Critical attitudes in the last thirty years

New approaches

Over the last thirty years, a number of new ways of approaching literary texts have emerged and have affected criticism of Jane Eyre no less than any other literary work:

  • There has been a new interest in literary sub-genres, including detective stories, science fiction, supernatural fiction and Gothic fiction and sensation fiction: Jane Eyre is certainly indebted both to the supernatural and to Gothic fiction and anticipates some features of sensation fiction
  • A specifically feminine and feminist literary history and literary criticism has developed which has sought to identify establish new strands in literary tradition and new viewpoints from which to discuss literature; this has led to a new concentration on women characters, both major and minor
  • Psychoanalytic criticism reads texts in terms of how they relate to the author's experience, or the relationship between the text and the reader, or the behaviour of individual characters
  • The development of formalist criticism has led to an interest in how fictional narratives behave, particularly in cases where first-person, unreliable or multiple narrative voices are used
  • Post-colonial criticism re-evaluates the ways in which the colonial experience has been represented in the writings of authors belonging to the colonising nations and sets out to emphasise different aspects of that experience
  • A concentration on the publication, distribution and reception of literary texts has added to our understanding ofhow such matters may affect both the form and content of works of literature
  • New historicist criticism has turned its attention to the ways in which the shape and meaning of texts in all genres may be determined by contemporary social, cultural and political concerns.

The novel and literary sub-genres

Charlotte Brontë adapts to her own purposes certain conventions drawn from the Gothic novel, the supernatural and fairy stories. These are discussed in the Literary context section.

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