Date of Graduation

5-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Lissette Szwydky

Committee Member

Vivian Davis

Second Committee Member

Sean Dempsey

Keywords

Language, literature and linguistics; Social sciences; Communication and the arts; Femininism; Intersectionality; Jane eyre; Literary adaptations

Abstract

During the almost 170 years since Jane Eyre was published, there have been numerous adaptations in many different mediums and genres, such as plays, films, musicals, graphic novels, spin-off novels, and parodies. The novel has been read in many different critical traditions: liberal humanist, historicist, feminist, and postcolonial approaches dealing with topics such as the problem of female authorship and consciousness. In addition, it has been read in terms of an ideological struggle based on race, class, and gender; xenophobia and imperialism; female labor politics; and genre issues, to just name a few. As literary critics have explored numerous themes in the text, so too have playwrights and film directors chosen specific parts of the narrative to emphasize in their productions, illustrating how concepts of intersectionality, or the study of the intersections between forms of oppression, have been used long before the term was coined in the 1980s. My thesis is devoted to the exploration of a series of adaptations of this novel since its publication. I begin by discussing the novel and the role intersectionality has played in a variety of scholarly interpretations of this work. Next, I consider three stage adaptations from the nineteenth century: John Courtney's Jane Eyre or The Secrets of Thornfield Manor (1848), John Brougham's Jane Eyre (1849), and Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer's Jane Eyre or The Orphan of Lowood (1870). Finally, I analyze three different film adaptations of this narrative, including movies directed by Robert Stevenson (1943), Delbert Mann (1970), and Franco Zeffirelli (1996) to provide a broad spectrum of this story as a part of film history from World War II through the end of the twentieth century. Nineteenth-century dramatists neglected the feminist plots; twentieth-century film directors chose to highlight different aspects of the romantic relationship between Jane and Rochester. I argue that the adaptations highlight the concepts of intersectionality that scholars have brought to their readings of the novel.