Novels of Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre, Shirley & Villette
Time: 10:15 - 12:15
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HLT194
Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)
What is the course about?
This course explores Charlotte Bronte’s three major novels: Jane Eyre (1847), Shirley (1849) and Villette (1853). We will develop an appreciation of Bronte’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 ‘Bronte mythology’ and consider how that might impact upon our understanding of her work.
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 Bronte 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 Shirley, in which Bronte responds to the ‘condition of England’ novel genre, made popular by writers such as Dickens and Gaskell. We consider how this novel – it’s eclectic mode of narration, it’s politics, and even its treatment of ‘the woman question’ - may disturb and challenge our expectations of Charlotte Bronte.
We finish with Villette, (a reworking of her earlier novel, The Professor), which sees Bronte return to an intense first-person exploration of the psychology of its heroine – in this instance, Lucy Snowe. 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”. A moving representation of isolation and loneliness, we consider the novel’s depiction of melancholia in the context of the time. We also consider the ways in which metaphors of Imperialism and nationhood are embedded in the novel.
Finally, we will also acknowledge the ‘Bronte 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 Bronte’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 Bronte’s novels.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
The course is open to all; 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, short video clips and class discussion.
Please 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, Shirley 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); Shirley (Penguin Classics); Villette (Penguin Classics).
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look for other Literature 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.