Jane Eyre

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Name: Jane Eyre
Abbreviation(s): JE
Creator: Charlotte Brontë
Date(s): 1847 (see Wikipedia for adaptation dates)
Medium: novel, film, television
Country of Origin: England
External Links: Wikipedia
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Jane Eyre is a Gothic romance novel by Charlotte Brontë, first published in 1847. A feminist classic, the novel is among the most popular & influential works of Victorian literature, and has been adapted for film & television countless times.

Canon

Poor & plain orphan Jane Eyre escapes a hideous but femslashy childhood by advertising her services as a governess. She falls for her employer Edward Rochester, the prototypical brooding Byronic Hero, but at the altar he turns out to be married to the original Madwoman in the Attic. The couple are reunited after the first Mrs Rochester (conveniently) dies in a fire, which also maims & tames Rochester.

Adaptations

Jane Eyre is one of the most frequently adapted novels. The first stage performance came within three months of publication, and at least eight different plays had been performed by 1900, several of which were AUs.[1] The first film was made in 1910. A handful of the better-known adaptations include:

  • 1944 film with Joan Fontaine & Orson Welles
  • 1973 television miniseries with Sorcha Cusack & Michael Jayston
  • 1983 television miniseries with Zelah Clarke & Timothy Dalton
  • 1996 film directed by Franco Zeffirelli, with Charlotte Gainsbourg & William Hurt
  • 1997 television miniseries with Samantha Morton & Ciarán Hinds
  • 2000 musical by Paul Gordon
  • 2006 television miniseries with Ruth Wilson & Toby Stephens
  • 2011 film directed by Cary Fukunaga, with Mia Wasikowska & Michael Fassbender (plus Jamie Bell as St John Rivers)
  • 2013 webseries, The Autobiography of Jane Eyre -- modern version riffing off The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

As of August 2013, the majority of fannish interest is probably in the 2006 & 2011 adaptations, but there are already works tagged "The Autobiography of Jane Eyre" at Archive of Our Own.

Professional Derivative Works

Several derivative works based on Jane Eyre are also popular, including Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn. Wide Sargasso Sea, a prequel which reinterprets the novel from Bertha Mason's point of view, is often cited as an example of a literary derivative work.

Fannish Perspectives

Jane Eyre is a favourite of many readers, who frequently identify strongly with Jane.

I currently own at least three copies of Jane Eyre, one of which is wrapped in plastic and stored with my earthquake survival kit... Jane is my role model, my friend, my faithful companion and guiding light. ...

Jane is a romance novel (best one ever, says me). Not only does it provide an HEA, it provides an HEA that is complex and earned. Jane (the character) goes through many challenging circumstances but she never loses her sense of who she is - a human being worthy of respect. She holds to this sense of self as an abused child, as a shy young woman with a painful crush, as a vagrant and dependent, and ultimately as a woman of means, a wife, and a mother. Her relationship with Rochester is ultimately defined by mutual respect, affection, and love. Until he respects her autonomy, no amount of him swooning over her can win the day. Even when she is most powerless, or when she is at her most romantically passionate, she holds to saying, ""I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will." ...

Happy [belated] birthday, Charlotte, and thanks for providing me with a character who has reminded me to stay true to myself from the day we, two ten-year old girls who liked to hide away from the world and read, became best friends. (CarrieS)[2]
I really liked Jane. I wasn't expecting to, largely because the many romance takes on the story of poor governess meets rich employer, falls in love and is lifted out of poverty have left me cold. But I liked Jane's determination and her morals, I liked that she was never willing to compromise what she felt was right, even in the face of adversity.

In a romance ... this would be termed "spunk" or "spirit" and make me roll my eyes and want to whack the heroine over the head. But Bronte characterizes Jane so that she isn't so much high-spirited as stubborn, and there's an underlying strength of character, even when she's head over heels in love with Mr. Rochester. ...

It's actually rather amusing seeing how many romance cliches Bronte subverts, even though she was writing a good many, many years before the contemporary romance industry was formed. (Oyce)[3]
...My teen angst preferred Wuthering Heights, but it's Jane who has consistently spoken to me over the years. ...
I think Jane resonates with people because she's such an honest, real, flawed heroine. She's an underdog who triumphs, but not always in ways one would expect. She is a strong female heroine in a twisted Cinderella plot. Jane's contradictions, struggles, and honesty make her a protagonist to whom many of us can relate. (Melissa Marie)[4]

Fandom

The novel has a small rarelit fandom, part of a wider Brontë fandom, and is a perennial Yuletide favourite. Printzine fanfiction is known from at least 1986;[5] the earliest story on FanFiction.Net dates from July 2003. Some fanfiction portrays the canonical Jane/Rochester relationship, with many takes on their wedding night. Tropes here include that Victorian staple of the virginal woman, as well as disabled sex.

There are also AUs in which Jane did not marry Rochester, most of which feature the Jane/Rivers pairing, as well as stories featuring minor characters such as Adèle Varens, Blanche Ingram, Rosamond Oliver & (particularly since the 2011 film) St John Rivers. There is a little Jane/Helen Burns femslash (and even at least one example of Jane/Miss Temple),[6] but m/m slash is extremely rare,[7] perhaps because the two major male characters never meet.

Jane Eyre is also a very common source universe for pastiche-type fusions with a huge variety of fandoms. These are often crackfic, and sometimes feature same actor crossovers, often with m/m slash pairings. The popularity of the Michael Fassbender/James McAvoy pairing has also led to crossovers with the film Becoming Jane, an Austen biopic featuring McAvoy as Tom Lefroy; these are usually Rochester/Lefroy (Rofroy) slash.

In addition to fanfiction, fannish activities include picspam, fanart & vidding. There is much discussion, particularly around the merits of the various adaptations. As with the wider Brontë fandom, some fans enjoy visiting locations related to the novel and to particular adaptations.

Example Fanworks

Pastiche & Fusions

Archives

Fansites

Blogs, Forums & Communities

Notes & References

  1. Stoneman P. Foreward, Jane Eyre on Stage, 1848–1898 (Ashgate Publishing; 2007)
  2. smartbitchestrashybooks: Jane Eyre Vs Wuthering Heights Smackdown - A Guest Entry by CarrieS (accessed 8 August 2013)
  3. oyceter: Bronte, Charlotte - Jane Eyre (accessed 8 August 2013)
  4. The Jane Eyre Miscellany: Welcome! (accessed 8 August 2013)
  5. Will What Was Ever Be? by Carolyn Huston, a crossover with Star Trek: TOS
  6. Burdens Shared by omphale23, written for Yuletide 2006
  7. "Transference" by Evremonde (haydenthorne), Rochester/Rivers, was announced at rarelitslash [1] in 2004, but is no longer online