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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.

“A paradigm case for formalist, structuralist, deconstructive, Marxist, historicist, psychoanalytic, feminist, and post-colonialist critics, Wuthering Heights, like the films of Alfred Hitchcock, the paintings of Picasso or the music of Beethoven, has long been in danger of disappearing beneath the sheer, accumulated weight of sophisticated theoretical commentary. Designated by F. R. Leavis as a ‘kind of sport’ for critics, the novel itself has receded into the background, made overly familiar as a result of its gratifying unfamiliarity. Now, in her pathbreaking study of this most over-read of novels, María Valero Redondo reveals what has been hiding all along in plain sight: Wuthering Heights is not the infinitely pliable text beloved of the theorists, nor, for that matter, is it an anomaly in the history of the novel, admired for its sui generis flouting of literary conventions and its punkish affronts to Victorian morality. Rather than re-tread this tired ground, Valero Redondo invites us to regard the novel as a carefully conceived response to a range of past, contemporary and future novels, novellas and poems: from Richardson’s Pamela,/i> to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre; from Kleist’s Der Findling to Matthew Lewis’s The Monk; and from Byron’s Manfred to Dickens’s Great Expectations, the meaning of Wuthering Heights is located in a long history of intertextual participation, influence, and struggle. Bringing to the fore formal encounters and ideological confrontations that have not been sufficiently appreciated by critics, Determining Wuthering Heights: Ideology, Intertexts, Tradition makes a fresh and important contribution to Brontë studies and to the study of the novel.”—Philip Shaw, Associate Professor of English Language and Old English, University of Leicester, United Kingdom

Determining Wuthering Heights: Ideology, Intertexts, Tradition places Emily Bronte’s novel within an exceptionally broad literary context, exploring its links to a range of genres and traditions, English and non-English alike. Wuthering Heights, María Valero Redondo demonstrates with an impressive command of eighteenth and nineteenth-century literature, is not an anomaly it is sometimes thought to be, but rather a novel that participates in a network of complex intertextual connections.”—Aleksandar Stevic, Assistant Professor of English, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

“This book puts right the prevailing critical tradition that Wuthering Heights is an isolated anomaly in the evolution of the English Victorian novel. By means of a set of detailed analyses of relevant eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century works in relation to Wuthering Heights, the author convincingly proves its full integration in the literary context of the period. Her attempt provides moreover a new lease of life for intertextuality studies, which had languished for at least two decades now under the pressure of critical movements more concerned with the ‘absolute’ meaning yielded by this work when looked at from different angles (biographical, historical, Marxist, feminist, post-colonial, etc.) than with its links across a dense meaning-making network of intertextual relations. In order to argue her point, María Valero Redondo places Wuthering Heights in conversation with texts ranging from Richardson’s Pamela (1740) to Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861), including predictable narratives such as Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) and Shirley (1849), but also mildly startling ones such as Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796), Byron’s poem Manfred (1817), and Heinrich von Kleist’s Novellen, especially Der Findling. I am happy to endorse the publication of this book for a number of reasons. First, for the originality and novelty of its attempt. Valero Redondo’s critical method is much more than a mere philological hunt for sources and echoes; it comes closer, in my view, to Eliot’s systematic, synchronic conception of literary tradition as the sum total of combined efforts that shape the ever-spiralling trajectory of verbal art. Second, for the impressive breadth of the textual material she brings to bear on her intertextual study of Wuthering Heights. This gives her critical conclusions a strong air of assurance and dependability. And third, for her successful effort to reinstate intertextual studies in the current critical mainstream. I have no doubt that this book will fully satisfy scholars and specialists in the nineteenth-century English novel, literary theorists in search of new, or newly updated, critical methods, and less specialized readers willing to know if Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights actually constitutes the irreducible singularity we have been led to believe by standard criticism.”—José A. Álvarez-Amorós, Professor of English Literature and Criticism, Universidad de Alicante, Spain