Past to Present: Jane Eyre covers

First, let me say that this post will not look at all the different Jane Eyre covers from across the years, because there would be far too many. I will present a small sample and analyze some of their visual similarities and differences.

 These three renditions of Jane Eyre come from 1980, 1994, and 2003 (left to right), but they all share some similar characteristics in color and composition. Each features a painting of a young woman situated off to one side of the cover. The colors often stray toward the darker range of blacks and browns, giving the paintings an older, Victorian feel. (Personally, I think it’s also a bit gloomy, but the story is not all happy times, so I suppose it fits. (And I’m choosing to ignore the bright pink. It’s just really pink.)) Also, the title on each cover stands out for being placed on a small or large spots of color separating them from the paintings. The text seems to gain greater importance, and the picture less, as the years progress, culminating in 2003’s cover where the painting shrinks to a small rectangle in the center. (I guess the classics no longer needed anything but the “classic” label to draw readers in.)

The layout is especially interesting to me. There is only one character portrayed on each cover, and their placements seem just off the rule-of-thirds lines. But the overall cover image seems to read well with the text and picture both pulling you down and across the entire image.

Now, on to the present…

These two covers (2011 and 2012) are obviously not your mama’s Jane Eyre. Astute viewers will recognize the similarities between the 2011 cover and Twilight, or “twi-washing” as some have called it.

For a quick run-down of the differences between these newer covers and the old posse:

  • No full-body images of people (not even a full face)
  • Major emphasis on flowers
  • Limited color palettes (high contrast images)
  • Lots of red and pink (“girly” colors)

Looking at these covers, yes, I think they were designed with Twilight and other recent Young Adult titles in mind. Not that all the popular books feature flower covers, but the tie-in seems to be: Twilight is a gothic, epic romance and this classic is a gothic, epic romance, too, so read it.

Well, cover art trends change over time. (I’m sure I’ll post more on this topic at least once more this semester.) If it helps a new generation get into reading (the classics in particular), then bring on the flowers, even if they are too pink for me.

This entry was written by Kel and published on February 2, 2012 at 8:53 am. It’s filed under Book Covers, Kelly's Posts, Semiotics and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Past to Present: Jane Eyre covers

  1. I did notice that after the references to classic literature in the Twilight books brought about the change in the cover art to draw in those same readers. I think I even saw one cover, for Wuthering Heights I think, advertise its relationship to Twilight. I admit I’m guilty of giving these covers more attention than the other, more common covers designed for the classic, but if it gets a younger generation of readers interested I’m all for it.

  2. kelpeterson on said:

    Same here; whatever gets kids reading. I suppose it’s not all that surprising that kids these days are drawn to books using manipulated photos rather than classical paintings. Welcome to the web age, right?

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