes. It is widely believed that he stole the idea, if not a good bit of the wording itself, from a piece abandoned by Byron, to whom Polidori was personal physician.

1820...John Keats publishes "La Belle Dame Sans Merci." In this poem, the poet comes across a knight who lies wasting away in a field. The knight tells the poet his story - he met a wild woman here who did not speak his language but made him love her, to whom he gave his horse to ride and upon whose hair he pla ced flowers. She lulled him to sleep with a song and in a terrible dream he learned from the spirits of her other victims that he has become enslaved to her. Now he lies in the field, enchanted and waiting to die for love. According to Ed Friedlander, "Keats had a voluminous correspondence, and we can reconstruct the events surrounding the writing of "La Belle Dame Sans Merci". He wrote the poem on April 21, 1819. It appears in the course of a letter to his brother George, usually numbered 123. You may enjoy looking this up to see how he changed the poem even while he was writing it. At the time, Keats was very upset over a hoax that had been played on his brother Tom, who was deceived in a romantic liaison. He was also undecided about whether to enter into a relationship with Fanny Brawne, who he loved but whose friends disapproved of the possible match with Keats. Shortly before the poem was written, Keats recorded a dream in which he met a beautiful woman in a magic place which turned out to be filled with pallid, enslaved lovers. Just before the poem was written, Keats had read Spenser's account of the false Florimel, in which an enchantress impersonates a heroine to her boyfriend, and then vanishes. All these experiences probably went into the making of this powerful lyric" ( Alternately, critics have determined the poem to be an allegory about addiction and have cast the lady of the poem as a banshee. The poem famously inspired some of the foremost artists of the nineteenth century Pre-Raphaelite movement, including Sir Frank Dicksee (below), John William Waterhouse, and Frank Cadogan Cowper.
1847....Charlotte Bronte publishes Jane Eyre, one of the great masterpieces of Victorian Gothic literature. Emily Bronte publishes Wuthering Heights, her only novel. The impassioned and tormented love affair between Catherine and Heathcliff met with mixed reviews from critics, but posterity has awarded it a place as on of England's great literary classics.

1860...Wilkie Collins publishes The Woman in White. In the Penguin Classics edition, the book is hailed as "the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism."

1886...Robert Louis Stevenson publishes the short story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Another instance in which a scientist attempts to improve upon mankind through the use of science, in this case Jekyll experiments upon himself, unleashing by means of an elixir the monster Hyde. A longtime cult favorite, this tale of split personalities and science versus nature has been adapted numerous times to theatre and film, most recently on broadway with Frank Wildhorn's "Jekyll & Hyde: The Gothic Thriller."

... Oscar Wilde publishes The Picture of Dorian Gray. His only novel, the book deals with the decandence and homoeroticism commonly found in Wilde's works, and has strong Faustian undertones, as Dorian grapples with his mortality. Although it was
controversial in its time and poorly received by critics, the book is now considered one of the last great masterpieces of 19th century gothic fiction.

AND, last but not least, in 1897 Bram Stoker rounds out the long 19th century with his masterpiece, Dracula. This novel takes the vampire tale to a new level of sophistication and style. It is still one of the most popular classic stories of all time, and has spawned numerous copycat tales, satires, theatrical pieces and films. Anne Rice's vampire series owes much in terms of influence to this novel, and Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation of the novel in 1992 won three academy awards. A musical version of Dracula by Frank Wildhorn and a musical version of Anne Rice's Lestat by Elton John each had a short-lived run on Broadway in the past decade.

For image credits, double - click on the images. This will take you to the website from which the image was taken.