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Determining Wuthering Heights

Ideology, Intertexts, Tradition

María Valero Redondo

Recent criticism on Emily Brontë and her novel has tried to correct the deep-rooted belief that Emily Brontë was a literary "genius" isolated in the moors of Haworth. Indeed, an overview of recent Brontë scholarship indicates that two important critical shifts have lately cropped up: an increasing sociological attention to cultural studies on the one hand and an emphasis on interdisciplinarity. The present book is an unprecedented and groundbreaking study on Wuthering Heights. It detaches itself from the current productive vogue for sociological approaches to narrative texts which has contributed to obscure the focus on anomalous intertextual relations, and prioritizes the literary context over any other biographical, historical, or cultural context. Determining Wuthering Heights postulates a determinate intertextual meaning of Emily Brontë’s novel, enriching its heterogeneity by examining its dialogic relation with previous, contemporary and subsequent texts in order to confirm that Emily Brontë’s novel is not sui generis.

The target audience of the book would be members of the academic community interested in Victorian literature in general (researchers, scholars…) and in Wuthering Heights in particular. However, since Wuthering Heights has become a classic novel which is today read and discussed in universities around the world, the subject may also appeal to students who have to take a course on Victorian Literature and/or on the Brontës.

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1 An Overview of Wuthering Heights’ Critical Reception: Problems and Omissions

First Reviews on Wuthering Heights: The First Deconstructionists of the Novel?

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“I don’t care—I will get in”

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights 7)

If the power of literature could be measured by the impression that it leaves on the reader, by the power and energy of its effect, Wuthering Heights would undoubtedly succeed as one of the most powerful and effective texts of all time, as the quantity and intensity of the echoes and critical literature that it has produced demonstrate. Few literary texts have incited so many interpretations, so many exegetic passions and controversies. My aim in this chapter is to offer an overview of the main critical analyses that Emily Brontë’s novel has received since its publication in 1847 and to outline the lacunae and deficiencies that these critical approaches still entail. This critical revision responds to the need to explicate a novel that has always been considered sui generis in the history of English literature.1 In my analysis, I anticipate some literary and narrative intertexts that I think will illuminate different parts of Wuthering Heights: Richardson’s Pamela, Kleist’s Novellen, Matthew Lewis’ The Monk, Byron’s Manfred, Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley and Jane Eyre, William Thackeray’s Barry Lyndon and Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist among others. With this “legitimate prejudice” (Gadamer 278), I want to cast new light on aspects of the ←21 | 22→novel that have been disregarded by the critics as well as to dismiss the generic indetermination of the novel by suggesting that it functions as a European novel.2 In...

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