“Reader, I mirrored him”: the recasting of romance tropes in Jane Eyre fanfiction

Dr Lucy Sheerman
Session 7.3: 19th century legacies


Representatives of Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre have proliferated since its publication. Within three months a play had been staged and at least eight plays had bee performed by 1900. From 1910 onwards the story was also re-cast for film. Eight silent and fifteen feature film versions of the novel have been produced, each one offering distinct depictions of key scenes. Meanwhile fan fiction responses have created entirely new rooms, scenes and landscapes which further expanded the imagined space fo this iconic work.

In [her paper, Sheerman] will consider how film versions of Jane Eyre have influenced recent fan fiction. Two of the most popular scenes recast by fan fiction authors are the first view of the here – Jane Eyre‘s dramatic first encounter with Rochester as he plummets from his horse in a literal figuring of the coup de foudre – and the story’s ‘Happy Ever After’ scene in which the hero and heroine achieve romantic union and resolution of the various obstacles faced during the novel. These key scenes in Jane Eyre have fundamentally shaped the imagined territories of the romance novel.

Many fan fictions are directly inspired by cinema, by the desire to pair specific actors within the Jane Eyre storyline, and by the ability to assort individual preoccupations and fantasies onto the narrative. In a complex interplay between author and reader, actor and character, heroine and hero, fan and star, these versions subvert the authority of Charlotte Bronte’s vision even while they remain in thrall to it.

Presentation notes:

Jane Eyre has been in print continuously since first publication in 1847

  • 14 silent and 20 spoken film versions, plus made for tv productions
  • Thousands of fan fictions

Originally viewed as melodrama for Victorian women

Later viewed as independence for women

Mirrored stories of Jane / Bertha

Meanings are unstable

Most films:

  • reduce or remove school scenes
  • reduce Rivers cousins roles
  • remove proposal by St John Rivers
  • Reduce story to love triangle with the other woman

The different film & tv depictions have an impact on how it is used in fan fiction

  • James Eyre slash is based on Fassbender / pairing (from cast)
  • Focus is on the social dynamic
  • Byronic / Radcliffe origins of Rochester
  • Blur with greater Bronte fandom, mix with Heathcliff to get a much darker reading of Rochester

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