Why do we read Jane Eyre?
Because we are still interested in the issues raised in her story:
Patriarchy, morality, anger, justice, religion. The need to be loved versus the need to do the right thing for oneself, whatever that right thing is seen to be. The need to create legislature that is inclusive ― and to repeal that which is not. The thin wavering line between who I am and who you are. The limits of our abilities to accept the limits of the society we need if we do not fit easily into it or if there is no place for us.
In addition to these issues, we read it for its impassioned, if at times graceless, prose, its wish for transcendence, its parallel to earlier moral works ― its incorporation of several literary traditions:
The Gothic in form
The Bildungsroman in intent ― or in consequence.
The Romantic in sentiment.
The Religious in import.
We read it for its life-affirming passionate intensity, for the way in which fiction addresses fact, for the imaginative wedding of the four traditions above. We read it for its well-formed plot ― for its engagement with its reader ― that factor I called ‘a terrific story.’ We read it for its influence on later literature and for its manifestation of the literature that came before it and, conversely, its reliance on a tradition of prose and poetry that we too examine from our difference stance ― our own little brief span on the planet. We read it for its profound characterization whether we think these characters are themselves profound or not ― and whether we like them or not. We read it for its connection to other writers....
...How do we approach this book ― what do we respectfully bring?
We do not bring an untrained mind. We do not bring inexperience to bear on art. We bring our best perceptions cultivated by the widest knowledge we can glean about the writer’s world, her literary history, his personal history. But more importantly, we bring appreciative intelligence ― not the wish to destroy but the wish to evaluate meaning, find significance ― moral , political, aesthetic, feminist, historical, cultural. We bring an informed consciousness.
We inhabit the imaginative and literary world of the writer. Not just this specific writer, but the writerly mind ― the impetus, the act. We bring a knowledge of what the best minds have brought to bear on this work ― particularly the aesthetically gifted, the literarily endowed, the beautifully educated, the clerisy, you.
We read it from within.
~Harrison Solow, from Felicity & Barbara Pym - http://felicityandbarbarapym.wordpress.com/about/ Taken from a lecture I gave to my undergraduate students at Trinity Saint David university in the UK and incorporated into my epistolary novel, this excerpt is edited - several passages between some paragraphs have been eliminated for this post.
Causes Harrison Solow Supports
Lupus Foundation of America
Museum of Tolerance