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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Another pleasant evening...

At last, I am free! I've been running student elections under quite trying circumstances. Today's events are Brontë related, and so, here we go! I had a 3 hour shift running a polling station, and what better way to pass away the tedium than to read some books about the Brontës? I had left my copy of Agnes Grey at home, but I've memorised where their section is in the library. I scooped up a few, and was checking them out when a classmate stopped me to ask about an upcoming paper. We sat down in the coffee house to talk it over. She saw the books and exclaimed: "Oh God, you're reading that?" Of course, I was. "The Brontës. I don't mind them," she continued. After a pensive moment: "I read that one... by that one... 'Withering Heights!' I read that. I didn't mind that one." I proceed to astound her by announcing my intention to study the Brontës and Victorian literature. "The Brontës are Victorian?!" ...I'm finding it difficult to conceptualise the Brontës NOT being Victorian.

A few weeks back I had a very different experience. That time I had the Helen Jerome play, an illustrated copy of Jane Eyre, Barker's 'The Brontes,' Agnes Grey, the poems of Branwell Bronte and... a few other things. ;) I staggered into class, and put the pile down on my desk. Someone next to me immediately cried out and snatched Jane Eyre from the top of the pile declaring it her absolute favourite. I was the astounded one this time- it has been my experience that people generally don't even know who the Brontës are- or if they do, they think of Emily and Wuthering Heights (or Withering... ;). I was even more shocked because after her cry someone nearby seconded this, and so we three rejoiced and lamented the general lack of Brontë-love. "How could you not love this book?" One of them demanded, reflecting on her experience in high school.

I've noticed one interesting thing... Whenever I'm caught reading the Brontës people tend to ask me if I'm reading for pleasure.


mysticgypsy said...

Yes!!! I can so relate to what you mentioned about reading Bronte.
In fact,my issue is family-related. See...I just declared my major as English (with hopes of doing Bronte studies in the future) only this past summer, and NO ONE in my ENTIRE family understands why I read Bronte (and scores of Victorian Literature..or books in general). They think I am reading for pleasure and "wasting" my time instead of doing something "worthwhile" like Medicine or science research (yeah..they want(ed) me to be a doctor). I know some friends who both envy and ridicule me for being obsessed with the Brontes ;-)
Its like WHY IN THE WORLD can't a lot of people see the value in English? And even more, why do people tend to associate Victorian Literature with reading for fun? Don't they realize that any field is as hard as one makes it out to be?

As for Jane Eyre, I've come across a lot more people haveing read that than those who've read Wuthering Heights...I think it has to do with JE being something of a "girl's growing up" kinda book compared to Wuthering Heights.

oh oh and another thing...some people JUST DON'T understand even a wee bit why Wuthering Heights is such a brialliant book. They just have complains about all the "evil", and sadness in it. And try as I might, I just can't seem to convince some people about the beauty of the moors and its importance as a setting, and the other merits of that book. Not to mention, whenever I talk about Heathcliff (and I love this character), people give me weird looks, roll their eyes, walk away or pretend they haven't heard me. sigh...I do wish the world was more Bronte-tolerant.

meh..its their loss anyway ;-D

Brontëana said...

I used to be an art major- you can imagine just how useless that was! Even I had to admit that there was little point to getting a degree in art (especially from this university!). My family aren't readers at all. My mom used to read a lot but she hasn't read for pleasure in decades. My father is a refugee. His education was cut short at... grade 5 or so, and he cannot read very well. My sisters have no excuse, being university educated ;)

Most people I run into think English is exceedingly difficult, actually. But they don't see any material benefits to studying English- that's the trouble. Classics is even worse- English majors tell me Classics is useless (PSHAW!!).

WH is the only Brontë novel to gain any currency here, for some reason. I think it may have something to do with there being more films readily available (and some of the JE ones are truly dreadful...).

To be honest, it has taken me a long time to warm to WH. When I first read it I disliked it and really didn't see its worth, but then I read it again last year and recognised its power but I still cannot reach it in that deeply meaningful way that many people do.

Heathcliff also reminds me of my dad, so maybe that's part of it too :D lol!