Dr.  Mourão to address the Brontë  sisters' legacy  

Dr. Manuala MouraoThe expectations for upper class Victorian women were clear – marry well, provide heirs and oversee their homes and servants. It is a far cry from the situation for most women today. Educational pursuits are encouraged, marrying for love is the ideal and our nation has its first female presidential candidate on the ballot. While the Brontë sisters penned fiction, their work continues to influence contemporary notions of the feminine.

Join us as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth –  and the 170th anniversary of the publication of her most famous novel, Jane Eyre, with Dr. Manuela Mourão on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 3 p.m. in the Hackney Theater. Mourão will be the culminating speaker in this year’s Betty M. & William B. Jones Humanities Speaker Series, which has explored the arts, politics and literature by examining societal events and how they impact the human experience.

Issues of gender

Betty Jones, who along with her husband, Bill, helped to bring the series to fruition, is excited about the program’s focus on the two works from the Brontë sisters, Wuthering Heights and Jane Erye.

“This is the first presentation in the three years of the series' existence to focus upon fiction,” said Jones. “My fundamental approach to discussing literature with students was to stress what it teaches us about ourselves and about humanity. In the words of William Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, there is no room in the ‘[writer's] workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed.’ I am looking forward to hearing Professor Mourão convey how the Brontë sisters reveal such eternal truths in their works.”

Jane Eyre "very much deals with issues of gender,” said Mourão, a professor of English at Old Dominion University (ODU). “My hope for the presentation is that it will be engaging to the audience: Since Jane Eyre is such an iconic work that multiple generations have enjoyed since it was published, I would like to explore with the audience some reasons why it has been so.”

With an emphasis on British literature, students in Amy Robb’s English 10 class will be reading Wuthering Heights in the near future, and some have already read Jane Eyre.

“She is so incredibly knowledgeable and prepared,” said Robb, who studied under Dr. Mourão while at ODU. “She’s very open to (her students’) ideas, and she genuinely wants to expand her line of inquiry.”

Impact on society

For her own students “seeing a discussion that extends beyond the text and into modern day conversations will be eye-opening,” said Robb. “I’m excited that they will be able to see literature in an ongoing modern discussion. In Wuthering Heights, the role play between the characters has such stark differences in the roles of masculinity and femininity. It’s interesting to see how they still are today.”

Jones also is looking forward to the connections that Mourão will make with the works’ lasting impact on society.

“The written word can continue to influence society long after initial publication in ways in which authors and contemporary readers could not have foreseen. I hope that Dr. Mourão’s discussion of the Brontës’ work leaves the audience with a much greater appreciation of such ongoing impact.”

The presentation will be held in the Hackney Theater in the Meredith Center. A reception will follow the presentation in which guests will be able to dialogue with Mourão and enjoy light refreshments. It is free and open to the public, so please encourage your friends and family to join. 

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