Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre and Villette
Time: 10:00 - 12:00
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HLT290
Choose a start date
Duration: 4 sessions (over 4 weeks)
Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.
What is the course about?
This course explores two novels by Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre (1847) and Villette (1853). We will develop an appreciation of Brontë’s narrative methods and concerns through close analysis of her language, alongside engaging with the literary, historical and critical contexts of these novels. We will also acknowledge the ‘Brontë mythology’ and consider how that might impact upon our understanding of her work.
Half term 25 October 2023.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
We start with Jane Eyre, exploring the tension between passion and self-control in the novel, and how that is informed by Victorian psychology and competing modes of autobiography. We will consider how Brontë develops the Gothic in new, resonant ways, and touch upon the figure of the governess and attitudes to childhood. We will also explore critical responses to Bertha, the ‘madwoman in the attic’. Finally, we will compare some screen adaptations of ‘Jane Eyre’ and consider the ways in which adaptations have contributed to our perception of this novel.
We then move on to Villette, (a reworking of her earlier novel, The Professor). With this novel Brontë returns (after her Condition of England novel, Shirley) to an intense first-person exploration of the psychology of its heroine – in this instance, Lucy Snowe. Many consider this to be Brontë’s finest novel: George Eliot wrote “I am only just returned to a sense of real wonder about me, for I have just been reading Villette… There is something preternatural about its power”. Reflecting on how this most unreliable of narrators offers us insights into isolation and loneliness, we consider the novel’s depiction of melancholia in the context of the time.
Finally, we will also acknowledge the ‘Brontë mythology’ – looking at some of the ways in which Charlotte (and her siblings) have been ‘mythologised’ – and consider how that might impact upon our understanding of her work.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Have an increased understanding and appreciation of Charlotte Brontë’s narrative methods and concerns.
• Have an increased understanding and appreciation of the literary, historical and critical contexts of these novels, and how they may illuminate our understanding of them.
• Have an increased understanding of the reception and ‘afterlives’ of Charlotte Brontë’s novels.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
The course is open to all; an interest in the topic would be helpful but you do not need to have prior knowledge to participate.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The course will be taught online through close reading of textual extracts, visual slides, and class discussion.
It is recommended that you read Jane Eyre before the first class. Thereafter, it is strongly recommended that you read each text before the relevant class for maximum enjoyment. A handout of key extracts will be provided online shortly before the course starts.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
You will need to have (or buy) your own copies of Jane Eyre and Villette. You can use any edition (as a handout of key extracts for discussion will be provided for easy reference in class); the following editions are recommended: Jane Eyre (Oxford World Classics); Villette (Penguin Classics).
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
The tutor will also be teaching HLT315 'Gardens of Bliss'? Gardens and the Poetic Imagination; HLT171 Literature Taster: Shakespeare; HLT188 Shakespeare's Women: Rosalid, Ophelia, Lady Macbeth; HLT207 Wild Justice: Hamlet, Dr. Fustus, the Duchess of Malfi; HLT175 Women Writing and Walking; look up these and other courses under History, Culture and Writing/Literature at www.citylit.ac.uk.
Sophie has taught Literature, Performing Arts and Interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities for over twenty years, working for the Open University, Leeds University, and a range of Adult Learning Institutions before joining City Lit. Previously she freelanced as a theatre and opera director in community theatre and at English National Opera. She has an MA in Nineteenth Century English and American Literature, and a PhD in Early Modern Life Writing. She brings both experience and enthusiasm to her work with adult audiences.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.