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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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6 Wuthering Heights: A Social Novel

Delimitation of the Context

Extract

“The justice we do not execute, we mimic in the novel and on the stage.”

John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies, 1865)

“If once the poor gather and rise in the form of a mob. I shall turn against them as an aristocrat.”

(Charlotte Brontë, Shirley, 225)

“A feeling very generally exists that the condition and disposition of the Working Classes is a rather ominous matter at present; that something ought to be said, something ought to be done, in regard to it.”

(Thomas Carlyle, Chartism, 2)

The leading twentieth-century strategy for interpreting and analyzing Wuthering Heights has been to recur to “the transcendent mystery of the text” (Kavanagh 3). This critical and convoluted strategy of turning Wuthering Heights into a kind of peculiar phenomenon, as a stunning and incomprehensible “cosmic vision,” reaches its essence in Winifred Gérin’s analysis of Wuthering Heights:

Concerned with eternal principles of life, death, love and immortality, it has a timeless quality that puts it far nearer to such work as The Faerie Queene than to any contemporary Victorian novel. It has no concern for social questions, but is ←205 | 206→an expression of primitive passions, of the elemental forces in Man and Nature that the author shows as connecting all Creation. Hers is a cosmic vision that has little to do with nineteenth-century materialism. (Gérin 42–43)

It is Gérin’s claims that Wuthering Heights “has no...

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