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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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8 Conclusions



Mrs. Griffin, however, expressed the need for a little more light.“Who was it she was in love with?”“The story will tell,” I took upon myself to reply. (…)“The story won’t tell,” said Douglas; “not in any literal, vulgar way”

Henry James. The Turn of the Screw 3)

This epigraph is Douglas’ answer to Mrs. Griffin’s question of whom was it that the governess of his tale was in love with. The vulgarity that Douglas—or James—is referring to is that of a language whose discourse is straightforward and direct and which tries to eliminate its intrinsic silence, that of a text inherently incapable of silence. Douglas’ powerful statement could be easily applied to Wuthering Heights. Indeed, that could be Nelly’s answer to Lockwood’s inquiries about Heathcliff’s whereabouts and his passage from rags to riches during his three-year absence. As I stated in the Introduction, Emily Brontë does not resort to many literary references or allusions in her novel, but that does not mean that these literary references are not there, lurking and sneaking around the text. Wuthering Heights contains within itself bits and pieces of previous stories. In his book, Plato and Platonism, the late Victorian writer Walter Pater argues that in Plato “there is nothing absolutely new,” and he speaks of Plato’s literary inheritance through three beautiful tropes. Plato’s writings are like “minute relics of ←313 | 314→earlier organic life in the very stone he builds with,” or like a palimpsest, that...

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