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Jane Eyre

Do you have skeletons in your attic?

You can't get much more romantic than Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre: poor, unloved, and unattractive orphan uses her awesome personality to win over a wealthy sort-of-aristocrat and live happily ever after. Oh, and by "awesome personality" we mean "blunt-and-somewhat-annoyingly-obsessed-with-duty personality." And let's not forget to mention that the sort-of-aristocrat is (1) mean, (2) ugly, and (3)...well, we don't want to spoil anything, but needless to say, he's no Ryan Gosling.

What we are saying is that Jane Eyre isn't exactly the harlequin romance novel that a DVD cover like this might suggest. But don't worry: it's still a crowdpleaser. Madness, disability, missionaries, and a tasty sprinkle of the Gothic make Jane Eyre a pretty compelling read for a book that was published in the wayback days of 1847.

The activities and readings in this course will help you

  • understand what made Jane Eyre so shocking when it was published and what makes it still so popular today.
  • see Jane as an unconventional heroine who's also the model for generations of subsequent heroines.
  • define Bildungsroman (gesundheit) and discuss Jane Eyre as an example of the genre.
  • point to elements of the Gothic and sublime in Jane Eyre.
  • develop arguments about major issues such as colonialism, gender, education, and spiritual equality.

Course Breakdown

Unit 1. Jane Eyre

This 15-lesson unit will give you all the Gothic goodness you could ever want. That, along with a mean and ugly romantic lead? Yeah, this should be an adventure.

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 5: School's In Forever

Zombies aside, Jane Eyre is a novel of development—and you can't develop if you never leave home. (Cue not-so-subtle critique of the way women were supposed to stay at home all their lives.)

Jane stays at Lowood for eight years. Let's look at why she leaves:

And now I felt that it was not enough; I tired of the routine of eight years in one afternoon. I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing. I abandoned it and framed a humbler supplication; for change, stimulus: that petition, too, seemed swept off into vague space: "Then," I cried, half desperate, "grant me at least a new servitude!"


"A new servitude! There is something in that," I soliloquised (mentally, be it understood; I did not talk aloud), "I know there is, because it does not sound too sweet; it is not like such words as Liberty, Excitement, Enjoyment: delightful sounds truly; but no more than sounds for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is mere waste of time to listen to them. But Servitude! That must be matter of fact. Any one may serve: I have served here eight years; now all I want is to serve elsewhere. Can I not get so much of my own will?"
Nice cage, Jane.

Servitude is right. Being a governess might sound kind of sexy in the 21st century—all Downton Abbey and BBC adaptations—but it was a miserable life for most women.

Not so for Jane. Thornfield isn't exactly Windsor Castle (and it does have a super creepy servant), but her pupil is docile, the housekeeper is friendly, and the master is never home...until they meet cute (or meet kind-of-freaky-and-supernatural) one night on the moor.

The funny thing is, Jane can't seem to decide what independence means to her. She claims that she wants a "new servitude," she says that she's not afraid to touch a horse when she's "told to do it," and she often refers to her "subordinate" position in the household. At the same time, she's not about to let him boss her around just because he's paying her salary. She even tells him that she thinks he's ugly—even though she's falling for him.

Dependent servant, rich autocratic master? If you ask us, the wrong kind of sparks are flying.

  • Course Length: 3 weeks
  • Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12
  • Course Type: Short Course
  • Category:
    • English
    • Literature
    • High School

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