By Adrienne Bracken
On the evening of Monday, Emily Wierszewski’s Literary Remix class participated in a web chat with Sherri Browning Erwin, the author of Jane Slayre.
Jane Slayre, the most recent book of study for Literary Remix, is Charlotte Bronte’s classic tale, Jane Eyre, infused with Browning’s own parody writing of savage creatures. From vampires to zombies to werewolves, Erwin takes advantage of the modern literary creature craze to twist Bronte’s classic into her own.
The students of Literary Remix prepared questions in advance to ask Erwin via Skype, a video chat service. The questions mainly pertained to the reasons behind why Erwin chose to write the book and why she wrote in her particular style.
Emily Wierszewski, the professor of the class, started the discussion. “Why Zombies? I can see how vampires are gothic, especially with Dracula so close on its tail of publication. And the same to werewolves. But were zombies as well? You explain it well with [character] Bokorhurst , but why both? And why are they all poor or of the lower-class while the upperclass end up vampires?”
Erwin responded, “When deciding to do Jane Eyre, I went through the book and decided how characters’ actions personalities fit with vampires. Werewolves came from times [in the book] when Jane Eyre was sort of referred to as a wolf. I was interested in seeing zombies portrayed as working class, brain dead zombies doing things to be obedient to their masters. I had to incorporate more gore and guts, though, due to an editorial request.”
“It seems like you include much of the original text from Jane Eyre into your novel. How much original text did you plan to include? Do you think it was harder to incorporate the original text, or did the inclusion of the original text make it easier to write the remix?” asked junior Brooke Kuehn.
Erwin provided great detail. “You would think it would be easier, but it was harder meshing to voices seamlessly together. You couldn’t just tell when it was just her [Bronte] or just me. I wanted to go 100 percent with no Charlotte Bronte; however there were iconic lines and paragraphs… that had to be incorporated as I went along. I guess it’s probably 70/30 or 60/40. Once we [Erwin and Bronte] established our rhythm, it was more like we were writing together.”
Overall, the IT people made the chat a success. The students were able to easily correspond with Erwin and gain answers to each of their questions.
Wierszewski expressed her opinion on the chat. “Since this is a course on remixes and we had just finished Jane Eyre, I think this discussion was useful for students in that they were able to ask the author what her creative process as a writer was like… It allowed them to question why the novel was put together the way it was, and to receive live answers from the author – something we don’t often get the chance to do as scholars and students. Finally, it allowed them to have an scholarly conversation about a piece of literature with an authentic real-world audience and not just a teacher.”
Wierszewski seems eager to hold another web chat again soon because she likes the opportunity it provides to her students. “I don’t feel it hindered their [the students’] reading – in fact, it probably made their reading more thorough and robust, knowing they were responsible for engaging the author in a discussion of her work.”