March/April Issue: The Victorian Age in Literature

March/April Issue: The Victorian Age in Literature

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Novel Illustration: An Educational Approach to Jane Eyre

“Where did you get your copies?”
“Out of my head.”
“That head I see now on your shoulders?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Has it other furniture of the same kind within?”
“I should think it may have: I should hope—better.”
He spread the pictures before him, and again surveyed them alternately.
Jane Eyre

In this memorable early scene, Mr. Edward Rochester examines the artistic portfolio of his governess, the eponymous heroine of Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, Jane Eyre.  Rochester categorizes the content of the portfolio as “for a school-girl, peculiar”—an evaluation with which readers concur. The paintings are so peculiar, in fact, that many readers, including my students, consider the ekphrastic lapse a cue to skim rather than read deeply for a few paragraphs.

This would be a mistake. In fact, this is a critical passage for close-reading, providing insights into the character of the heroine and the central tensions of the novel. It also provides an opportunity for readers to consider the place and pedagogical virtue of visual art in depicting a fictional world.

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2024-03-08T16:54:47-06:00

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About the Author:

Joseph Pearce is a Catholic author and biographer who has written about subjects as various as GK Chesterton, economics, and Shakespeare.

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