This blog stems from an idea I've had for a few years, and just never got around to doing before now. It combines my love of Charlotte Bronte's 1847 novel Jane Eyre with my love for cinema and period dramas, especially period dramas based on nineteenth-century British novels. I've read quite a few novels and I've seen quite a few period dramas. The 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility changed my life. I was fifteen years old and it was my introduction to Austen. My life was never the same, and my love affair with Brit Lit and costume dramas had begun (I've since joined a Facebook group called "Jane Austen Gave Me Unrealistic Expectations of Love). The following year I read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. My teen angst preferred Wuthering Heights, but it's Jane who has consistently spoken to me over the years. I read Jane Eyre again in college and yet again in grad school, and each time it's given me something new and I've found new reasons to love it. As my love for nineteenth-century fiction has grown over the years, so has the number of film adaptations I've seen.
This particular project came into my head when I rewatched the 1940 adaptation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. I had seen it and loved it in high school, but recently was struck by just how deliberately different it was from the novel (the shift from the early to mid-nineteenth century and its very poofy skirts the least of the differences). I began to think about why this worked in a film in 1940 and how subsequent adaptations had fit with their time, how the values of novels, especially classic, beloved novels are reinterpreted and re-appropriated for different generations of readers and viewers. This isn't a particularly striking revelation, and the same can be said for literary criticism, theater, and a whole host of genres and media.
So why Jane Eyre? Well, Pride and Prejudice has certainly had a glut of film interpretations and reimaginings in recent years, and some of them have been a lot of fun. However, a quick IMDB search reveals that over the past century there have been far more adaptations of Jane Eyre, starting a lot earlier. Twenty-two in fact, including two in 1910! There has been a Jane Eyre musical, and literary responses like Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea (and Jasper Fforde's fun and surreal The Eyre Affair), and now a new film version is coming out this week. 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. In this blog I will be exploring all of these adaptations, but most especially the films. I have no illusions that all of these movies will be available, but I'm sure going to try! At the same time, I'll be rereading the novel and blogging about it as I go along.
I hope this blog will be a fun environment for anyone interested in period drama or Brit Lit. Please respond, subscribe, contribute, and suggest! I'd especially love leads to information about hard-to-find films or little-known adaptations. Welcome, and enjoy!