Psychology Then and Now. In this project, students will study the novel from a psychological perspective and stage a conference on the psychology of Jane Eyre. After researching psychological topics in groups, students will create psychological profiles of four characters in the novel.
Divide students into groups and have them first tackle the research. Suggested topics that each group can look into include mental asylums in the 19th century; theories of mental illness in the 19th century; treatment of the mentally ill in the 19th century; Freud and the early psychologists; mental health reform; current psychological trends and theories; current treatment of mental illness; and so forth. You may want to suggest more general sources for information gathering; for example, encyclopedias and popular magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and Psychology Today.
Each group member should have a specific role in the process, which includes research, summarizing, and presenting to the class. As a whole, the group should decide on the best way to present their material.
When all the reports have been presented, divide the class into four groups. Have each group create a psychological case study on one of the following characters: Jane, Rochester, Bertha, St. John. This can be done through one or more group discussions, in and out of class. One person in each group can record major points discussed.
For students of literature, Jane Eyre is important for its themes (especially its exploration of Jane's search for autonomy, and its narrative method). Of the many characters in the novel, the most important, by far, in his relationship with Jane, is Mr. Rochester, whom she marries. Among Jane's other important relationships are those with Mrs. Reed, Helen Burns and St. John Rivers. The comments below are organized under headings taken from a list of criteria for the study of prose texts, as used by an examination board in England.