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Jane Eyre's Sisters
How Women Live and Write the Heroine Story
By Jody Gentian Bower
About the Book
Ever since women in the West first started publishing works of fiction, they have written about a heroine who must wander from one place to another as she searches for a way to live the life she wants to live, a life through which she can express her true self creatively in the world. Yet while many have written about the "heroine's journey," most of those authors base their models of this journey on Joseph Campbell's model of the Heroic Quest story or on old myths and tales written down by men, not on the stories that women tell.
In Jane Eyre's Sisters: How Women Live and Write the Heroine's Story, cultural mythologist Jody Gentian Bower looks at novels by women -- and some men -- as well as biographies of women that tell the story of the Aletis, the wandering heroine. She finds a similar pattern in works spanning the centuries, from Lady Mary Wroth and William Shakespeare in the 1600s to Sue Monk Kidd, Suzanne Collins, and Philip Pullman in the current century, including works by Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, Kate Chopin, Virginia Woolf, Doris Lessing, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Alice Walker, to name just a few. She also discusses myths and folk tales that follow the same pattern.
Dr. Bower argues that the Aletis represents an archetypal character that has to date received surprisingly little scholarly recognition despite her central role in many of the greatest works of Western fiction. Using an engaging, down-to-earth writing style, Dr. Bower outlines the stages and cast of characters of the Aletis story with many examples from the literature. She discusses how the Aletis story differs from the hero's quest, how it has changed over the centuries as women gained more independence, and what heroines of novels and movies might be like in the future. She gives examples from the lives of real women and scatters stories that illustrate many of her points throughout the book. In the end, she concludes, authors of the Aletis story use their imagination to give us characters who serve as role models for how a woman can live a full and free life.
About the Author
Jody Gentian Bower knew at the age of 10 that her calling was to be a writer. But everyone told her that an English degree would get her nowhere, so she majored in psychobiology at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington instead, where she discovered the works of C.G. Jung, triggering a lifelong interest in depth psychology and dreamwork.
Jody went on to earn a Master's of Social Work from the University of Washington in Seattle, intending to be a medical social worker. But fate intervened; when she took a job at Virginia Mason Medical Center, the physicians there quickly discovered her editing and writing skills and enlisted her to help them with their papers. This led to her being hired as the Managing Editor of the Mason Clinic Bulletin and the start of a three-decades-long career as a scientific writer and editor, working for organizations such as Microsoft and Allscripts Healthcare Solutions. "My gift is being able to understand complex concepts and translate them into plain English for the general public," she says.
An inveterate reader, Jody also participated in a book club for many years. Eventually she came to realize that many of the books they read that featured a female protagonist followed the same pattern. But when she looked for a book that discussed this pattern, she could not find one. A chance conversation with someone who worked in publishing gave her the incentive to return to school and earn a doctorate from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Mythological Studies with a Depth Psychology Emphasis. She wrote her dissertation on "Recurrent Motifs in Women's Fiction," which she defended in 2012. She then spent the next 18 months turning that work into her book Jane Eyre's Sisters: How Women Live and Write the Heroine's Story.
Dr. Bower now speaks and teaches classes on mythic and archetypal motifs in current cultural modalities such as film and popular fiction. She also calls on her scientific background to write and speak about the intersections between neuroscience, psychology, and spirituality. A trained mezzo-soprano, she sings with the RainShadow Chorale in Port Townsend, Washington, and enjoys hiking and snowshoeing in the Olympic and Cascade mountains.