Understanding Jane Eyre: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Jane Eyre: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Jane Eyre: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Jane Eyre: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Synopsis

Immediately popular when published over a century and a half ago, Jane Eyre has continued to find appreciative audiences since. This student casebook offers a unique interdisciplinary approach to the study of Charlotte Bronte's landmark novel. While it gives insightful literary, it also contextualizes the novel in terms of the historical social issues it confronts. Expert commentary is supported with primary documents such as legal and medical treatises, magazine articles, letters, essays and first hand accounts. A personal biography written by Elizabeth Gaskell, an acquaintance of Bronte, offers a detailed account of the Cowan Bridge School which Charlotte attended and fictionalized in Jane Eyre.

Excerpt

Jane Eyre was published in 1847, in the early years of the Victorian period. The revolutionary fervor of the Romantic period was at bay. The American Revolution was almost three-quarters of a century in the past; the French Revolution had run its course; the Napoleonic Wars had ended before Charlotte Brontë was even born. Life in Brontë’s England was relatively stable, with everyone knowing his or her place in the social order and most people accepting that place without public complaint. The agitation for women’s rights that had resulted from the revolutionary ideas that all people were entitled to equal opportunities had gone underground. Late eighteenth-century proponents of rights for women, such as Mary Wollstonecraft, had been discredited because of lifestyles that were considered wholly inappropriate during Victorian times. Those who espoused similar ideas tended to be pilloried in the press, tarred, as it were, by the same brush as their predecessors merely for publicly supporting women’s rights.

Into this world came Charlotte Brontë, the writer. Brontë had been raised by a father who taught his children to think for themselves. She, together with her sisters and brother, had been given the freedom as children to allow their imaginations to soar, creating imaginary worlds in which difference of gender meant very little. They even wrote their imaginary stories of their imaginary

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