In the World and Basic maps you can see how Jane Eyre has been translated to different degrees in different places. If you dig into the data attached to each entry, you can find out when each translation was done. But it is hard to get an understanding of the sequence of translation over time. This is what our Time Map shows.

Each circle represents a new translation; the different colours of the circles correspond to different languages; the redder a country, the more translations have been done there in total. If you want to see all the translations published in a given decade, click on the corresponding area of the Time Bar underneath the map; if you wish to study a longer period, slide the cursors to left and right. As with the other maps, there is no full-screen viewing mode; if you wish to magnify the Time Map, please use the ‘zoom’ function on your browser.

Franco Moretti – whose work is an inspiration for this part of the project – has described the translation of a world novel like Don Quixote as happening in three waves. First, nearby literary cultures (which he calls ‘core’), then a pause; then somewhat further afield (‘semi-periphery’); and after that more distant cultures – the ‘periphery’ (1).

To some extent, the global story of the translation of Jane Eyre bears out this thesis. The novel was translated into cultures well-connected to English in the decade after its first publication in 1847: Germany, Belgium, Holland, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and France. During the 1860s there was only one new translation, into Polish 1865. This might be taken as the first indication of a second wave, which then began to surge more vigorously with the first Hungarian translation in 1873, followed by Czech in 1875, Portuguese in 1877 (an incomplete version serialised in a magazine), Italian in 1904 and Brazilian Portuguese in 1916. There is then what might be called a third wave during and soon after the Second World War: Argentina, 1941; Chile, 1944; Brazil and Turkey, 1945; Mandatory Palestine, 1946; Greece, 1949; Iran 1950; and Burma 1953.

We can point to global forces such as distribution networks, international copyright, and diplomatic soft power to explain these trends. But it is also the case that the full story of the translation of Jane Eyre is complicated, and cannot wholly be explained by such broad factors.

It is not only in Europe that Jane Eyre is translated in the first decade of its publication. In 1850, a rendition of the novel appeared in Cuba, translated into Spanish from the shortened and adjusted French version first published in the Belgian Revue de Paris. It is not only in ‘semi-peripheral’ places that the second wave happens, but also in Japan (1896) and Armenia (1908). In some decades of the twentieth century the most intense translation activity provoked by the novel has been located, not in western Europe, but in Turkey, Iran, China, and Korea – places that were, therefore, not peripheral at all to the novel’s continuing imaginative life. To start exploring these phenomena with the map, try selecting the decade of the 1980s on the Time Bar.

This project focuses on text translations, on books that offer themselves as being basically the same as the English Jane Eyre, only in a different language. But Jane Eyre has also, of course, generated a large number of freer kinds of re-makings: plays, films, other novels, fan fiction, TV adaptations. This vast rainbow of responses has had an effect on the translations.

The surge of translations in the 1940s and 50s is not only due to the post-war workings of soft power, but also to the success of the 1943 movie directed by Robert Stevenson and starring Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles. In Spanish, it was subtitled Alma Rebelde – ‘rebel soul’ – and several translations adopted the same nickname.

Back in the nineteenth century, Jane Eyre was helped to stay famous by the popularity of Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer’s bowdlerized stage version, Die Waise auf Lowood, first performed in Hamburg in 1853, and then in many places throughout Europe, either in German or itself translated into other languages (2). Many translations took on Birch-Pfeiffer’s title, or something like it.

And it was not only in translation that Jane Eyre was enabled to travel. The German publishers Tauchnitz specialized in distributing English-language literature throughout Europe. From 1847 onwards, a Tauchnitz volume (printing the text of the first English edition, with the Preface and Dedication to the second) was widely circulated (3). It does not show up in our maps; but it was the source text for many of the translations.

Text by Matthew Reynolds; map constructed by Giovanni Pietro Vitali


(1) Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel (Verso, 1991), pp. 171-2.

(2) Inga-Stina Ewbank, ‘Reading the Brontës Abroad: A Study in the Transmission of Victorian Novels in Continental Europe’, in Maureen Bell (ed.), Reconstructing the Book: Literary Texts in Transmission (Ashgate, 2001): electronic text accessed 15/5/2019; Margarete Rubik, ‘English Drama at the German Theatre in Ljubljana in the last Decades of the Habsburg Monarchy’, Acta Neophilologica 45. 1-2 (2012), 33-52  https://doi.org/10.4312/an.45.1-2.33-52, p. 35.

(3) Ewbank; O. R. Demidova, ‘The Reception of Charlotte Brontë’s Work in Nineteenth-Century Russia’, Modern Language Review,  89. 3 (July, 1994), pp. 689-696, p. 690.