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Thursday, June 14, 2007

No Place Like Home

I have officially passed the minimum page-count for my thesis, and am preparing to round it off into a neat working draft. It has no introduction or conclusion; those will come later once I straighten out the argument. Tomorrow I am going to visit my thesis advisor for the last time.

I'm going back home. The graduate powers that be have approved it, and if all goes according to plan I will be there on the 22nd. This is good news for you because once there, I will have access to my books and my scanner so I can pick up work on the Bronteana Resource site. I have come across a lot of fabulous material which ought to be available there. There were casualties... My mother tells me that my desktop hardrive was stolen. Chances are I will never relocate everything that was stored on it.

But what remains is very shiny and interesting! For instance, there are these beautiful illustrations from Jane Eyre, an edition illustrated by F. Townsend, and dated circa 1896. In the image below, Mr. Rochester begins to regain some of his sight.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Oh How True!

The Guardian publishes today an interesting article about portraiture in the arts. Specically, how authors seems to give readers mere 'corner of the eye glances' when describing characters. Few authors go through the trouble of expending lengthy description on faces. There seems to be a practical reason behind this:

You can see why so few authors choose to make the attempt. Listing every feature will not only fatally hold up the narrative, but may antagonise the poor confused reader who can't remember what "aquiline" means and thinks that an "almond" eye must be brown and nutty. Besides, what purpose will it serve to expend 500 words on the tilt of this particular nose and the set of this particular jaw? No, indeed. Facial detail is rarely kept in mind at all by a reader. A devotee of Jane Eyre tends to remember that, say, Mr Rochester is a dark sort of man, and that Jane is a short sort of woman, and this is quite enough to go on - especially when one's attention keeps being caught by such things as cackles from the attic and beds catching fire.

This amuses me somewhat in light of how often I hear of how handsome Mr Rochester is. Oh, there are dozens of reasons why he is not ugly, believe me. Charlotte didn't really know that her character was handsome all along, or that she is just showing that Jane really didn't know what real love was until later and then he sort of prettifies. Or that she doesn't actually describe him as ugly at all ("He was rather an ugly man"), or... Nevermind the long sections of the novel concerned with how worthless is valuing people based on their appearance.

Mr Rochester is a darkish man, and Jane is kinda short. I can live with this.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wuthering Heights at York Theatre Royal

The following article is from The Press.

SUE Dunderdale surveys the task of directing Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte's windy, wild tale of ill-fated love and vengeance.

"It's a fantastic story and it's a Yorkshire story," says Sue, whose production of Jane Thornton's adaptation opens at York Theatre Royal on June 2.

"All the cast, the stage management and me, we all went up to Haworth, walking up to Top Withens, which they say may be the site of Wuthering Heights, though it's now a ruin.

"It was the first time I'd been there in 20 years; the last time I was there, there was a French film crew making a film about the Brontes. Isabelle Huppert was in it, of course; she seems to be in every French film."

Revived by Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy, Sue returned to the work in hand: staging Thornton's compact adaptation of the tragic story of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, first performed on the much smaller Hull Truck stage in 2003. "Damian Cruden the Theatre Royal artistic director had already decided on using this version, partly because it has a cast of only five, which has its advantages and disadvantages and we're focusing on the advantages," says Sue.

"I've gone for a young cast because it's very much a teenage love story. They feel that if they don't marry, they will die. Cathy married at an extremely young age; she was 17 when she married Edgar, and once she dies, Heathcliff feels dead too. He may be walking around, but he feels dead inside. Cathy died partly because she stopped eating, and so did Heathcliff."

advertisementRecords show the average age of death in Haworth at the time the Brontes lived at the Parsonage was 26, the same age as the cast's average age. "I think that makes it right that it's a very young company," says Sue.

Among her casting selections is Joel Fry for the mixed-race role of Heathcliff.

Sue Dunderdale
"I think he's an extraordinary actor. I spotted him at RADA three years ago, when I was working on a course on acting on camera.

" I was doing various film scenes, and one was from Neil LaBute's In The Company Of Men, and there was this extraordinary-looking young man, who didn't stop moving before we started, but once he was on camera he had this incredible stillness about him. That was Joel.

"I then saw him playing Abraham Lincoln in The American Play, and again he was remarkable in that."

No doubt she will be looking to bring out the intensity in Joel Fry that she found in the book. "It's the intensity that strikes you. When I read the novel again, it was like reading one of the Russians. It's like reading a Yorkshire version of Dostoevsky. It's not Jane Austen," says Sue.

"It's the expression of her soul. When you read that all Emily Bronte's life was an interior life, where all she did was walk on the moors, you realise her freedom was in her imagination and in her spirit, and that's what draws you in.

"No two people should be more together than Cathy and Heathcliff, but she makes the major mistake of her life and that destroys them as they miss out on each other.

"We may all like to pretend that we've never done that in our lives, but in her writing Emily has no such pretence. Cathy's decision destroys her life and lives around her."

What Emily did was to frame the story in her inner being and in the world she knew, says Sue.

"Edith Wharton wrote about the same subject, so did Henry James, and they were very different from Emily's spirit, which was close to Dostoevsky, but they all deal with missed opportunities - but Wuthering Heights is more cruel than the rest, extremely cruel.

"There's a grimness and a dryness that make it so Yorkshire," Sue says.

"It's all about being thwarted and thwarted is such a Yorkshire word, isn't it!"

Wuthering Heights runs at York Theatre Royal, June 2 to 23. Box office: 01904 623568.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Second Edition Life of C.B. Goes on Sale

According to the Yorkshire Post, an exciting auction is in the making this weekend:

A RARE copy of a biography about the life of Charlotte Brontë which created a scandal in 19th century society is to go under the hammer tonight as a part of a weekend of activities celebrating Yorkshire's most famous literary family.
The second edition print of Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Brontë is the prized item among a collection of 90 books which are being auctioned off at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth.

The book, which dates back to 1857, triggered two threats of libel action when it was printed and is expected to fetch hundreds of pounds.

The threats came from a woman who was said to have had an affair with Charlotte's brother Branwell Brontë and from the family which ran a school near Kirkby Lonsdale which the biography claimed had been the inspiration for Low Wood in Jane Eyre.

Now Brontë fans can get their hands on a 19th century copy of the book which was part of a collection bequeathed to the Brontë Parsonage Museum by Arthur D Walker, a librarian at Manchester University.

Museum librarian Ann Dinsdale said: "It is very rare to find a second edition copy of the biography. The book resulted in libel actions being threatened and was very controversial at the time.

"The rest of the collection includes scholarly editions and literary criticisms of the Brontës."

The auction opens the Brontë Society's annual weekend which runs until Tuesday. Tomorrow night four Brontë biographers will explore some of the stories which surround the family at a panel discussion in West Lane Baptist Chapel (7.30pm).

Juliet Barker, Edward Chitham, Rebecca Fraser and Lyndall Gordon will take part. Brontë Parsonage Museum deputy director Andrew McCarthy said: "It promises to be a fascinating evening."