Jane Eyre–a YA novel?

A provocative article by the YA author Lena Coakley, claiming Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel of autonomy, education, and desire as a YA novel. This challenges ideas of the canon and of genre, of course, and does have a certain validity, I feel. Her themes are very much those of YA fiction and Jane Eyre shares a readership with those novels. There are fascinating intertextual relationships between Jane Eyre and many YA novels–particularly the paranormal romances that OGOM has explored. Brontë’s novel not only supplies the plot structure of many paranormal romances (as does her sister Emily’s Wuthering Heights), it can be seen as one of the architexts (in Gérard Genette’s terminology) of this new genre; it’s a text, in other words, that serves as the basis for a whole class of generically related works.

And yet–without disparaging the high literary quality of many YA novels–I would argue that Jane Eyre surpasses them, partially by escaping the constraints that genre fictions have imposed on them by commercial necessity. But there is a huge discussion to be had here . . .

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