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Why I Am Obsessed with Jane Eyre

For the past year I’ve been immersed in a full-time study of Jane Eyre, re-reading the novel, perusing critical scholarly essays from NYU’s databases, comparing at least six film versions to one another and to the novel, and, of course, painting scenes (70 so far and counting; they are posted at

If someone were to ask why I’m obsessed with Jane Eyre, I would reply:

In my reading of the novel, and many critical essays on it, I’ve encountered such topics as Platonism and the Aristotelian application of rhetoric in JE, Eugene Delacroix’s and Queen Victoria’s attested passion for the novel (which prompts me to learn more about them), Malthusian economics, Calvinism, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, paganism, Greek and Roman mythology,  Northern English mythology and European fairy tales, superstition, racism, sexism, Victorian medical and gender issues (both male and female–for example, how the onset of industrialization changed the notion of male sexuality), proto-feminist politics, history, literature (allusions to Swift, Richardson, Milton, Bunyan, Byron, Wordsworth, Samuel Johnson, etc.); painting and sculpture, phrenology and physiognomy, the education and rearing of children, men’s and women’s fashions, the rooms of stately homes (drawing room, library, dining room, gallery, boudoir, bedchamber, billiard room, salon…); and objets d’art (girandoles, Parian marble fireplace, Bohemian glass…), post-chaises and open carriages; horses and dogs, stiles and wickets, chestnut trees and pollard willows, negus and Madeira, surtouts and pelisses, billiards and charades for indoors, battledore and shuttlecock outside. Not to mention the fact that the novel grants an excellent education in language, diction, and narrative style.

Studying this great text has immersed me in a first-rate education on countless major and minor (and often unexpected) subjects. It is an example of how being educated to think and query in the first place affords the invaluable option to be an autodidact for life. This is why Jane Eyre is, for me, an indispensable text. Needless to say, it is also a superb and thrilling story told in superb and thrilling language; a treasury not only for Romantic introverts, but for any intellectual beachcomber who wishes to gather and treasure a largesse of ideas that surpasses the most fascinating and priceless shells thrown onto the shore from the sea.

Categories: Books, General, Jane Eyre

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