Welcome to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and On Eyre Episode 1!
Hello everyone and welcome to the Jane Eyre Read-Along!
A quick side note--I picked up the word “read-along” from an Instagram reading event last year, and I want you to tell me: Is the word “read-along” annoying? Too cutesy? Can we just call this a book club? Because I would be totally okay with calling it a book club!
For Babble of the Book’s online summer book club, I chose Jane Eyre, a super old book that seems like a tragic bummer. Honestly, I tried listening to the audiobook last summer, and I wasn’t into it. (I know, I’m really selling it to you.)
I decided to shelve Jane Eyre indefinitely, until the wonderful podcaster Vanessa Zoltan announced that season 3 of her podcast Hot & Bothered would be titled On Eyre, and would involve reading the book slowly and deliberately. For someone who went to Harvard Divinity School, Vanessa is about as down-to-earth as a person can get, self-identifying as a Hufflepuff, an atheist Jew, and humanist chaplain.
Intrigued? Just wait until you hear her talk. Podcasting is where she shines. Not only does she host Hot & Bothered, but she also co-hosts the podcasts Harry Potter and the Sacred Text and The Real Question.
Today I want to provide a synopsis of the introductory episode of On Eyre. Vanessa begins by imagining what a person who loves Jane Eyre might look like: a twee white woman who blushes easily and whose home decor includes potpourri. Yet so many people who don’t fit this description LOVE Jane Eyre! Maya Angelou and Zadie Smith are two women whom I remember Vanessa mentioning. And of course, Vanessa herself LOVES Jane Eyre, so much so that as an atheist she wrote a book (that just came out this week) called Praying with Jane Eyre.
“You think we love [Jane Eyre] for its romance, and we do love its romance. But we also love its resistance[....] Jane Eyre is perhaps the foundational text about rage, injustice, class, and religion, and what it means to be alone, unseen, and unheard.”
Vanessa goes further to argue that our whole culture around romance is a result of Jane Eyre. But then she poses a question: Do we want this book to carry on in forming us in the way that it has?
While Vanessa and her co-host Lauren Sandler will discuss the genius of Jane Eyre, they will also be considering “whether its genius continues to justify its pride of place on our bookshelves and its continued influence on our culture and in our lives.”
A little bit about Lauren: She is an author and journalist who studied Victorian literature in London, and she mainly writes about women and inequality. She not only has the background to talk expertly about Jane Eyre, but she also serves as a counterpoint to Vanessa’s absolute love of Jane Eyre, as she is a person who feels ambivalently toward the book.
Each week on On Eyre, between one and three chapters of the book will be covered, with special attention paid to two big questions that will “guide us through the book’s gifts and its pitfalls.”
Where is the power?
Where is the desire?
Are you ready to read with me?
Here’s an updated reading schedule courtesy of the Hot & Bothered website:
You can listen to the first episode of On Eyre here, or you can find it on the podcast app of your choosing.
I’m excited for all that Vanessa and Lauren will talk about as we dive into this classic novel. After listening to the first episode, what do you hope to discuss about it? What are your initial thoughts?
Thank you for joining me on this reading adventure. Let's make this a great book club experience!