Jane Eyre AO5 (English Literature AS) Flashcard Example #5218

Reception and early critical reviews
Novel was immediately popular, praised for its vigour and boldness, its freshness and originality, its powers of thought and expression
Conservatives regarded it as politically subversive- believed that God had made Jane a penniless orphan and she ought to be grateful for the charity offered by her benefactors instead of expecting equality
Bronte’s friend Mary Taylor complained that she was soft on the ‘rights of woman’ issue- for Charlotte, sentiment was more important than rights
Charlotte’s response to an article on the emancipation of women by John Stuart Mill- “leave all careers open; let (women) try” + “I think the writer forgets there is such a thing as self-sacrificing love and disinherited devotion”
Letter to Mrs Gaskell- “there are other evils- deep-rooted in the foundation of the social system- which no efforts of ours can touch; of which we cannot complain; of which it is advisable not too often to think”
Marxist Criticism
Charlotte Bronte advocating the rights of the individual and universal education
In ‘Myths of Power,’ Terry Eagleton (1975) reads Charlotte Bronte’s novels as “myths which work towards a balance or fusion of blunt bourgeois rationality and flamboyant Romanticism, brash initiative and genteel cultivation, passionate rebellion and cautious conformity”
Feminist Criticism
Elaine Showalter defines the period in which the Brontes were writing as the ‘Feminine phase’ when women first imitated a masculine tradition
Feminist critics interpret Jane Eyre less for what Bronte advocates and more for her struggle against the cultural inhibitions by which she was conditioned
Bronte’s battling against the contemporary social mores and resorting to Gothic characters, events and imagery in order to suggest what she cannot express in words
Gilbert + Gubar- ‘The Madwoman in the Attic’ (1979)
Psychoanalytical Readings
Psychoanalytic critics see literature as they do dreams- much of what lies in the unconscious mind has been repressed or censored by consciousness and emerges only in disguised forms
Gilbert and Gubar suggest that Bertha is Jane’s night-time double- “Bertha is Jane’s truest and darkest double; she is the angry aspect of the orphan child; the ferocious secret self Jane has been trying to repress ever since her days at Gateshead”
Jane’s subconscious wish to be on an equal footing with Rochester maims him to make him dependent on her, removes the impediment to their marriage, and destroys Thornfield where she had been his social inferior
Postcolonial Criticism
Focus on culture in relation to ideologies, which are different ways of viewing the world held by classes or individuals who have power in a given social group
Bertha might have evoked British anxieties about having to deal with the other cultures under British dominion- Bertha’s imprisonment might signify Britain’s attempts to control and contain the influences of these subject cultures
Mr. Rochester’s marriage to Bertha represents the British Empire’s cultural and economic exploitation of its colonial subjects
To deconstruct a text is to show that it can have interpretations that are opposite and yet intertwined
Bronte gives us the perspective of the child as well as the interpretation of the adult
Mr. Rochester thinks his marriage to Bertha has destroyed him, but the reader can see it gave him financial independence and social position
Jane is a modern woman, ambitious, independent, passionate, but at the same time she is trapped in 19th century thinking, and to us she appears intellectually as well as socially snobbish
Disability Criticism
David Bolt, Julia Miele Rodas and Elizabeth J. Donaldson’s ‘The Madwoman and the Blindman: Jane Eyre, Discourse and Disability’ (2012)
Not possible to read the novel “without a serious consideration of disability”
Rochester regains his sight to some degree, but Jane marries him before this happens + he remains an amputee after the fire- novel doesn’t conform to the Victorian model of the “school of pain” in which a character suffers a temporary disability or infirmity but eventually recovers once they have changed their erring ways
Martha Stoddard Holmes- whereas Victorian novelists usually brush over physical conditions, “Bronte’s description of Rochester after the fire…is frank and direct”

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