University academics celebrate the work of Charlotte Brontë

Posted on 13th September 2017

The work of Charlotte Brontë has been celebrated by two lecturers at the University of Chester. Charlotte Brontë, Legacies and afterlives, a new book, has been co-edited by Deborah Wynne, Professor of 19th Century Literature in the English Department at the University.

Dr Simon Grennan and Professor Deborah Wynne
Dr Simon Grennan and Professor Deborah Wynne

The front cover is also a University of Chester production, having been designed by Dr Simon Grennan, Research Fellow in the Department of Art and Design.

This volume of essays has been compiled as a response to Charlotte Brontë’s bicentenary and offers a timely reflection on the persistent fascination of Brontë's life and work. The essays cover the period from her first publication in 1847 to the 21st century, and explain why her work has endured in so many different forms and contexts. Charlotte Brontë, Legacies and afterlives analyses the intriguing afterlives of characters such as Jane Eyre and Rochester in neo-Victorian fiction, cinema, television, radio, the stage and, more recently, on the web. From obituaries to vlogs, from stage to screen, from novels to erotic makeovers, it takes a fresh look at 150 years of engagement with one of the best-loved novelists of the Victorian period.

A further University of Chester connection is that one of the chapters has been written by Dr Louisa Yates, Director of Research and Collections at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden and a Visiting Lecturer in English at the University of Chester. Dr Yates is also an alumna of the University, having studied for her PhD at the institution.

Professor Wynne said: “The impulse motivating the current volume of essays stems from the question of why Charlotte Brontë’s work continues to be so widely read. We are also asking why her characters have endured in so many different forms and cultural contexts. Visitors come from all around the world to visit the Brontë Parsonage Museum and it is clear that ‘Charlotte Brontë’ is a cultural phenomenon which continues to evolve, as do her literary legacies.

“The book’s contributors come from many universities and we bring the story of Charlotte’s afterlife and legacy up to 2017. The chapters cover topics such as literary tourism and Haworth Parsonage (the former Brontë family home, which is now a museum); her connections with Brussels; her influence on feminist writers; film adaptations of Jane Eyre; fan fiction; theatre and radio adaptations; and 20th and 21st century books which are inspired by, and reimagine, her work.”

Dr Amber Regis, a Lecturer in English at the University of Sheffield and the book’s co-editor, added: “Charlotte Brontë: Legacies and Afterlives engages with current interests in Victorian afterlives with the aim of demonstrating the richness, variety and complexity of Brontë’s cultural impact. Her bicentenary in 2016 has offered our contributors an occasion to reflect on Charlotte Brontë’s achievements. The most well known and well regarded of the three sisters during the Victorian period, Charlotte Brontë bequeathed a legacy which is more extensive and more complex than the legacies of Emily and Anne, and the book tries to do justice to this.”

Dr Simon Grennan said: “It’s unusual to be able to draw a complete new cover illustration for an academic book and Charlotte Brontë, Legacies and afterlives has proved a fantastic opportunity. For almost 200 years, Brontë’s writing has generated whole genres of visual imagery, which continue to fascinate readers and provide some of the foundational images in the culture.”

Engagingly written and illustrated, the book is designed to appeal to both scholars and general readers.

Charlotte Brontë, Legacies and afterlives, edited by Amber K. Regis and Deborah Wynne, is published by the Manchester University Press. For more information, and to order a copy, go to: www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9781784992460/