Charlotte's teaching a three-week course on everyone's favorite literary sisters, the Brontes, and we're pretty thrilled to be hosting. Below's a preview of the class, and you can rest assured that you don't need to have had to read their entire ouevre to enjoy it. Details and register.
Some literature just shouldn't be taught in schools. Not because it's too racy or too incomprehensible, but because a two-week reading and a list of comprehension questions just go nowhere towards describing the historical and literary context needed to really understand and appreciate the real power of a great novel.
This is definitely the case with the Bronte sisters. If you're anything like me, you might have read Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights in school and not gotten a lot out of them. You may never even have heard of Agnes Grey, Villette, or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Yet each of these novels has something fascinating to say about the time and place in which they were written, and the people who wrote or influenced them -- as any lucky person who rereads these books in adulthood will find.
Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte themselves are in many ways more interesting than the works of literature they produced. The more you know about their lives, the more questions you long to ask.
How could meek, sheltered clergyman's daughters from the far north of England produce intense, morally ambivalent characters like Heathcliff and Mr. Rochester? The sisters each have a great deal to say on the rights and desires of women, but what do their writings on that subject mean, and can they really be considered feminists? If the sisters were intensely religious, as their writings show, then where does the thread of religious skepticism running through their books come from?
This class attempts both to answer those questions and to show what we can learn about our past and ourselves from reading old books. We'll touch on historiography, 19th century literary history, the Luddite and Chartist revolts, Victorian morals and manners, the role of single women in society, and much more. There's no need to have read any of the sisters' novels beforehand, but I certainly hope you'll want to pick them up afterwards.