How Has Facebook Revitalized Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte?

By Amanda Cosco Comment

All the buzz in the blogosphere surrounding the upcoming Jane Eyre movie has literary scholars wondering what role social media plays in exposing a new generation of readers to classical literature.

More than 150 years after her death, author Charlotte Bronte and her lovable character Jane Eyre are more popular than ever, and experts attribute their newfound notoriety to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

On Twitter, hundreds of users tweet under Jane Eyre-referencing names, like “plainjane,” “misseyre,” “justagoverness”and “iamjaneeyre.” On Facebook, three separate Charlotte Bronte fan pages are collectively “liked” by more than 13,000 members, and hundreds of profiles are listed under Bronte’s name.

In a recent Toronto Star article, education reporter Kristin Rushowy discusses the buzz surrounding another nineteenth-century Jane: author Jane Austen. Rushowy argues that social media websites have revitalized Austen’s work for a new generation of readers, giving the author a “second life.”

“It’s like votive offerings to Jane Austen, as if she were a saint,” said Deidre Lynch, an English professor at the University of Toronto. Lynch’s most recent book, Janeites: Austen’s Disciples and Devotees, discusses the circulation and reception of Austen’s work across mediums.

Despite Bronte and Austen’s newfound popularity, Lynch wonders how these 19th-century icons (and their stories) are effected in their transition from respected authoresses to digital media celebrities, arguing that online versions of these beloved characters are “debasing great literature.”

The latest Jane Eyre film adaptation hits theaters March 11th and promises to create even more Bronte buzz across the blogosphere.