Clare Boyland, author of Emma Brown– a novel based on Charlotte Bronte’s Emma– has died of cancer.
This might explain a few things about the education system in Canada, and the lack of Bronte-appreciation:
The first area of expertise was very specific: theatre lighting. While this in itself did not seem very strange to me, the fact that he was teaching me English literature did. It turns out, the reason that he was teaching outside his element is because he doesn’t actually have an element anymore: Apparently there have been many recent advancements in the area of lighting technology, and as a result my professor’s knowledge and skill have become completely obsolete. That’s right, he has joined the ranks of horse-drawn carriages, video cassettes, and cell phones with no camera feature! And just as jamming a cassette into a DVD player because you’re too cheap to update your technology doesn’t work, this man was not successful in his English-teaching endeavor. We would be talking about 19th Century literature, and then he would suddenly go off on some abstract tangent and start talking about the weather (that’s an actual example, I didn’t just make it up). One time he played a Rolling Stones song during a lecture because he claimed it had enormous relevance to what we were doing, although he never did manage to adequately explain the connection between rock music and Jane Eyre.
Well, actually there is a rock band called ‘Jane Eyre’ but somehow I don’t think that’s what he was getting at… Hmn. This could be why some of my professors are so fond of tangents… I had a philosophy teacher for one of my early literature courses. “Just read the damn thing! [Paradise Lost]” and “this isn’t a satanic mass, you know! Honest!” and “Grendel eats people because Grendel is Grendel!” (fabulous bit of insight there), and lastly he demanded that all 130 of us ‘howl’ at him; we did not. The poor man. He was teaching English lit from Caedmon to the Enlightenment when he violently detested anything written before the 20th century and… wasn’t an English professor.
Polly Teale’s Jane Eyre is reviewed again here. I haven’t seen the production but the reviews are having the effect of disappointing me. This one is a little strange. Why does the critic not seem concerned that an actor is playing Pilot? And that this actor also plays Mr Brocklehurst? I had heard, in other reviews that the doubling is actually Pilot and St.John Rivers. The production is hailed as ‘one of the most searching stage adaptations’ the critic has ever seen. Well, I guess so… And here’s another review. It sounds a bit like they are taking the approach that Jane is neurotic from repressing her emotions- which of course she does a lot in the novel…
Myriam Acharki’s Bertha occasionally emerges to tug at the skirts or to wrap herself round the body of Monica Dolan’s Jane, but mostly she’s stuck in her jagged eyrie, writhing and wailing, screeching and banging at moments of special emotion. But this doesn’t mean that Dolan herself must become totally mask-like when her innards are smouldering in the presence of James Clyde’s wild, raffish Rochester. Her cheeks twitch, her eyes pucker and squint, her hands nervously scratch at her face or knead each other. Again and again you see the stress of a woman who has, in effect, locked fierce and fiery passions in her personal attic to survive.
Does Teale somewhat labour the point? Well, there were moments of such emotional pressure that both Bertha and Jane looked as if they themselves might go into labour. But that would be a serious objection only if the result were to sully or distort the narrative. As it is, the Shared Experience style — pacy, informal, inventive, physically expressive — keeps you gripped by what’s still Jane Eyre.
The American premiere of Michael Berkeley’s opera ‘Jane Eyre’ for this summer.
It seems that every time Jane Eyre: The Musical is produced it is a ‘premiere’ this time, the Baltimore-Area premiere!
The South African production of Wuthering Heights is reviewed here.
Wuthering Heights is also rather strangely drawn into a religious debate over The Da Vinci Code, of all things. The argument boils down to this: that the idea of unbounded secular love was once (in the 12th century) a greater threat to Christianity than the idea that Christ was not divine, and that ‘today, few Christians will be found violently protesting the idea of secular love, even of the passionate, all-consuming, defiant (of heaven or hell) variety, although many of them will still be found violently protesting that kind of love between people of the same sex.’ […] ‘But Christianity and “Wuthering Heights” are no longer oil and water, vampire and crucifix. They are, well, lovers.’