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Introduction to Jane Eyre: Charlotte Bronte, Romanticism/Gothicism, Victorian England, etc.

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Laura Trieschmann

on 20 September 2017

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Transcript of Introduction to Jane Eyre: Charlotte Bronte, Romanticism/Gothicism, Victorian England, etc.

Jane Eyre and
Edward Rochester
Unit 3: Jane Eyre
Charlotte Brontë

born 1816

father: a reverend

attended Clergy Daughter's School at Cowan Bridge until two of her sisters died there

Periodically worked as a governess

1846: Charlotte discovered Emily's poetry and the three sisters published a collection of their poetry as Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell (male pseudonyms)

Jane Eyre (Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (Emily) and Agnes Grey (Ann) published (as the Bells)

1854: father marries her to a reverend she does not love

1855: Charlotte dies
Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre: plot overview
An orphan, Jane is raised by her maternal uncle's widow

Sent to Lowood, a school for orphaned and/or poor girls

After working at Lowood as a teacher, Jane places an ad seeking work as a governess, and is hired at Thornfield

Parallels to Charlotte Brontë's life
Jane: character details
1st person narration: reliable?
direct characterization
physically plain: indicates her strong morals
opinionated but humble
approaches life as a student, eager to learn
early critical response: negative
now: beloved
Social context
set in North England at beginning of 1800s
Industrial Revolution —> profound change
Brontë uses the novel to comment on three major issues of the time: education, women's employment opportunities, and marriage
Haworth Village, home of the Brontë family
Victorian Values
Romantic or Victorian?: A blend

View of Nature




Inward/Individual, common man, imagination, introspection



Outward/nation, middle class, reality, work

Anticipation Guide
1. Charity begins at home.

2. A woman’s place is at home.

3. People are often judged based on their
social class or level of wealth.

4. A loving family can be worth more than affluence.

5. Young women should not marry men who are much older than they are.

6. A person's past determines his/her future; we cannot escape our origins or our mistakes.
rejection of clarity, rationalism
joys of extreme emotion
thrills of fearlessness
awe of atmosphere
inevitable decay/collapse of human creation
terror, mystery, the supernatural, madness, death, superstition, secrets, and hereditary curses
stock characters: Byronic hero, tyrant, maniacs, femme fatale, persecuted maiden, fallen angels
Gothic: Horror with Romance
Notable Neo-Gothic edifices: top: Palace of Westminster, London; left: Cathedral of Learning, Pittsburgh; right: Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk, Ostend.
Queen Victoria (reigned 1837-1901)

slavery abolished 1833

sexual restraint, low tolerance for crime, strict social codes

homosexuality a capital offense until 1861; queer theory has its roots here (see: Foucault)

YET: increase in child labor and prostitution

"noblesse oblige" - belief that the wealthy have a duty to the poor

Marx's theories = reaction to Victorian Britain and its class divisions

other prominent writers: Charles Dickens, Jane Austen
Full transcript