Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë’s first masterpiece, is one of the most popular of all the great 19th century English novels. Her other masterpieces, Villette, Shirley, and The Professor are comparatively unknown.


In this intensive day seminar you will meet the Charlotte Bronte we rarely see. You will read passages you have never read before, hear about the Brontë myth, and the way Charlotte Brontë became a literary celebrity. You will consider her work’s roots in Gothic fantasy, its long-lasting influence on subsequent fiction, and its appropriation by 20th century feminists.


The core of the course, though, will consist of analysis – in which you will be encouraged to participate – of some of the novels’ pivotal passages, such as the hallucinatory scenes in Villette when the heroine’s rigid self-control breaks down and Brontë’s prose takes off into forms as vivid and strange as any latter-day experimentalist’s. For those who already know Brontë’s works, this course provides an opportunity to explore how she achieves her extraordinary effects. Those coming to them new will be introduced to an oeuvre in which the revolutionary and the romantic are thrillingly combined.


Further Reading:

Villette, ed. Helen Cooper (Penguin)

Villette, introduction by Lucy Hughes-Hallett (Everyman)

The Professor, ed. Heather Glen (Penguin)

Shirley, ed. Lucasta Miller (Penguin)

Elizabeth Gaskell, Life of Charlotte Bronte, ed. Elisabeth Jay (Penguin)

Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic (Yale)

Charlotte Bronte: A Passionate Life, by Lyndall Gordon (Little Brown)


The Telegraph/How To Academy seminars, in association with Waterstones and Penguin Classics, celebrate the art of reading and the craft of criticism. In this unique series, we ask authors to stand before a page rather than a podium, to share a private passion rather than give a public performance – and we ask readers to roll up their sleeves and participate. In the course of a day, or a weekend, you will be guided in small groups through the historical and biographical context of the work and shown how to unlock its meanings, release its power, and absorb the quality of its strangeness. These intimate events will take place in a private room in the congenial surroundings of Waterstone’s Piccadilly, in central London.