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Jane Eyre Capes Lecture 1 For Website

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  • 1. Jane Eyre lecture 1 : Jane Eyre : A complete Gothic structure Blackwood’s Magazine First exposed to the Gothic through their avid reading of supernatural tales and poems published in the lterary journals of the time, notably Blackwood’s magazine. The Brontës were avid readers of BM ; their source for history, exploration and politics And also their fictional models hence their imaginary worlds or Gondal or Angria in juvenalia. They apprpriate and transform many Gothic conventions and motifs : their female heroines are usually more complex than in the 18th C models, more independent, rejecting the virtuous but bland hero in favour of the dark and theratening hero-villain. This Byronic soul-mate threatens their independence and liberty. Prime examples are Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and Rochester inJane Eyre. Fathers and sons ; Mothers and daughters The Gothic focuses on a son or daughter who seek to free themselves from the excesses of male or patriarchal dominance in many Gothic novels ; Ann Radcliffe’s novels of the 1790’s and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Link to freud’s Oedipal concept of conflict in the middle class family. The governess First evoked as Emily in Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) the governess is prime material for a Gothic victim., placed in a situation unfitted by birth, expectation or training. V.Woolf’s criticism of JE : « always a governess, always in love. » Escape : Jane tries to escape the mental effects of social repression but tries to escape the iron shroud of mental solipsism. Jane’s childhood is masked by an inner violent drama ; in Chap 1 we see Jane seated in the window seat reading Bewick’s book on birds: representing her isolation and orphaned station (Alson Milbank sees this enclosure as the brain). Bewick’s engravings become a churchyard with phantom ships. Her chosen seclusion provokes John’s anger at her self possession and the subsequent quarrel. The Gothic villain resorts to physical violence and the Gothic victim is interned in the Red Room (Reed Room ? ?) All of Brontë’s heroines share a an inner life of extraordinary color, drama, fiction, and intensity : even in the case of an entrapped heroine. If Jane is physically locked away she never leaves her inner world of drama. Brontë strives to depict a given social reality in which she is the poor relation ; an orphan, and an orphan girl. Female Gothic The female Gothic plot usually contains an aggressive male nwho threatens the female protagonist. Confined in an idyllic or secluded way of life, she is
  • 2. imprisoned in a great house or castle under the authority of a powerful male or of his female surrogate. (Oranto, Udolpho) In JE the problem is not so much a problem of identity, but of gender politics. Like the Bildungsroman, the heroine’s evolution from innocence to experience is the focus of attention, her journey leading towards some assumption of power or agency in the patriarchal world, or the search for the lost mother. Female Gothic tends to go in for suspense rather than out and out horror : no rotting corpses here, but plenty of fears and anxieties. If there are supernatural encounters they tend to lead to a rational explanation, where is nevertheless less comforting than the imagined. The wayward heroine is saved by reintegration into a community with a new identity, a new name and a new husband. Other examples : Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White ; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Focussing on the female heroine and on the house, is it a radical or a conservative form ? Typically subversive, expressing women’s fears and fantasies and protest against patriarchy. Female travel ; Jane travels north to Thornwood, which is in fact female flight ; rarely succcessful : JE leaves Mrs. Reed’s house to go to Lowood (she should have known it would not be elevating !), like Mme Bovary, or Anna Karenina, the heroine’s flight is rarely successful. The madwoman in the Attic The mad wife in Thornwood, the veil and the mirror originates in Melmoth the Wanderer, (C.R. Maturin, 1820) and in A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone family (Sheridan Le Fanu, Best Ghost Stories, 1839) Gubar & Gilbert in The Madwoman in the Attic :The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination (1979 Yale) seek to extend the trope of the madwomen in the attic to women in general, stating that almost all ninetennth century women were in some sense imprisioned in men’s houses .Just as Jane is psychologically ‘imprisioned’ in forbidding and unwelcoming houses such as Lowood and Gateshead, Bertha Mason is a prime example of the Gothic victim, physically imprisioned in Thornwood Hall by Rochester, the hero-villain. 3reasons for this : guilt and rage = enclosure. 1 : Guilt : She represents his guilt over a dubious past which he seeks to conceal from Jane, and as the latter’s double, embodying her rebellion, bound for destruction before Jane and Rochester can be united. Rochester keeps this family secret which like most ‘secret(s) de polichinelle’ is only concealed by dramatic irony to the heroine herself. Rochester prevaricates, (you’ve guessed it) lies (it’s Grace Poole) and finally avows the existence not only of a mad woman but of a mad wife when publicly challenged by Briggs and Mason. His hate of her
  • 3. has no solid foundation ‘I do not hate her because she is mad,’ only because she is an embarassment and an obstacle to a life of ‘comfort and quiet conversation’. 2 : In Jane Eyre, the destructive rage of Bertha Rochester is an example of a femal creative imagnation as well as female anger at male oppression. Parallels can be made with that other Gothic creation of Victor Frankenstein : She has the strength of a man, a monster,(Rochester has to grapple with her to hold her down) the thirst for blood (Mason), and the pyromaniac tendencies of a criminal (Fire). She acts out the rage and desire that Jane herself must repress. (Mrs Reed says of Jane that she can be ‘patient and acquiescent under any treatment, and..break out all fire and violence’ (p. 204) and in the early pages says ‘You are passionate, Jane, you must allow’. Bertha refuses R’s patriarchy, only enduring it, verbally mute apart from inarticulate sounds while Jane is articulate and resists. She responds with rage to ill treatment, just like Jane.. Bertha’s attic prison parallels that of the Red Room, representing both psychological disturbance of both women and social critique upon the two women. 3 : Rooms : Jane is drawn to the upper part of the house, that fatally attractive ‘third floor’ which is said to be empty ‘no-one sleeps here’ (p.90) and which Jane visits notwithstanding her housekeeper’s warnings : here she first hears that laugh ‘distinct, formal, mirthless,’ which she will hear outside her bedroom door in chap 15 (p. 126) ‘a demoniac laugh, low supressed and deep…gurgled and moaned…goblin-laughter’. It is on the roof (not in the schoolroom-scene of Jane’s governessy hours or the library-R’s territory) that Jane has her vision or illumination (cf Adrienne Rich, p.476 Norton) Rich makes the point that when Jane articulates her (and CB’s) feminist manifesto (p. 93) she is just inches away from the madwoman herself : is wanting a life of equality the step before madness ? ? Or a kind of madness in itself for a penniless governess ? We ‘see’ (without seeing) Bertha on 3 occasions : once when she tries to burn Rochester in his bed (chap 15) ; once when she stabs Mason after his visit, (chap 20) ; once when she visits Jane’s bedroom and tears the wedding veil (chap 25). Jane sees a form, a female form, a shape : Sophie ? Leah ? Mrs. Fairfax ? Grace Poole ? p. 241-243 : Jane loses consciousness ‘for the second time in my life.. ;I became insensible from terror’. Jane finally ‘visits’ Bertha on her aborted wedding day ; she is brought face to face with a monster : purple face, blaoted features, grizzled mane, chap 26, (p250) a figure, beast/human being, a wild animal. Sandra Gilbert calls Bertha « Jane’s truest and darkest double » and descrbes the following parallels :  between Jane’s outburst of « hunger, rebellion, rage » with Bertha’s « low, slow ha ! ha ! » which follows the outburst ;
  • 4.  between Jane’s reastion to Rochester’s tales of sexual prowess in Paris (chap 15) and Bertha’s attempt to burn him alive in his bed (idem);  between Jane’s unexpressed resentment at Rochester’s attempt to trick her into telling the old Gypsy woman her real feelings for her Master and Bertha’s attack on Richard Mason for having tricked her into marrying Rochester ? ? ;  between Jane’s anxieties about her own marriage and Bertha’s sally into her room and the tearing of the bridal veil ;  between Bertha’s crawling on all fours around her attic prison and Jane’s pacing back and forwards in the 3rd story ; also Mrs. Reeds image of Jane as ‘an animal …looked up at me and cursed me with a man’s voice’ p. 204  Bertha’s incendiary rages at Thornfield and Jane’s flaming outbursts at Lowood and at Gateshead which were emblematic of a young penniless dependent rebelling against the accepted codes of society.  Mirror imaging : in the red room Jane sees herself as ‘ Other’ p. 11 ‘the tiny phantom with a white face and arms speckling the gloom ‘ in the looking-glass, that visionary hollow which seems to swallow her in its vortex : the mirroe signals loss and fragmentatin of Jane, like the practice of black magic, (obeah in the Winward Islands, the setting of The Wide Sargasso Sea) the symbolism of which is made clearer by her vision of Bertha’s reflection in her bedroom mirror wearing the wedding veil (ch 25)  Between madness, evident in Bertha, ‘Bertha Mason is mad ; and she came from a mad family, ; idiots and maniacs through three generations » for Rochester at least ; « « at once intemperate and unchaste » ; and Jane’s fainting fit and subsequent loss of appetite… ;was this a small mental breakdown or the beginning of madness ? ? After the failed marriage ceremony, Jane once more dreams of the Red Room episode. p.272  Rochester makes the parallel lingustically when Jane defends Bertha : ‘it is not because she is mad that I hate her. If you were mad do you think I would hate you ?’p. 257 My good angel … ;a hideous demon. p269 R’s hatred is born of his recognition of living with a woman ‘intemperate and unchaste’ where her anger and her sexual appetite (no names, no proof !) makes her a monster. Jane is publicly acknowledged as the antithesis and the parallel female to ‘the monster’… ; »And this is what I wish to have…this young girl who stands so quiet and grave at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon. » The vast imprisioning spaces that appear as castles, halls or great English houses such as Gateshead or Thornfield : houses can be read as metaphors for women’s lives under patriarchy ; Bertha’s final escape through her literal and symbolic death make’s Jane and Rochester’s marriage possible but the final marriage plot is perhaps just another prison. Its happy ending requires the demise of monsters and mad women, figures for the part of the female pysche
  • 5. that arouse fear and hatred in males, either by ostracism or by actual death, whereas the good submissive women get praise, admiration and a wedding ring. Caribbean texts : The reference text here is the novel Wide Sargasso Sea Jean Rhys (1966) which anticipated late 20th century preoccupations in fiction, in critical theory and in particular the revival of interest in the Gothic imagination and in this brilliantly subversive post-colonial novel, Wide Sargasso Sea uses actual characters out of JE as if it were a prequel to the ‘Rochester part of the novel, and it centers around Antoinette Cosway whom Rochester marries for her fortune : 30 000 pounds (30 pieces of silver). Rochester’s explanation is detailed in chap 27, p. 260-4 of Jane Eyre. ; While Jane Eyre, itself a Gothic text, puts up a series of mysteries which are solved in turn as the narrative progresses. In WSS the Gothic imagination works quite differently, putting its emohasis not on the solution of the mysteries but on the recognition of them. When Rochester asks Antoinette whether there is another side to Daniel Cosway’s (half brother) story, she replies : ‘there is always another side, always.’ p. 82 In WSS , the narrative is divided between the two protagonists, Antoinette/Bertha and the unamed Rochester. Anyone who has read JE is possesed by a feeling of déjà vu recognising names like Mason and remembering that Rochester wants to return to Spanish Town in Jamaica with Antoinette but sketches a house surrounded by English trees. The narrative is both familiar and unfamiliar seen from the point of view of the woman who laughs, yells but never speaks in JE. She herself is the gothic secret in JE ; in WSS the secrets a re whispered through the text but never fully revealed. This is the missing part of the JE narrative, the articulate account of Jane’s double, ‘the other side’ that Jane recognises. Antoinette/Bertha says ‘ Long ago when I was a child and very lonely, I tried to kiss the girl in the mirror. But the glass was between us…What am I doing in this place and who am I ?’ In a dream she sees the woman with the streaming hair in the mirror as a framed ghost and drops her candle in fear. At the end of the novel the narrative is given over to Grace Poole ; Antoinette dreams of stepping out into the corridor…into the dark passage of the reader’s imagination….into Jane Eyre ? ? But no closure, like most modernist novels, as in life, but not in JE ! ! Its depiction of the island’s lush and threatening vegetation as a Caribbean hell, is a literary clash between the colonial West Indies and Victorian England ; Coloniser and Colonised ; Coulibri and Thornfield. Rochester’s mismarriage with Antoinette/Bertha mean she has to finally disappear ; the death of the mad colonial wife, another disrupted notion of the human, is a pre-requisite for Anglo-Saxon happiness. In No telephone to Heaven, (Michele Cliff 1989), Clare Savage picks up a copy ofJE and compares Jane (small, pale, English) with
  • 6. Bertha (Captive. Ragôut. Mixture. Confused. Jamaican. Caliban. Carib. Cannibal. Cimarron. All Bertha. All Clare. p.116) The Island of Dr. Moreau ( HG. Wells 1896) explores the concepts of colony versus empire and racial difference. The Caribbean and the colonial in general have become the frightening other, the defeated, the eerie, the disappeared, the dead. The ghost on the moors has become the Obeah spirit, Catherine is now Christophine, Rochester is now the unnamed narator; Bertha is now Antoinette. The story is told with multiple narration ; first that of Antoinette as an adult narrating her childhood, then that of her husband (Rochester), the young colonial ‘oppressor’, marrying a young Creole for money. Bibliography : Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë : Norton Critical Edition, ed. Richard J. Dunn 2001 Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys, Penguin 1966. Can you forgive her ? The Gothic Heroine and her critics, Jane Ferguson Ellis in A Companion to the Gothic, ed. David Punter, Blackwell Publishing, 2005. The Gothic, ed David Punter and Glennis Byron, Blackwell Publishing, 2006 The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction, ed. Jerrold E. Hogle The Madwoman in the Attic, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Woman Writer and the Ninetennth Century Literary Imagination, New Haven, Yale, 1979. Jane Eyre : de Charlotte Brontë à Franco Zeffirelli, Sedes 2008 Jane Eyre, le pélerin moderne, Claire Bazin, Edition du temps, 2005

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