Susan Weisser

Aug 27, 2020

Susan Weisser on Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre"

Great Books Series

New Books Network 2020

Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel Jane Eyre is one of the great love stories of all time, but it's also the story of a woman who speaks her truth even when this means risking everything she wants. Jane, an orphan raised in a cruel family and struggling to survive in a world where poor women have few chances, falls in love with dashing and mysterious Mr. Rochester, the owner of the estate where she finds a job. A secret in his part forces Jane to chose between compromising her integrity or giving up on him, until dramatic circumstances and her courageous choices change her fate. Do we have to give up autonomy and freedom when we fall in love? Jane Eyre provides the cultural script we still follow today, in every rom-com movie, reality dating show and also high-brow novels that explore the vagaries of our hearts. I spoke with Professor Susan Ostrov Weisser, an expert not only on Jane Eyre but also on this cultural script of romance for women, where a young girl's life goal is supposed to become both independent yet also attached to a man. I asked her whether falling in love means giving up one's freedom, how to make sense of the "madwoman in the attic," to whom novelist Jean Rhys famously gave voice in her book, Wide Sargasso Sea, and whether Jane Eyre is really a feminist book. Has the script changed by now?

Susan Ostrov Weisser is Professor of English at Adelphi University and the author of: The Glass Slipper: Women and Love Stories Rutgers U. Press (20130; Women and Romance (ed.), New York University Press (2001); A Craving Vacancy: Women and Sexual Love in the British Novel, 1740-1880 (1997); and with co-editor Jennifer Fleischner, Feminist Nightmares: Women At Odds (1994).

Uli Baer teaches literature and photography as University Professor at New York University. A recipient of Guggenheim, Getty and Humboldt awards, in addition to hosting "Speaking of…” he hosts (with Caroline Weber) the podcast "The Proust Questionnaire” and is Editorial Director at Warbler Press. Email ucb1@nyu.edu; Twitter @UliBaer.

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Uli Baer

Uli Baer teaches literature and photography as University Professor at New York University. A recipient of Guggenheim, Getty and Humboldt awards, in addition to hosting "Speaking of…” he hosts (with Caroline Weber) the podcast "The Proust Questionnaire” and is Editorial Director at Warbler Press. Email ucb1@nyu.edu; Twitter @UliBaer.

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