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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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3 Wuthering Heights and Kleist’s Novellen: Rousseauian Nature, Implosive Communities and the Performative Subversion of the Law

Delimitation of the Context

Extract

“Je vais vous éclairer, moi, la position dans laquelle vous êtes; mais je vais le faire avec la supériorité d’un homme qui, après avoir examine les choses d’ici-bas, a vu qu’il n’y avait que deux partis à prendre: ou une stupide obéissance ou la révolte.”

Honoré de Balzac Le Père Goriot 107)

In Fiction and Repetition: Seven English Novels, J. Hillis Miller has claimed that “one of the most obvious characteristics of works of literature is their manifest strangeness” (Miller 18). He does not hesitate to include Wuthering Heights among the selected seven novels as one of these strange works of literature. Indeed, as I have already argued, Wuthering Heights has always been analyzed as a “hapax” or isolated singularity in the history of English literature, and the same has happened with Kleist’s Novellen in the history of German literature. The first reactions following their publication have relegated both Brontë’s novel and Kleist’s Novellen to the category of impenetrable mystery. Thus, a reviewer in the Douglas Jerrold’s Weekly Newspaper described Wuthering Heights as “a strange sort of book, baffling all regular criticism; yet it is impossible to begin and not to finish it, and quite as impossible to lay it aside afterwards and say nothing about it.” The critics strongly recommend “readers who love novelty to get this story, for we can promise them that they have never read anything like it before” (Dunn 284). More recent scholarship on Wuthering Heights...

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