In Search of Anne Brontë...
The saga continues. A Brontë scholarling, in a moderate sized Canadian city... trying to find a copy of Agnes Grey. I had to acknowledge that the chain stores will never stock the book, that the same goes for the university store- unless it is ordered for a class. Yes, the easy thing would be to order a copy myself but there's a point to be made here... Why is this so difficult? Today I went to B_______, the most respected rare and used bookstore in town. It is almost an institution among readers. It is located in the old city, and so I had to wind my way there on foot, through a small lane. I stepped into the lovely little shop absolutely stuffed with old books- antique books too. This is what is called book-lust, by the way. But I was on a mission. I had heard the owner speak to us about his passion for books, and heard his complaints of people stopping in only for some book Oprah had recomended- and then leaving. I had to smile to myself, and couldn't help but wonder exactly what he would make of me, then.
"I'm looking for a book by Anne Brontë."
"Which one?" (a good sign!)
"Agnes Grey." He got up and disappeared behind a bookcase.
"We have Tenant of Wildfell Hall..."
"Yes, everyone does..." I smiled to a gentleman there who nodded politely but probably didn't really care that everyone has copies of Tenant of Wildfell Hall- or he didn't believe me.
"We don't have that one."
And so, I bid him good day and left him to shake his head and probably wonder what that was all about and why I didn't want to buy a copy of Dr.Aitkin's newest book or something. And my poor mom, who picked me up, had to hear my ranting all the way home. Looks like I must admit defeat and order one online. I can't feel bad for the bookseller. How often will he have someone run in from the cold demanding a copy of Agnes Grey?
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
In Search of Anne Brontë...
Jane Eyre 1952 Images continued...
One more post after this ought to do it. Once more, these are the only screencaps of Westinghouse One's summer theater production of Jane Eyre from 1952 starring Katherine Bard as Jane Eyre and Kevin McCarthy as Mr Rochester.
Firstly, long-time readers will notice a slight change to the Brontëana layout. I have been trying to find an efficient way to organise the archives for some time and have finally met with some limited success. This is only a start, but now for the first time you can search the archives from the bottom of the sidebar under 'Brontëana Index'. So far I have only indexed the primary works of the Brontës and the immediate family members themselves- although the archives contain information about the extended family as well. All of that and more will be more readily available in time. But it is a step in the right direction! Check back soon, I intend to keep working on it over the week.
Secondly, I have been following the progression of a musical 'Emma' by Paul Gordon, the composer of the Broadway musical Jane Eyre, for Austenblog. I am not entirely sure what to make of this comment, however:
How plays are born: Central Works' collaborative method is only one of many script development models in use in the Bay Area. TheatreWorks has been attracting increasing national attention in the new musicals field following a more traditional scheme. Its Spring Festival of New Works, expanded to two weeks (April 25 to May 7), features first-time staged readings of four new musicals: "Emma," adapted from Jane Austen by Paul Gordon (moving up the literary ladder from "Jane Eyre")...
Humph! Not that I mean to demean Miss Austen and her works... But humph! all the same!
And thirdly, I don't know what to make of the Mystery of Irma Vep either!
The Mystery of Irma Vep finds two actors performing eight sizable roles in a tale that's a wildly improbable mix of melodramatic literature and film, from Wuthering Heights to The Wolf Man, The Mummy and vampire legends.
The Literary Misfits on BBC Radio 4
From BBC Northern Ireland, a week long radio program called The Literary Misfits will be airing in April. If you like Jasper Fforde, I think you'll like this.
A week of literary chaos as some of our favourite fictional charactersstumble into the pages of the wrong book!Our favourite books are like old friends: comforting, reassuring, and familiar. We reread them time and time again safe in the knowledge that Elizabeth Bennett will end up with her Mr Darcy and that Sherlock Holmes will, after a pipe or two, solve the baffling mystery and unmask the villain.
But what if there was some huge literary mix up? What if, in a bizarre game of literary musical chairs, some of our favourite characters crept out of the pages of their own book and stumbled into the foreign and anachronistic world of a different book? Would Lizzy still marry Darcy? Would Holmes retain his powers of deduction?
Will a title be enough to impress Oscar Wilde’s most famous matriarch, Lady Bracknell, when she comes face to face with a certain Count Dracula? When the great Victorian detective and Dr. Watson meet the unassuming Jane Eyre will they be able to solve a most puzzling literary mystery? If Gulliver made one final journey, where would his travels take him? What would Middlemarch’s earnest Dorothea make of the life of the irreverent drunkard Riley? And, when the notorious ‘Butcher Boy’ Francie Brady leaves behind the pigs of Cavan to tend those of a certain Bennett family in Longbourn, will Lizzy and Darcy live happily ever after?
Monday 17- 21 April 2006 at 3.30pm on Radio 4 (10 episode Book at Bedtime)
Writers : Elizabeth Kostova, Barry Devlin, Anne Haverty, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne and John Morrison Producers:Heather Brennon, Heather Larmour, Oonagh McMullan
A Vampire Vaudeville by Kerry Lee CrabbeProduced by Oonagh McMullan
Pride and Homicide by Barry DevlinProduced by Heather Larmour
Title tbc by Anne HavertyProduced by Heather Larmour
The Case of the Scream in the Night by Eilis Ni DhuibhneProduced by Heather Brennon
The Last Voyage of Gulliver by John Morrison Produced by Heather Brennon
Thanks to Mr Croquet and Thisbeciel for the news.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Jane Eyre: The Musical Downloads and Mr Christi
Now that we've all recovered from the news about the casting for JE 2006, we can move on. Several readers notified me today that the links posted last week or so, of video clips from Jane Eyre The Musical, had expired. Lady Branwen has been kind enough to upload them all yet again! She has also thrown in the entire Original demo CD (cast list to be provided once I dig it out of my personal archives).
As always these links will be active for one week or 30 downloads, whichever comes first.
An Icy Lane:http://s58.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=32BCBNVQNWPKL2WNTS53U1TGKI
You Examine Me, Miss Eyre:http://s58.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=1KKL0GM3GV0O720C2ULN2LAOVG
Saying Goodnight:http://s64.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=0MRQUREBQD63S2YT304D8755RRI Know Who Heals My Lifet:http://s64.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=0KF9PI05C6BNG0P0R2BK12DWZ4
Wild Boy/Sirens (reprise)/Farewell, Good Angel:http://s64.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=20QVCZ1LW197J3SDEBJ971087K
Secret Soul, in the studio:http://s64.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=3T6YLXIOV7NIH21I81JRMWYMPJ
Broadway on Broadway - Secret Soul clips:http://s64.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=2K8AZME5NPDK62PZM3JBTTDNQM
Jane Eyre Promo Clips:http://s64.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=30KXEGL0DB05F0NIPAMDTI9O9L
Jane Eyre Original Demo CD:http://s62.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=0NCK8Y0XY59UA0PGGBXQK244BX
Also, a little bit of Canadiana to go with this post... I am currently editing and annotating an unpublished novel by a Canadian author from the early 20th century. I have only read a few chapters so far, but I am exceedingly diverted as they say! It is called There Was a Mr Christi. Mrs. Christi runs a boarding house in Toronto. One day a small sort of young lady comes to look at a room. She has just taken a post as governess at a place called Rosedale across a ravine from the house. She is shown a large room which is too expensive so she is led up to the third floor. There's a nice, small room there but the governess thinks she should take one last look at the larger one.
They entered the hall and began to descend the stairs, and the hush which had embraced the house was suddenly rent by a howl from the room next to the one they had been examining. Though it seemed an involuntary half-laughing screech, the girl looked around nervously. Mrs. Christi chattered gaily and jolted briskly down the stairs.
I wonder where Mr Christi is...!
Cast for BBC Jane Eyre 2006
Hot off of the wire, we have our cast!
EXCLUSIVE: BIG ROLE IN EYRE FOR FRAN
By Nicola Methven
FRANCESCA Annis is getting over her split from partner Ralph Fiennes with a major new TV role.
The 62-year-old has landed a starring part in the BBC's production of Jane Eyre.
She will play Lady Ingram in the £4million adaptation of the classic Charlotte Bronte novel.
Other stars include Toby Stephens, who plays Mr Rochester, Tara Fitzgerald as Mrs Reed and Pam Ferris playing Grace Poole.
A BBC insider said: "We hope to bring the novel alive for a whole new generation."
Francesca and Fiennes, 43, split this month over his two-year affair with 31-year-old Romanian Cornelia Crisan.
My goodness! Helen Graham is Mrs. Reed and Gilbert Markham is Mr Rochester?!! (Both starred in the BBC's 1996 production of Tenant of Wildfell Hall, set for DVD release this April).
ETA: Image above is Toby Stephens and Tara Fitzgerald as Gilbert Markham and Helen Graham. The article shockingly neglects Ruth Wilson, who will be playing Jane Eyre (remember her?). Luckily she has her own Brontëana post here.
ETA: Speaking of Brontëana posts, here is the original post about the DVD release. There's good news. I forgot the date (have I mentioned that I'm terrible with numbers?). The release is not in April... it's in March! In fact, it's March 13th!
Jane Eyre 1952 Images Continued...
This is the third post in a series of 4 or 5 which contain the only screencaps available of this production from Westinghouse Studio One's Summer Theater production of Jane Eyre with Katherine Bard as Jane Eyre and Kevin McCarthy as Mr Rochester.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
The Brontës and Language- a brief rant.
I don't usually bother with Brontë references such as this, but I felt comment was necessary in this case, if only to relieve a little frustration. The Editrix at AustenBlog- a lovelyblog for all things Jane Austen- knows my pain well only, unlike herself I do not have anything equivalent to her 'Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness.' Here lies the ever torturing pain: that the Brontës are criticised for writing in 'old English' or at least a more difficult kind of archaic English.
From what appears to be either a tongue in cheek list of satistical favourites or a account executive's list of favourites:
What book should everyone read? "Wuthering Heights" -- just so they understand that the English language is much easier today.
I am very confused by this one. Has she actually read Wuthering Heights? At least with Jane Eyre I might point to words such as 'anathematized' and acknowledge that some readers of today not inclined to get a dictionary might find the book 'difficult' (not that you have to know what 'anathematized' means to get through or enjoy it...), I cannot find an equivalent in Wuthering Heights.
This is by no means the first time I've heard the sentiment expressed but it is usually referring to Jane Eyre. In fact, I came across a certain review on amazon.com for yet another Brontë spin-off novel. This one was, in fact, a retelling of Jane Eyre- not a prequel or sequel. It was Jane Eyre as a science fiction novel, set in outer space. It is called Jenna Starborn and I mean to read it someday, really I do. And I've heard that it is rather good for being Jane Eyre in outer space... I don't remember all of the details at the moment but the basic plot is the same only Jane- I mean Jenna is some sort of reactor technician who goes out on a call to repair one at the complex of some incredibly wealthy person with a very silly name...
Even fans of the author's work say the prose is not very good at least, and that at best it is an entertaining way to pass the time. However, there was a review declaring it is better than Jane Eyre because the language is simpler and easy to understand. It hurt my soul to hear such things... It is also ridiculous because I know people who speak this 'old English' on a regular basis and in casual company. In fact, I have a friend who so admires Samuel Jonson (going back a bit further than the Brontës now...) that he strives to perfect his speech and prose to what he feels is the richest means of expression (I once remarked the use of 'locupletate' in a book I was reading and he replied that it is in Jonson's dictionary- from which he can quote). And I was quoting Jane Eyre in casual company when I was 14.
They should all be reading Chaucer, that's what I say. Or better still, Caedmon. See how they like that. /endbitterness.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Jane Eyre 1952 Images Continued..
This post is a post of pictures and snark (teasing, witty commentary), just to keep things lively. Hopefully I will actually see this version and be able to report in full.
Thornfield sans les battlements... Miss Adella with black hair...
Jane with very very blond hair. Jane with some man who has just walked into the garden.
Aw, his poor pooty tootens!* Ah, cigar and brandy. that's more like it.
* See, Miss Mix- a 19th century parody of Jane Eyre, Brontëana, Monday January 30th, 2006.
Wait, wasn't he favoring his left leg before? ... Looks shifty to me!
Jane's not concerned. His strange ways are rather piquant.
To be continued...
Jane Eyre 1952 (with Katharine Bard and Kevin McCarthy)
This is the only one of the films known to be extant which I have not yet seen, but thanks (again!) to Thisbeciel, this will soon no longer be the case. In fact, I come bearing gifts of very rare screencaps (as far as I know, these are the only screencaps). I came to know of the existence of this version through 'The Pleasure of Intertextuality: Reading television and film adaptations of Jane Eyre' by Donna Marie Nudd, an article specially written for the Norton edition of Jane Eyre. Here is an excerpt from her brief discussion of the production:
Structural norms change for commercial television, where the director, adapter, and editors also have to contemplate exactly where the corporate sponsors' ads will appear. Westinghouse Studio One: Summer Theater produced Jane Eyre in 1952. This production appears to be primarily one or two cameras capturing a live theater production, a production with very limited sets. During intermissions, an actress comes out and informs us of the glories of Westinghouse's self-defrosting refrigerator and later of the technical wonder of the "electronic clarifier" that stops the flutters on its all-new twenty-one inch, television. The structure of this adaptation is definately informed by the need to stop the action at the appropriate moment for Westinghouse commercials.
Another strong, nonliterary influence on this particular Westinghouse adaptation was undeniably the budget. Early in this production, for example, jane is situated in one of the five or so standard, theatrical stage sets--a garden. The audience and Jane hear the neighing of a horse and then a crash. Then, with fake blood on his chin, Rochester limps into the garden and tells the new governess stationed there that his confounded horse has thrown him and run off.
More images will be posted later (I am having trouble getting them all to post at the moment).
Thursday, February 23, 2006
'Wuthering Heights for Children: Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden'
Today I came across this interesting article, hosted by the Universität Tübingen seeking to draw comparisons between The Secret Garden and Wuthering Heights. When I read The Secret Garden for a course on Children's Literature, I did not pick up on most of its resonances with Wuthering Heights, possibly because the influence of Jane Eyre seemed to be closer to the surface, and it seems that other readers have been similarly inclined:
As they had on other impressionable young girls, the romances of the sisters Brontë had a tremendous impact on Burnett. As one of her biographers noted: “Principal themes in the fiction of Frances Hodgson Burnett were forecast in seven books published within two years of her birth . . . (and) the authors of these works would be among the most important in shaping her fiction—[these included] Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847), and Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield (1849-50) . . . .” Born during Charlotte Brontë’s lifetime to parents keenly aware of the contemporary literary scene, daughter of father who may have been related to one of Patrick Brontë’s curates, young Frances spent the first fifteen years of her life less than thirty miles from Haworth reading romances. More than one scholar has identified and described “the echoes of Jane Eyre in The Secret Garden” but the contribution of Wuthering Heights has been less recognized.
Susan E. James draws comparisons here between Wuthering Heights and The Secret Garden.
Since I will not get another opportunity to point this out, The Secret Garden (from 1991) happens to be one of the two musicals constantly compared with Jane Eyre: The Musical (the other musical is Les Miserables). Two recordings are available on amazon.com- such as the Broadway Cast, and the Royal Shakespeare CompanyRevival/London recordings.
Update on UK Release for Jane Eyre (BBC 1973)
Thanks to Thisbeciel, we have another link to websites where our friends in the UK will be able to order their copies of Jane Eyre with Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston. From this site we have the exact release date of June 5th. The synopsis is a little quirky...
Starring Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston, this 1973 BBC television adaptation of the classic novel follows the fortunes of the heroine Jane Eyre who begins her life as an orphan without a penny to her name. After a dreadful childhood Jane Eyre acquires the post of Governess at Thornfield Hall. Once there she finds herself falling in love with the mysterious owner of Thornfield, Mr Rochester. Jane watches Rochester flirt with the beautiful and eligible Blanche Ingram and unable to bear their romance any longer, Jane resigns. Only then does Rochester admit that he loves Jane and asks her to marry him. But Jane's happiness proves to be shortlived...
Pardon? I don't remember the scene when she resigns!
ETA: I am still unable to read British dates, obviously. We put the month first in Canada... the release date is June 5th, not May 6th. I'm also too eager to see this, and a little bit of wishful thinking might have contributed to the error.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Face to Face with Charlotte Bronte at the Parsonage
The Bronte Parsonage E-Magazine Blog has posted this great article by Diane Benn about a current exhibit at the Parsonage Museum called Face to Face with Charlotte Bronte. Among other things, there is this image of Charlotte only recently acquired by the museum. I remember when it was purchased among other items of the Brontes. If I remember correctly, it was supposedly drawn while Charlotte was in Belgium, but I cannot say for certain. It is wonderful to see what restorers are able to do with such material. I saved an image of the portrait from when it was posted on the auction website (where it was shown next to other portraits of Charlotte):
Other news from the Parsonage Blog, the Bronte Society is organising their spring walk (route and contact information here), DNA tests may soon be performed on hair samples from the Brontes (more on this here). A film about Charlotte at Hathersage may also be in the works, and there's a new Bronte Society fanzine for children- 'Genius!'
Monday, February 20, 2006
Jane Eyre The Musical Video Clips Encore
Back by popular demand, here are a few clips generated by Thisbeciel and this time brought to you by the lady Branwen- our royal patroness. Her magesty has managed to find more clips than I remember posting here, or perhaps this site has grown so large even I don't know what is hiding in the archives anymore. The first series are from a production on Broadway in April of 2001 (I believe), very near to the show's closing (which was in June if I remember correctly). The rest are from assorted publicity material- I have not actually had the time to view all of them.
An Icy Lane: http://s65.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=3IHTI0VT38HPA1OUG7OY7GX988
You Examine Me, Miss Eyre: http://s65.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=2TN9T5VXR7LMV3585TADXUOUZ8
Waking Rochester: http://s65.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=1P3QUWFTRSQUB0JE465AJ6W6QO
Saying Goodbye: http://s62.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=2GBORQF0B1WYJ1A1WXT7DLCC5J
I Know Who Heals My Life: http://s64.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=2PL4A8O3K3QZQ0RQ8NF7095RTA
The Gypsy: http://s62.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=20OS9TXILLVYI0GSTKAKHLFHQR
The Proposal: http://s62.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=07UN01ML5FESA37T3M2RQ4TKJ5
Wild Boy/Sirens reprise/Farewell, Good Angel: http://s62.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=37P0PAGAE5TQR0FJ7XJG83ZDQG
Secret Soul in the studio: http://s57.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=2I14DF3SRYFOW1A10BJ68BPUXL
Jane Promo Clips: http://s57.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=3JQPH283MZS4F07S9KLE5KKT56
Broadway on Broadway Secret Soul Clips: http://s57.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=3MTTI7SVJBCGH2MZHYXAQDRFIS
ETA: These will be available for the next week, or for 30 downloads whichever comes first. Also, I may not be posting often between now and Friday. We are in the middle of midterm season which means I have exams of my own, as well as teaching assistant duties to attend to, and on top of this I have some seminars to write!
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Livejournal Brontëana Feed and Some Notes
Ladyshrew has kindly created an LJ feed for Brontëana so now any Livejournal user can simply add the feed to their friends list and view Brontëana posts with greater ease. I have no idea how to set these up- I'm trying to make one for the Brontë Parsonage E-Magazine Blog but so far I have had no success whatsoever.
To add the Brontëana LJ feed simply sign into your account, then visit this link. The feed has not yet become active at the time of this posting but apparently this usually takes some time.
Mythosidhe also created one for BrontëBlog. Users can add this feed from this link.
Now for the notes section of this post. I am still trying to catch up on mail and other work from this week. I ask that anyone awaiting a reply be patient.
Also, when blogger emails comments to me they do not specify which post they come from and since I've been blogging for nearly a year now I have no idea which post the comment is referring to. If Heather is reading this, I recieved your comment that some of the links had expired. Reposting most links isn't a problem, but it would be helpful to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I try to read through and respond to all of the comments although I do miss them sometimes. Recent posts are not a problem but replies to earlier posts can become disconnected.
ETA: Thanks to Mythosidhe we now have a link for the Brontë Parsonage Blog too. Also, it didn't take long for the feed to kick in- the Brontëana feed is now active.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Jane Eyre(Erie Playhouse) 1998
Book by David Matthews, music by Michael Malthaner, lyrics by Charles Corritore. (The picture to the right is from Voices in which Jane hears Rochester calling to her). Interesting doesn't quite cover this ...4th... 5th? Jane Eyre Musical. I listened to it for the first time yesterday. I had been eager waiting to hear this one because it is actually based on the Gordon/Caird musical. According to Lillie who shared it with me someone- the composer?- saw the musical in Toronto during its very early, very brief run and felt he could do better. I am not disappointed. There are several points where the work is clearly influenced by the Gordon/Caird show. The show as a whole, however, fails to be entertaining or on key...
I can tell that the lyricist, at least, had read the novel because one of the songs includes two more details not found in the Gordon/Caird version but otherwise it feels like the creators used a study guide instead. It sounds like a musicalised study guide which doesn't actually include many of the themes, characters, or plot elements from the novel. But it is interesting, and tolerable in places. Some of the tunes are not all that objectionable either. The full cast list and other information is available here. If you are interested in producing the work, the main page including information on obtaining a perusal script is here. Plot synopsis and pictures here.
I have noted a few of the interesting points, to share for the moment. This work has a series of songs called Soliloques. These correspond to the songs As I Retired For The Night, and Secret Soul from the early G/C show. I cannot make out all of the words on the recording I have from the Royal Alexandra in Toronto which would correspond to Soliloques I, so I have chosen to compare Soliloques II with Secret Soul:
Secret Soul (Royal Alexandra JE)
Jane: What can I do now, my precious Lord?
His dark love would be my best reward.
I know I should not dare to go deeper in his madness
But it's like a field I must run through
No one's words will make me love him less.
How much can I stand? I dare not guess.
The secret voice that speaks to me
Tells me he's in danger looking to the dust for tenderness.
Deep in my secret soul I stand alone
The purpose of why I'm here is still unknown.
In the darkness of his day he's nearly blind
but I keep looking for his goodness afraid of what I'll find.
My heart moves through his unquiet sea.
I pray a wave will come and carry me
Closer to his troubled tide, waters of his fury,
But how can I swim this great divide?
Jane: Deep in my secret soul Rochester: My secret soul
I cry his tears. Cries out loud!
I weather his angry voice This angry voice
I feel his fears. Cries out!
Both: His/her life has infected every wound and every pore
I feel this mystery possess me and I pray that mercy's hand will bless me!
Jane: Deep in his secret soul...
Rochester: Deep in my secret soul...
Jane: His heart is cursed.
Rochester: My heart is cursed!
Jane: I summon my deepest will to still his thirst!
Rochester: And I pray that God-
Both: God give me the strength to go
deep within his/my secret soul!
Soliloques II (Erie Playhouse JE) Possibly after the fire scene.
Rochester: Just when I thought my life was changing
just as she rescued my soul.
Giving me hope of one day finding
happiness lost long ago.
Now must I once again bury these thoughts again,
helplessly watching her leave?
When will she know how much I need her?
How can I make her believe?
Jane: What does it mean? Why did he kiss me?
Why did he speak that way?
Did I imagine hearing the things I heard him say?
How can I know the answers if now my duty lies
far far away from Thornfield and the kindness in his eyes.
Both: No matter what's there for me where this road my bend
I face it now willingly- this long journey's end.
No matter how long it takes I'll wait for his/her song.
Once more to have a life, once more to live my life, once more to share my life!
Jane: And finally belong!
Rochester: Once more to have a life, once more to share my life!
Both: And finally belong!
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Valentine's Day -When the thoughts writers turn to the Brontës
I am still unwell, and read Joyce last night before bed which isn't good either (often when I read before going to bed I have very interesting dreams related to the material. When I studied Suetonius there were a lot of very strange dreams. This time I dreamt about language).
Today is St. Valentine's Day, and the internet is buzzing with references to the Brontës. Novels are being recomended as gifts for the beloved, the stories are turned over for various reasons- sometimes to question whether such relationships exist in 'the real world', and sometimes to wonder what makes these stories so moving. For example, from The Hindu, Radha Nair, a retired English professor mentions Wuthering Heights:
"Heathcliff and Catherine are the opposites and such strong individuals. They had to give each other up and that there was no fulfilment adds to the aura."
But there are some articles which take a more unique approach to the day. This one discusses literary love, comparing Latin and 'American' writings (which apparently include Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë):
For latin writers, the language of love comes naturally-
The best lines, says Lynne Barrett of FIU, "are often of rejection or renunciation ... Often when one is declarative, there is a larger problem. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy says to Elizabeth: `My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.' He then blurts out his struggle against loving her because of her `low connections,' vulgar sisters and silly mother, so by the end of his proposal she furiously rejects him."
Or Jane Eyre's Mr. Rochester: `Come to me -- come to me entirely now,' said he. `Make my happiness -- I will make yours.'"
But he's a man with a wife locked up in the attic.
Perhaps I'm still not clear headed but does this actually make sense to anyone? Declarative sentences reveal what sort of larger problem? A lot of characters use declarative sentences but don't have wives locked in their attics! I cannot help but think that the Latin authors probably use declaratives as well, and that I can think of more expressive lines in Jane Eyre that would stand on equal footing with those of the Latins (sadly, when I read the title of the article, I thought about Ovid...).
Monday, February 13, 2006
From 'Vision, Flame, and Flight: Adapting Jane Eyre for the Stage' - By John Caird
I have been rather quiet. I was bedridden yesterday and still feel unwell. But I have a new reason to keep my faculties together- Harlene has sent me several fascinating items on the Jane Eyre Musical, one of these is 'Vision, Flame, and Flight: Adapting Jane Eyre for the Stage' written by John Caird, the lyricist for the show. Here are a few excerpts:
An attic is a potent metaphor. If a house is a metaphor for a human life, then the attic is the mind where all the secrets reside. In this respect Thornfield is the ultimate example of such a metaphor, representing as it does the life and status and history of Rochester and all the centuries of Rochesters before him. Hidden in the attic is the awful reality of a tragic life but also a metaphor for the lies and deceit that haunt Rochester’s mind, making him incapable of honouring his love for Jane without perjuring himself into the bargain. Jane too has her secrets and her terrors – lies she has told herself about her unworthiness, her plainness and her lack of grace – all of which must be overcome before she is able to live for Rochester as she would live for herself, with absolute openness and integrity. One of the most evocative moments in our adaptation is when the secrets and lies in Rochester’s life collide with the secrets and lies in Jane’s, as the two brides stare at each other across the darkened attic and across the years with a mutual mixture of the most painful reproach and the deepest understanding.
Another major difference in story-telling technique between the novel and our adaptation is the way that Rochester is treated. Because Bronte chose to write using an autobiographical narrative device, the reader must never know more than Jane herself knows. So Rochester and his motives must remain obscure until the novel is half over. The reader may suspect that all is not right but not so much that Jane would seem to be stupid not to suspect anything herself. In a sense the reader becomes Jane, and Rochester’s actions are every bit as obscured both reader and heroine. In the theatre this trick is all but impossible to pull off, and in any case not really desirable. A director or book-writer cannot instruct the actor playing Rochester that he must play everything as a mystery to Jane. Playing the part of an enigma would soon become tedious for the actor and audience alike. The actor needs to know what Rochester is to himself to his audience with whom he has as strong a relationship as the actress playing the part of Jane. For their part the audience is not looking at Rochester through Jane’s eyes – it is looking at the man himself without the aid of an interpreter. Paul and I decided therefore that we had to reveal Rochester’s deep feelings for Jane, at least before the intermission falls, or he would risk losing so much sympathy with the audience that they would never forgive their heroine for wanting to marry him! Achieving this dramatic end without giving away the central secret of the story was perhaps the most delicate task of the whole adaptation.
This stripping away of the mystery around Rochester also allowed us to examine more closely one of the story’s most elusive themes – that of vision. At the beginning of the story, Jane has nothing. As we have Miss Scatcherd saying just before she leaves the school – she is ‘a girl with no money, no talents, no beauty and no class’. But without material possessions or prospects of any sort, she still has one significant talent, in spite of Miss Scatcherd’s mean portrait. Jane has her insight or moral vision, strong in her from childhood but greatly strengthened by her friendship with Helen Burns. So a young woman with nothing but insight travels across the moors to her first job and there she meets and falls in love with a man who has everything – everything that is except insight. His class, his status, his family and his history are all powerfully represented by the chestnut tree, growing proudly in the gardens of the house. But Rochester, materially rich and astonishingly enlightened about so much, is morally blind. Of course the greatest irony in the story is that he has to become actually blind before he is worthy of Jane’s love for him. The agency of his blindness is the fire – the first that in other parts of the story has illuminated and warmed and now returns to destroy and purge. Thus at the end of the story all the metaphors are powerfully linked together – blindness, the house and the fire – to provide a single potent dramatic image, the young woman of vision becoming the eyes and hands for her blind lover as they sit together under the stricken chestnut tree in the shadow of the burnt out house that was their home. As Paul’s lyrics put it ‘the secret of the flame is that there is no more to hide. It cures our blindness and our pride’.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Brontëana Mail: Sezione Italiana
I would like to thank Raffaella from Milano, Italy for writing in the other day. I had forgotten to include the link to the Italian chapter of the Brontë Society. I first heard of their webpage through The Brontë Parsonage E-Magazine Blog, but somehow didn't make a proper post about it. Here is my belated tribute to Brontë Society- Sezione Italiana!
Unfortunately I cannot read Italian well enough to make full use of the site, but having learned Latin is proving helpful. This page is especially interesting for me. It is about film adaptations of the Brontë novels and includes several I had never come across before. I did not know, for instance that the Frank Hall Crane productions of Jane Eyre from the 1920s were two parts of the same production, or that there was an Italian production made in 1957.
The link for the Italian Brontë Society is now available on the links list to the left. Reader comments, and questions are always welcome either as comments to the posts themselves or as emails addressed to: email@example.com
Friday, February 10, 2006
We Have Our New Jane!
And it isn't Kiera Knightley or Angelina Jolie! Huzzah! In fact, she's just graduated from drama school. All the better!
This just in over the wire (scroll to the bottom of the article):
A young actress, barely out of drama school, has just landed the title role in a major new BBC TV production of Jane Eyre.
The Bronte classic will star Ruth Wilson, a graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Miss Wilson has a small part in Five's forthcoming comedy series Suburban Housewives, but it's Jane Eyre that will propel her to stardom.
Shooting begins at the end of the month on the South Yorkshire Moors and London.
But director Susanna White has yet to find an actor to play the dark, brooding Mr Rochester, the secretive landowner whom Jane loves.
This is a little amusing to me because one of the songs I was listening to was called 'Miss Wilson' from the York/Williams Jane Eyre musical- in which the guests at Thornfield 'quiz' Jane and call her 'Miss Wilson'!
ETA: Photo and CV of Miss Wilson courtesy of Thisbeciel. And we have a request from several Bronteans that this man, Richar Armitage, play Mr Rochester.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
The Latest on JE 1973
(All the pictures in this post come from scenes that were cut from the American broadcast of Jane Eyre (BBC 1973)
The director of programing has sent word via Thisbeciel that the US release for the DVD of the BBC's 1973 Jane Eyre with Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston will indeed be June 2006. However, UK fans will also have to wait until June- instead of May.
I can only hope that this means we'll be getting some extras ;) Probably not, but I'll hope for them anyway. Obviously some parts which did not air in America will be on the DVD, and that's something to look forward to, considering that this includes all of Jane Eyre up to the point when Jane leaves Lowood (episode One in the American broadcast begins with Jane's voiceover: 'Hitherto I have narrated...' which was a natural point to chop off nearly an hour of footage).
The Canadian broadcast was more complete although I maintain that some pieces were cut... I'm an artist, and have a good eye for changes. It seems that the individual frames where sliced out of the American broadcast, as well as little bits of dialogue.
The most obvious instance of this editing is the Hay Lane scene. In the Canadian broadcast there is a part in the middle which had been cut for American television. When Jane approaches Mr Rochester (just before the commercial break), he looks up at her and says: "Who the deuce sent you?" (this version follows the novel very closely, but this addition brings it to precisely one more 'the deuce?' than the novel). There are also several seconds more footage showing the results of the accident.
I'm convinced that something was cut from the scene of the day after the proposal. In both versions the dialogue is:
Jane: ...I have observed in books written by men that period assigned as the furthest to which any husband's ardour extends.
Rochester: Humph! Distasteful! And like you again!
The words are directly out of the novel but there's something missing- Rochester's lines don't make sense without Jane's musing that she hopes she will never be distasteful to him and that he may learn to like her- not love her- after the passion wears off (it is not particularly 'like her' to say these things).