It does seem that everywhere we look authors are either discussing, rewriting, or filming versions of the classics we read in school. Today I teach those classics and am amazed by the foot dragging that goes along with these reading assignments! You would think that although old, that students would want to be part of the dialogue and to know more about some of these famous works. Right? Wrong. They are pretty hesitant to read classics on their own, and unless the reading "type," even less likely to admit to liking a classic to their classmates unless they feel like they really got it. Sometimes, this is actually where a well-made film adaptation or modernization can at least help my students to understand what they've read--after they've read it.
The Bronte sisters seem to be entering into our current craze for remakes and adaptations of famous classics. As one example of the buzz surrounding Jane Eyre, it's hard to miss the new YA novel Jane, by April Lindner, that is all the talk on the web. Bloggers seem to scrambling to get their hands on this modernization of Bronte's famously tormented governess, now working for a rock star. I'll admit that I have my own copy on hold at my local library, and I am anxiously waiting to get my hands on it to give it a go. Jane Austen seems to now have company in the book and movie field, adding to our love of period pieces and classical literature that we love to read and watch. Maybe my students would enjoy this more? Yes, I'm sure they would, but they really need to read the original to get the comparison!
To add a little more depth to this conversation, I noticed this past week that Meg Cabot posted on her Twitter page a query about Jane Eyre vs. Wuthering Heights readers/fans. Supposedly, this was all spurred on by an article in the Guardian titled, "How the Bronte's Divide Humanity." Considering the title, it is an obvious argument between readers who enjoy the Heathcliff & Cathy drama, versus those who lean more towards the Mr. Rochester and Jane tale. According to the article, her theory states:
...everyone who's read both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights is passionately devoted to one book but nose-holdingly repelled by the other. If you want to be particularly contentious, you can divide those who satisfy the basic entry criteria into two types – those drawn to demure, bookish Miss Eyre and those for whom the pyrotechnical hanky-panky between Cathy Earnshaw and black-browed Heathcliff is paramount – and call them Librarians and Rock Stars.As for myself, I suppose I'm a librarian, since I am much more drawn to "demure" Miss Eyre over maniacal Cathy of Wuthering Heights (which I had to read FIVE times as an undergrad English major). I'll admit to being drawn to the quasi-happy ending of Jane Eyre, while being disturbed by the cruelty between the "lovers" in Wuthering Heights. I suppose I needed Heathcliff and Cathy though, to shake some of my romantic immaturity away with their cruel jabs at one another!
Regardless of your own leanings, the Bronte's have left a definite impression on readers that continues to spark discussions today. Spin offs, modernizations, and remakes will likely continue as long as their stories are pertinent and connect to us in some way. For my own part, I'll definitely be trekking off to see this newest film in the spring, and probably offering my AP students some extra credit for viewing it as well. (Won't they be happy campers!?!)
What do you think? Are you a Cathy or a Jane Eyre fan, and will you be going to see this newest version of the film?