Read Jane Eyre if you dare: University students are given ‘trigger warnings’ for classic literature – as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations are marked ‘distressing’
- Salford University students given ‘trigger warnings’ for Jane Eyre and Great Expectations
- Critics last night described the cautions as ‘absurd’
- The warnings accompany a BA English Literature reading list at the university
They have been celebrated as classics of English literature for more than 150 years, enjoyed by generations of children as young as eight.
But university students have now been given a ‘trigger warning’ that Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations both contain passages they might find ‘distressing’.
Critics last night described the cautions given to students at Salford University as ‘absurd’. Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said it was ridiculous that adults ‘have to be protected from the stories that generations of children have been able to cope with without being damaged’.
And actor Simon Callow, who has appeared in several Dickens adaptations, joked: ‘I don’t think the university authorities have gone far enough.
‘A more helpful alert would be: ‘Warning – this book may make you think. In extreme cases, it may even make you feel.
FAMILY FRIENDLY: TV’s Jane Eyre is rated PG
‘If you seem to be thinking or feeling, call our helpline, 24-hour service. Do not delay, thinking and feeling can rapidly become consensus-threatening.’ ‘
Published in 1861, Great Expectations describes orphan Pip’s adventures with characters including the fugitive Abel Magwitch, the eccentric Miss Havisham and the beautiful but cruel Estella – and includes vivid imagery of poverty, prison ships and fights to the death.
Meanwhile Jane Eyre, written in 1847, charts the romance between Bronte’s titular heroine and the troubled Mr Rochester, but also describes her unhappy childhood as an abandoned orphan.
Mr Bridgen added: ‘Victorian readers could cope with tales of workhouses and children being groomed into criminal gangs. But we are in danger of creating a dystopian future far darker than any Victorian novel.’
The warnings accompany a reading list given to students on Salford’s BA English literature course, and have been revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request.
The university warns undergraduates: ‘There are scenes and discussions of violence and sexual violence in several of the primary texts studied on this module. Some students may find the content of the following texts distressing.’
Pictured: 1946’s Great Expectations
Other titles on the list include Christina Rossetti’s 1862 fantasy poem Goblin Market, and Robert Browning’s 1836 poem Porphyria’s Lover, in which a man strangles his partner.
Salford’s warnings come despite film and TV adaptations of both Great Expectations and Jane Eyre being aimed at family audiences.
Sir David Lean’s 1946 film adaptation of the Dickens novel has a PG rating, which means it ‘should not unsettle a child aged eight or older’. The 2012 version with Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter was given a 12A certificate. And all TV and movie versions of Jane Eyre have also been rated PG.
A spokesman for Salford University said: ‘We never issue trigger warnings for literature, only content notes. The wellbeing of our students is important to us. Some texts contain sensitive issues so we give students the opportunity to have a discussion with their lecturer in advance if they wish to.’
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