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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I'm Still Around

Just wanted to let you all know that I'm not dead or anything. My recent silence has been due to a computer crash last week -- my hard drive inexplicably died (and since I'm too stupid to back up regularly, I lost a helluva lot of stuff). Although my computer has mostly been resuscitated, my modem isn't working right -- whenever I connect to the internet, after about two-and-a-half minutes it stops transferring information, so all I'm able to get is a bunch of 404 Error pages. Nothing I've tried seems able to fix this problem.

As soon as this situation is resolved (perhaps by finally biting the bullet and attempting to subscribe to Rogers high-speed), I'll be back.

My birthday's coming up in a few weeks. Hopefully it will serve to end this string of stupid bad luck I've been having.


Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 10:58 AM
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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

English 3644: Mary Shelley

The web page project is now complete and on-line.


Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 9:29 PM
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Sunday, February 06, 2005

ENGL 3622: Jane Eyre

So, I guess I'm supposed to talk about Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre now. A bildungsroman which, for all its commentary on religious hypocrisy, the cultural mores of the early Victorian/late Romantic, and proto-feminism, it reads an awful lot like bad soap opera. I think I prefer her sister's Wuthering Heights better, though I'm honestly not sure why. (In fact, Wuthering Heights was my least favourite book of all time back in high school; but a large part of this might have been the piss-poor way my teacher presented the material, and another part might have been the fact that I was a moron back then. But I digress.)

It seems I'm the first to comment on this book, which is surprising considering this is the day before class. This gives me leave to talk about pretty much anything I like. However, I'm going to forgo talking about the more superficial (I don't like using that word here, but I can't think of a better one at the moment) elements of the novel in favour of talking about the narratology. If that's actually a word.

The reason this sticks in my mind so is because I re-read this book alongside reading Castle Rackrent, by Maria Edgeworth. Now, this latter book, published in 1800, is more firmly rooted in the Romantic, and was written by an Irish author. The form of the novel was much more experimental when Edgeworth was writing, so what I'm about to say is not entirely fair. Nevertheless, I'll say it anyway: Jane Eyre, when read alongside Castle Rackrent, reads as a deeply patriarchal text.

The reason for this is the manner in which the two were written. Although the concept of a feminist narrative was (to my knowledge, at least) not yet developed, Castle Rackrent meets all the requirements; it is a narrative web that begs to be picked apart by the reader, and in order to understand the true story that exists behind the manifest narrative, the reader must navigate between the text itself, the notes and appendixes, and all the while read between the lines.

By way of contrast, Jane Eyre is highly structured and extremely linear. The main theme, that of enduring love, was pretty close to being cliche in novels even by the time Bronte wrote Jane Eyre. The most important characters are all themed after the four elements -- Jane Eyre for air, Rochester for earth, St. John Rivers for water, and Helen Burns for fire. Each of the five locations stands in for a metaphor for the stages Jane goes through in her journey to adulthood:

Gateshead: Rebelliousness, linked with the isolation and loneliness of the atmosphere.
Lowood: Continually described in terms of cold, this is where Jane learns to keep her emotions in check.
Thornfield: A place of warmth where Jane's passions are re-awakened
Moor House: Cold atmosphere again, this time accompanied by physical danger; Jane must face the threat of spiritual chill and the potential for a passionateless existence.
Ferndean: A place of reconciliation and fulfillment; the end of the journey. This location is described in terms of wholeness and comfort.

On the narrative level, this is very carefully structured with an eye for detail, but in the end entirely mundane.

Despite its patriarchal narrative method, it partially redeems itself through its manifest message of the importance of a woman standing up for herself, and by depicting a woman who is strong enough to endure hardship after hardship and win in the end. Unfortunately, this is undercut by 1) Jane's need for Rochester in order for her life to be fulfilled, and 2) the treatment of Rochester's first wife. The latter is particularly damning, given that Bronte bends over backwards in order to paint Rochester in a justified, sympathetic light (on that issue, at least); although critics have come to deeply sympathize with the madwoman in the attic, I never get the feeling from the text that this is a perspective Bronte herself would endorse.

So, what am I trying to say here? Honestly, I'm not too sure, beyond that I'm even more underwhelmed reading Jane Eyre this time around than I was last time around, thanks to its thoroughly mundane nature made all the more noticable this time around thanks to its close reading proximity with a novel decades its elder. That Bronte has talent in writing is undeniable; it just seems a shame that, for all her bravery with (some) subject matter, she couldn't push the envelope a bit further, particularly with the structure and thematic elements of her novel.


Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 3:24 PM
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