I distinctly remember the moment a certain Zurich literature professor made the following claim to a full classroom: “You are not here because you love to read. You shouldn’t be here because you love to read.” Said professor then went on a rant about how a literature student’s job is to pick apart a text’s symbolism and theorize it into oblivion.
Well, my reason for studying literature is exactly that: I love to read. I love the process of treading through the first few pages, unsure of what lies ahead, and then of growing fonder of the story in my mind with every page I turn. I consider myself lucky that I haven’t lost the ability to lose myself in a book, to read without dissecting, and if that makes me a bad literature student, I really couldn’t care less! 😀 Comfortingly enough, there’s at least one literary genius on our curriculum who agrees: None other than Oscar Wilde once claimed that it is “better to take pleasure in a rose than to put its root under a microscope.”
One of the books that had a really profound impact on me during my studies is Currer Bell aka Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre”. I had read a simplified Penguin version in my teens that intrigued me, but I never picked up the original novel until I had to read it for my literature history lectures. This was a time particularly full of abundantly twisted and complicated theory text assignments in several of my other classes, so I relished reading an actual story even more. And what a story it is! There is so much to say about this book that a proper review would probably amount to the equivalent of a Masters’ thesis, so for the purpose of this mini-review it shall suffice to say that the rich mixture of genres and the uniquely captivating heroine make it an incredible treat for me to read, again and again. It is one of the “boring classics”, one of the BBC’s slew of important British works turned into movies time and time again, but its merit is not merely based on its academic importance, and its core concerns aren’t really outdated at all. Jane Eyre might be an old-fashioned main character, but she never loses sight of herself and the values she truly believes in. In a society where thousands of women identify with a literary “heroine” whose prime incentive in life it is to be desirable for her dominant stalker boyfriend (I’m looking at you, Bella Swan!), a bit of good old Jane should go down a treat!
With that in mind I am off to the cinema to see the latest film adaptation. It’s unlikely to be bad (considering it has Dame Judy Dench and Mia Wasikowska), but just in case it is, it’s comforting to know that the “real” Jane will be only a turn of a page away. She might be “poor, obscure, plain and little”, but her character is one of the most remarkable I have encountered in my literary endeavours so far!