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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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2 Wuthering Heights: “The Housekeeper’s Tale”

Delimitation of the Context: The Domestic Novel

Extract

“And indeed, my dear, I know not how to forbear writing …. I have now no other employment or diversion. And I must write on, altho’ I were not to send it to any-body.”

Samuel Richardson, Clarissa III, 221)

“To you I am neither a Man nor Woman—I come before you as an Author only—it is the sole standard by which you have a right to judge me—the sole ground on which I accept your judgement.”

(Charlotte Brontë, “To W.S. Williams, 16 August 1849,” Selected Letters 140)

In his enlightening book, Spirit Becomes Matter, Henry Staten makes what I think is a groundbreaking statement: “Wuthering Heights is as much the story of the self-assertion of this subaltern woman [Nelly]—a woman of tremendous vigour, resiliency and aggressivity—as it is the story of Heathcliff and Catherine” (151). Similarly, in Emily Brontë, James Kavanagh claims that “Nelly Dean is as important a character as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and in a crucial sense his true and effective antagonist” (31). Nelly is the most important narrator in the novel since she controls Lockwood’s narration and through him the reader’s diegetic experience of the text (Kavanagh 31). Judith Stuchiner points out that “[t]‌he fact that a member of the servant class, Nelly, shares the narration with a member ←59 | 60→of the bourgeoisie, Lockwood, is critical to the structure of Wuthering Heights” (191) and she argues that, by inserting Nelly’s inner narration...

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