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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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4 Wuthering Heights: A Gothic Novel

Delimitation of the Context


“I can tell myself that repugnance and horror are the mainsprings of my desire, that such desire is only aroused as long as its object causes a chasm no less deep than death to yawn with me, and that this desire originates in its opposite, horror.”

Gerges Bataille, Erotism: Death and Sensuality 59)

My aim in this chapter is to analyze how Wuthering Heights appropriates Gothic motifs to explore questions of fragmented and contaminated genealogies, foundlings, revenge, subrogation, violence, insanity, the supernatural and historical/domestic compulsions. To this purpose, I will use the novel by Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796), as intertext. The Monk was indeed a highly popular Gothic text since its publication, and it epitomizes the characteristics of Gothic literature, focusing on questions of identity and the transgression of social and moral taboos. Indeed, like Wuthering Heights, The Monk was also accused of being morally unacceptable. Thus, in The Criminal Review of February 1797, Coleridge says that “[t]‌he temptations of Ambrosio are described with a libidinous minuteness … The shameful harlotry of Matilda, and the trembling innocence of Antonia, are seized with equal avidity, as vehicles of the most voluptuous images” (Coleridge 61). He proscribes the novel from young and corruptible people since it is a “poison for youth and a provocative for the debauchee” (61).

Coleridge even asserts that if a parent saw the novel in “the hands of a son or daughter, he might reasonably turn pale” and concludes that The...

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