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JANE EYRE and Mental Illness

Jane Eyre graphic for FBOur second article comes from Stacey Kuster, who plays Bertha. Since her character is mentally ill, and that illness is pivotal to the plot, Stacey has researched how the mentally ill were treated in Victorian England.


Mental Illness in Victorian England by Stacey Kuster

18th century insane
treatment of insane in 18th century

Before the mid-1800s it was the common belief that people with mental illnesses were tainted by the devil. Patients were treated poorly, most lived in unsanitary conditions–often caged—and received minimal food (which might be rancid). Mentally-ill patients were treated like animals by their caretakers and facilitators, many of whom believed that this was all they deserved. Women could find themselves labeled insane and locked up in madhouses for a range of conditions – from postnatal depression to alcoholism or senile dementia, and even for social transgressions such as infidelity (‘moral insanity’).

In the Victorian era, there was a shift in attitude towards mental illness. People in general began to realize the importance of paying attention to the conditions of mental institutions. Compared with the early asylums–rough, brutal places where the most disturbed patients were chained in windowless rooms with straw bedding–the mid-Victorian era was positively progressive. Theories that still hold today, such as the value of occupational therapy, were becoming fashionable. At this time, there was a shift away from the idea of control from without (via chains and shackles) and towards control from within, via treatment or cure.

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JANE EYRE and Gothic literature

Jane Eyre graphic for FBOur first research article explores Gothic literature as a genre and asks whether  fits the definition of this category.  Molly Steffen, a English teacher at Blackhawk Christian School, contributed this article. She plays Amy Eshton and Diana Rivers.


The Gothic Novel and Jane Eyre by Molly Steffen

Gothic house

The term “gothic” as it applies to literature was first used by Horace Walpole for his novel The Castle of Otranto in 1764. According to John Mullan (1), it seems as if he intended the term to mean “something like ‘barbarous’, as well as ‘deriving from the Middle Ages’ ”. Over time, the genre of the gothic novel has come to signify certain characteristics, several of which appear in the novel Jane Eyre.

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Presenting JANE EYRE

Four years ago all for One staged Jane Austen's Emma, a literary classic. For the first time, our cast members actively participated in the research process, and the result was so much valuable material that afO created a blog site,…

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