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Wuthering Heights

Considering Form

Assessment and learning objectives


AO2 Demonstrate detailed critical
understanding in analysing the ways in
which structure, form and language
shape meanings in literary texts.
AO4 Demonstrate understanding of the
significance and influence of the
contexts in which literary texts are
written and received.

Band

AO2 Demonstrate
detailed critical
understanding in
analysing the ways
in which structure,
form and language
shape meanings in
literary texts.

AO4 Demonstrate
understanding of the
significance and
influence of the
contexts in which
literary texts are
written and received.

Skills ladder

Band 6

Evaluation of how
Evaluation of relevant
the authors methods contextual factors arising
Evaluatio work
from the study of texts and
n
genre
Band 5
Analysis
Band 4

Analysis of how the


authors methods
work

Analysis of relevant
contextual factors arising
from the study of texts and
genre

Explanation of how Explanation of relevant


the authors methods contextual factors arising
Explanati work
from the study of texts and
on
genre

Starter: Wuthering Heights is a


story about ...
Brainstorm all the different things you
think the novel is about.

Wuthering Heights is a story about


...
How would you rank these in order of importance?
Class conflict
Obsessive revenge
The soul of a vindictive man
The relationship between Catherine [1] and
Heathcliff
The society on the Pennine moors
Wealth and power
Obsession
Death

1. Pigeon-holing Wuthering Heights


Read the following blurbs taken from three editions
of Wuthering Heights.
What is it that these blurbs (and many others like
them) choose to emphasise about the novel. Why
do you think these aspects of the novel have been
emphasised?
Do you think anything important has been lost in
these blurbs? Why do you think the missing aspects
may have been left out?
Is there anything you would add that would offer a
truer account of Wuthering Heights? Write a blurb
of about 100 words which captures your
interpretation of the novel as a whole.

Blurb 1
Perhaps the most haunting and tragic love story ever
written,Wuthering Heights is the tale of Heathcliff, a
brooding, troubled orphan, and his doomed love for Catherine
Earnshaw. His desire for her leads him to madness, however,
when Catherine is made to marry a wealthy lord, sending
Heathcliff on a life-long quest to avenge himself upon those
who stole his only love and his life. In this gripping chronicle
of the never-ending conflict between the heart and the mind
and the pain and passion of true romance Emily Bronte
created an unforgettable classic saga of love, desperation,
vengeance, and forgiveness. Published just one year before
Brontes death in 1848 at the age of thirty,Wuthering Heights
endures as one of the worlds greatest love stories and a
classic of English literature. (Simon and Schuster, 2003)

Blurb 2
There are few more convincing, less sentimental accounts
of love than Wuthering Heights. This is the story of a
tormented foundling who falls in love with the daughter of
his benefactor, and of the violence and misery that result
from their thwarted longing for each other.
A book of immense power and strength, it is filled with
the raw beauty of the moors and an uncanny
understanding of the terrible truths about men and
women. It is an understanding made even more
extraordinary by the fact that it came from the heart of a
frail, inexperienced girl who lived out her lonely life in the
wildness of the moors. Emily Bronte died a year after this
great novel was published. (Signet Classic, 2004)

Blurb 3
Emily Brontes only novel,Wuthering Heights remains
one of literatures most disturbing explorations into
the dark side of romantic passion. Heathcliff and
Cathy believe theyre destined to love each other
forever, but when cruelty and snobbery separate
them, their untamed emotions literally consume
them. Set amid the wild and stormy Yorkshire moors,
Wuthering Heights, an unpolished and devastating
epic of childhood playmates who grow into soul
mates, is widely regarded as the most original tale of
thwarted desire and heartbreak in the English
language. (Barnes and Noble Classics, 2005)

2. Form - Generic
Conventions

As we have already seen, Wuthering Heights has often been


read as a Gothic novel. However, it is also often read in many
other ways, including as a powerful and passionate love story.
The following activity will look at some of the different ways in
which Wuthering Heights has been read.
Look at the list of conventions and features for Gothic novels
and love stories and, in each case, tick those that you think
apply to Wuthering Heights.
For each feature or convention you tick, find a quotation
from the novel or explain in your own words the reason for
your decision.
To what extent are these traits relevant to Wuthering
Heights? Is one set of traits more relevant than the other?
What does it do to the novel to see it exclusively in terms of
a love story or exclusively in relation to the conventions of a
Gothic novel?

Generic conventions
Gothic novels
Preoccupied with the supernatural and
the fantastic
Locations such as gloomy forests and
ruins
Charismatic villain (mysterious, powerful,
driven by ambition)
Gothic protagonist has contempt for
conventional forms of authority (eg the
church and law)
Landscape is charged with the emotions
of the characters
Brooding atmosphere of gloom and terror
Dealing with aberrant psychological
states, looking at the realm of the
irrational
Aims to evoke terror by dwelling on
mystery and horror generally

Love stories
Relationships lead the novel
Focus on a few characters
usually male/female, often
youthful and attractive
Misunderstandings
Happy endings
Characters often stereotypes
eg the brooding, arrogant hero
Obstacles threaten
relationships
Jealousy
Superficial sexual encounters

3. Gender and Genre in Wuthering


Heights
In the chapter, Gender and Genre in
Wuthering Heights: Gothic Plot and
Domestic Fiction, taken from her
book, Emily Bronte (1989), critic Lyn
Pykett uses feminist work on gender
and genre to throw fresh light on the
complexities of Wuthering Heights,
and suggests that much of the novel's
distinctiveness may be attributed to
the particular ways in which it both
combines and explores female Gothic
and the emerging realist domestic
novel, a genre also widely used and
read by women.

3. Gender and Genre in Wuthering


Heights
Wuthering Heights straddles literary traditions and genres. It
combines elements of the Romantic tale of evilpossession,
and Romantic developments of the eighteenthcentury Gothic
novel, with the developing Victorian tradition of Domestic
fiction in a realist mode. Its use of the ballad and folk material,
romance forms and the fantastic, its emphasis on the
passions, its view of childhood, and the representation of the
romantic quest for selfhood and of aspiring individualism, all
link the novel with Romanticism. On the other hand, the
novels movement towards a renewed emphasis on
community and duty, and towards an idealisation of the family
seem to be more closely related to the emerging concerns of
Victorian fiction. Emily Brontes novel mixes these various
traditions and genres in a number of interesting ways,
sometimes fusing and sometimes juxtaposing them. I want to
direct attention to the ways in which the novels mixing of
genres may be related to issues of gender by examining some

3. Gender and Genre in Wuthering


Heights
Indeed, much of the distinctiveness
of Emily Brontes novel may be
attributed to the particular ways in
which it negotiates different literary
traditions, and both combines and
explores two major fictional genres
the Gothic and Domestic fiction
which are usually associated with
the female writers of the period,
although by no means confined to
them.
- Pykett, Lyn, Emily Bronte. (Women
writers), 1989

3. Gender and Genre in Wuthering


Heights
What are the key points made in this
essay?

4. Critical Readings
19th Century Novel, 21st Century Text
Types?
As well as reading Wuthering Heights in
the context of different generic
conventions, it is also possible to read it
in relation to ideas developed during the
20th and 21st centuries. These ideas can
be seen to influence both ways of writing
and ways of reading texts.

Critical readings
Postmodern texts
Multiple perspectives, plots and
narratives
Awareness of form
Self-conscious and metatextual
(interested in the process of writing)
Unreliable narrator or narrators
Distortions of desire, memory or
dreams
Use of mise en abyme (story within a
story)
Intertextuality (implicit or explicit
reference to other texts)
Uncertainty: difficulty in finding the/a
truth
Contradictory

Feminist
Lack of identity
of women under
texts
male power
Questioning of role of women to
find their natural state or to fulfil
roles defined for them by men
Strong presence of female
characters
Polarised gender differences
Examining the empowerment of
women
Raising awareness of male and
female stereotypes
Domination of women, controlling
the selection of events
Use of female forms of writing
such as letters and diaries, often
marginalised in traditionally male
writing

Critical readings
How does it help or hinder our reading
of the novel to read it as:
a Gothic novel?
a love story?
a postmodern text?
a feminist text?

5. Using literary theory


AO3 Explore connections and
comparisons between different literary
texts, informed by interpretations
of other readers.

5. Using literary theory


Marxist criticism: a way of reading texts, in which
the critic analyses the social, economic and
historical context.
Feminist criticism: a way of reading texts that
focuses on the roles of female characters, on the
female writers, and on the language of women in a
predominantly male culture.
Psychoanalytical criticism: a way of reading texts
with reference to the works of psychoanalysts such
as Freud, Jung and Lacan applying their theories to
the text, explaining relationships between
characters, their actions or motives, for instance.

Critical extract 1
Catherines death drive involves two foundational desires: the
desire to merge with Heathcliff and the desire to return to an
innocent state of childhood. In a now-famous speech, Catherine
tells Nelly that she could no more separate from Heathcliff than
she could from herself. Nelly, she explains, I am Heathcliff . But
while she is alive, this union can only be represented; in the
representation, the union is always failed. My great thought in
living is himself, she continues, If all else perished, and he
remained, I should still continue to be; and, if all else remained,
and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty
stranger. I should not seem a part of it. Her thought, not her self,
is Heathcliff. Their union is only maintained through Catherines
identity; neither envisioned future makes a space for her
dissolution. As it is, then, their love is tied to the convention which
establishes subjectivity, namely language. Though she
conceptualizes their merger, her attempts at communication
always recategorise the union into a decidedly live and limited
outcome. When she begins to beg for her death, celebrates its
onset, Catherine seems to be recognizing that an intense and

Critical extract 2
In social terms the Heights can be read as embodying
the world of the gentleman farmer: the petty-bourgeois
yeoman, whereas the Grange epitomises the gentry.
Eagleton argues that Heathcliff s social relation to both
the Heights and the Grange is one of the most complex
issues in the novel. Heathcliff fiercely highlights the
contradictions between the two worlds in opposing the
Grange and undermining the Heights. He embodies a
passionate human protest against the marriage market
values of both the Heights and the Grange, while
violently caricaturing precisely those values in his
calculatedly callous marriage to Isabella. In this,
Heathcliff can be seen to be a parody of capitalist
activity, yet he is not simply this, for he is also a product
of and participant in that system. The contradiction of
the novel is that Heathcliff both embodies and

Critical extract 3
There is a conflict of the primal nature of woman (which
is a state of freedom) and the socially acceptable woman
of discipline and etiquette. Wuthering Heights and
Thrushcross Grange act as symbols; Wuthering Heights
as the natural state where women can be free, and
Thrushcross as society where women are expected to act
according to social law. The dramatic transformation of
Catherine after five weeks stay at the Grange reinforces
the idea that ladylike attributes are not natural, rather
constructed. Catherines illness represents her downfall
as she is unable to be the natural, free woman that she
can be at Wuthering Heights and with Heathcliff. Notably,
her original visit to Thrushcross Grange trapped her
there, as opposed to her choosing to go there ... In the
same way, Catherine suffers her illness at Thrushcross
Grange. This idea of being trapped is articulated when

6. Metanarrative
What is a Metanarrative?
A metanarrative is either a narrative that talks
about another narrative, or a narrative which
refers to itself and the way in which it is being
narrated. It is a term that is often used with
reference to postmodern fiction, but can also
be applied to any work of fiction that
comments upon its status as a literary text.
To what extent could WH be considered an
example of metanarrative?

6. Metanarrative
1. He ... relaxed, a little, in the laconic style of chipping off his
pronouns, and auxiliary verbs;
(Lockwood of Heathcliff , p50/p8)
2. But Mr Lockwood, I forget these tales cannot divert you ... I
could have told Heathcliff s history, all that you need hear, in
half-a-dozen words. (Nelly, p101/pp61-62)
3. Why not have up Mrs Dean to finish her tale? I can recollect
its chief incidents, as far as she had gone. Yes, I remember
her hero had run off , and never been heard of for three years:
and the heroine was married (Lockwood, p130/p91)
4. now continue the history of Mr Heathcliff , from where you
left off , to the present day. Did he finish his education, on the
Continent, and come back a gentleman? or did he get a sizars
place at college? or escape to America, and earn honours by
drawing blood from his foster country? or make a fortune
more promptly, on the English highways? (Lockwood, pp130131/pp91-92)
5. What a realization of something more romantic than a fairy

Metanarrative
Characters are seen in differing relations to
books ... Edgar (at one point to Cathys fury) has
his library; Heathcliff gives up book-learning in his
adolescence. Lockwood tries to bar the dreamCathys entry with books. Catherine and Joseph
threaten each others library ... That Catherine is
able to protect her own literacy at the Heights, and
then resocialise Hareton through literacy,
constitutes a powerful undermining of Heathcliff s
strategies. This shared literacy becomes the
central motif of the new Wuthering Heights.
(Peter Miles, An Introduction to the Variety of
Criticism: Wuthering Heights)

Metanarrative
It is a tale told by the fireside on a winters evening by
an elderly woman, the family nurse, sitting and narrating
as she sews. Fleeting echoes of childhood fairy tales are
recalled as she proceeds. Mr Earnshaws journey to
Liverpool and his promise to bring back presents for the
three children left at home resemble the journey and
promise of the merchant in Beauty and the Beast ...
What Mr Earnshaw brings home is a dirty, ragged, blackhaired child (Chapter 4) who wins his daughters heart.
In the fairy tale the Beast is transformed into a
handsome prince and this idea is echoed in the novel
where Heathcliff appears to be the Beasts equivalent.
Fairy-tale transformations are constantly taking place ...
(Hilda D Spear, Macmillan Master Guides: Wuthering
Heights)

Plenary
This lesson we have explored the form and
genre of Wuthering Heights with reference
to:
1. Pigeon-holing the novel;
2. Its generic conventions;
3. Gender and genre;
4. Critical readings;
5. Literary theory;
6. Metanarrative.

Plenary: To what extent can you:


AO2 Demonstrate detailed critical
understanding in analysing the ways in
which structure, form and language
shape meanings in literary texts?
AO4 Demonstrate understanding of the
significance and influence of the
contexts in which literary texts are
written and received?

Band

AO2 Demonstrate
detailed critical
understanding in
analysing the ways
in which structure,
form and language
shape meanings in
literary texts.

AO4 Demonstrate
understanding of the
significance and
influence of the
contexts in which
literary texts are
written and received.

Skills ladder

Band 6

Evaluation of how
Evaluation of relevant
the authors methods contextual factors arising
Evaluatio work
from the study of texts and
n
genre
Band 5
Analysis
Band 4

Analysis of how the


authors methods
work

Analysis of relevant
contextual factors arising
from the study of texts and
genre

Explanation of how Explanation of relevant


the authors methods contextual factors arising
Explanati work
from the study of texts and
on
genre