I first saw the newest adaptation of Jane Eyre at one of my favorite places, the Tampa Theatre. Recently, I checked it out here at the library and watched it again because well, I’m a sucker for period drama. But Charlotte Brontë’s classic nineteenth century novel has stood the test of time inspiring countless film and literary adaptations, along with considerable scholarly analysis and debate because it is about much more than costumes and melodramatic romance.
Some have read Jane Eyre as the first feminist novel for the title characters confrontation with Victorian era patriarchy. This is not however the universally accepted interpretation. The 1966 post-colonial novel Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys challenges the reader to question previously held assumptions. Rhys, outraged at what she perceived to be an Imperial gaze inherent in Jane Eyre, set out to give voice and agency to the silenced and imprisoned “mad lady” Bertha Mason.
Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea raise questions about gender, race, class, nationality, and ethnicity. How we interpret these texts and re-imagine them over time can provide fascinating insight into historical and contemporary understandings of relationships and differentials of power.
There is a wealth of scholarly articles which analyze these two works available through the library’s databases. Be sure to log-in to Esearch first.
I found the following article in the ProQuest database:
Ciolkowski, L. E. (1997). Navigating the wide Sargasso sea: Colonial history, English fiction, and British empire. Twentieth Century Literature, 43(3), 339-359.