Monday, 30 June 2008

Jane Eyre: text, context, urtext

A Call for Papers from Elise Ouvrard:

For more than 160 years, Jane Eyre has been the object of all sorts of readings, critiques and sequels. When it appeared in 1847, the novel enjoyed incredible success: Jane Eyre, an Autobiography was widely read, but its plot and heroine were also accessible through the first critical interpretations or the numerous plays that were adapted from the novel as early as 1848. Known at first or second hand ever since its publication, Jane Eyre nowadays belongs to the category of books that one can discuss without having ever read them. Yet, to Brontë scholars and enthusiasts, appreciating the plot without having a taste of Charlotte Brontë’s style seems impossible, claiming a clear understanding of the novel without resituating it in its context seems absurd, just as it feels pointless to try to appraise the talent of Charlotte Brontë’s literary descendants without having been carried away by her own genius. This special issue of LISA e-journal, to be published in the first quarter of 2009, intends to reexamine Jane Eyre, its context, its text and its scope as an urtext, in order to exploit the full richness of the novel and to allow the readers to become immersed once more in this major text of nineteenth-century British literature।

Returning to sources, with such a novel as Jane Eyre, means first of all exploring what surrounded its creation. Victorian England, Yorkshire, Haworth or the parsonage may all be apprehended as fundamental to the novel, and examining their importance may lead to a better understanding of the thematic background of the text. Other elements in the genesis of the novel equally deserve our attention: the collective reading at the parsonage, allowing each sister to use the other two as touchstones to test the quality of her writing, Charlotte Brontë’s involvement in the publication of the three sisters’ works, or the energy she spent writing Jane Eyre in only a few months, while her first novel wound its way from publisher to publisher and kept being rejected. The context sheds a precious light on the novel and also functions as a background against which the originality and timelessness of Jane Eyre may be traced.
The text itself, because of its uniqueness and also the way it merges History with its story, has been the object of many readings, from feminist to Marxist, from psychoanalytical to structuralist, and so on। It is true that the novel is very fertile ground for critical discourse and offers an invitation to react, to comment or to decipher. The fields of investigation are as wide as the text itself, wider even, if one considers the importance of intertextuality (Bunyan, fairytales…) and of all the other art forms that punctuate the text (like painting or folklore), incessantly enabling it to transcend itself.

Reexamining Jane Eyre also means reading its sequels and rewritings, considering Charlotte Brontë’s text as an urtext, an original text founding an artistic continuation. New connections may then be discovered between Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea. The notion of quotation in works published afterwards may be of interest in a context of dissemination of Jane Eyre, as well as a study of adaptations for stage, screen or television, or of the illustrated versions of the novel that have been released so far.

Please send your proposals (20 to 50 lines), along with a short bio-bibliographical note, to Elise Ouvrard ( or Charlotte Borie ( before 30 September 2008 (the deadline for completed articles is 30 November 2008). Please follow the norms for presentation indicated on the LISA e-journal website

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