Hiram College

Two English majors have taken course essays exploring Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” beyond the traditional classroom this spring, as they had their papers accepted into regional conferences.

Taylor Stott ’16, of Akron, and Kristie Schroll ’16, of Canton, wrote the essays during the Fall 12-Week for John S. Kenyon Professor of English Kirsten Parkinson’s “Special Topics in British Literature” course.

Stott presented her paper “The Religion in Jane Eyre: How Defying Control Supports Jane Eyre Being a Proto-Feminist Novel” at the Walsh Women’s Empowerment Initiative on March 21, 2015. The conference, in its inaugural year, was a day full of panels and roundtable discussions, professional development opportunities and networking with female leaders in the community.

Stott, the only non-Walsh University student at the conference, presented her paper with a panel of two other college students in front of a small audience. She explained that Jane Eyre’s defiance of the “religiously affiliated” men in her life secures “Jane Eyre” as a proto-feminist novel.

Stott found inspiration for this essay from Bronte’s focus on religion and feminism – two topics that she often finds herself writing and analyzing. She said her Catholic school education influenced her to focus on these particular motifs.

“When reading, it’s kind of hard to not pick up on any religious allegories or relations or metaphors,” she said. “So the fact that there was a connection in ‘Jane Eyre’ to religion and being ‘proto-feminist,’ I decided to throw those together and write an essay.”

Stott plans to use the essay presented at the conference for her senior capstone in English, and plans to attend law school after Hiram.

“I kind of lucked out that Kirsten sent me the link to this conference,” she said. “Walsh, I think, was pretty impressed that I heard about the conference. And it’s the first time they’ve done this conference, so I hope that they continue to do it in the future.”

Schroll’s paper “Victorian Angels and Monsters: A Deconstructive Reading of Jane Eyre” was accepted to the sixth annual New Critics: Undergraduate Literature and Composition Conference at the State University of New York at Oneonta on April 11, 2015. Schroll wrote a deconstructive interpretation of “Jane Eyre” that focuses on Jane’s relationship with a second character, Bertha.

“I make the argument that instead of Jane and Bertha being opposites, they can be seen as allies throughout the novel,” she said. “I looked at key scenes, I look at them as characters, and built this paper around Victorian gender ideals and Jane as a narrator.”

Schroll worked around the struggle of subjective interpretation to argue the strength of the two characters. She was especially attached to the feminist overtones in the book.

“Jane is considered one of the first proto-feminist figures in literature,” she said. “So I guess I latched onto that novel more than I did the other ones.”

Schroll, who hopes to attend graduate school and study in a doctoral program, enjoyed not only visiting New York, but also the professional presentation experience that the conference offered.

“Getting like-minded people together will be nice and give me that kind of milestone to go onward…it’ll be good to feel like my essay got somewhere beyond my computer,” she said. “Especially with being an English student, writing papers is what we do. So to have your ideas be recognized as worthwhile and have people want to listen to them is really cool. I’m excited about it.”

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