Form - Generic ConventionsAO2 Demonstrate detailed critical understanding inanalysing the ways in which structure, form andlanguage shape meanings in literary texts.• Wuthering Heights has often been read as a Gothic novel. However, it is also often read as a powerful and passionate love story.• The following activities look at some of the different ways in which Wuthering Heights has been read.
Generic conventions Gothic novels Love stories• Preoccupied with the supernatural and • Relationships lead the novel the fantastic• Locations such as gloomy forests and ruins • Focus on a few characters• Charismatic villain (mysterious, powerful, usually male/female, often driven by ambition) youthful and attractive• Gothic protagonist has contempt for • Misunderstandings conventional forms of authority (eg the church and law) • Happy endings• Landscape is charged with the emotions • Characters often stereotypes of the characters eg the brooding, arrogant hero• Brooding atmosphere of gloom and terror• Dealing with aberrant psychological states, • Obstacles threaten looking at the realm of the irrational relationships• Aims to evoke terror by dwelling on • Jealousy mystery and horror generally • Superficial sexual encounters
‘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  and Heathcliff• The society on the Pennine moors• Wealth and power• Obsession• Death
MetanarrativeWhat 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?
Metanarrative?1. He ... relaxed, a little, in the laconic style of chipping off his pronouns, and auxiliaryverbs;(Lockwood of Heathcliff , p50/p8)2. ‘But Mr Lockwood, I forget these tales cannot divert you ... I could have toldHeathcliff ’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 faras she had gone. Yes, I remember her hero had run off , and never been heard of forthree years: and the heroine was married (Lockwood, p130/p91)4. ‘now continue the history of Mr Heathcliff , from where you left off , to the presentday. Did he finish his education, on the Continent, and come back a gentleman? or didhe get a sizar’s place at college? or escape to America, and earn honours by drawingblood from his foster country? or make a fortune more promptly, on the Englishhighways?’ (Lockwood, pp130-131/pp91-92)5. ‘What a realization of something more romantic than a fairy tale it would have beenfor Mrs Linton Heathcliff , had she and I struck up an attachment’(Lockwood, p335/p304)
MetanarrativeCharacters are seen in differing relations to books ...Edgar (at one point to Cathy’s fury) has his library;Heathcliff gives up book-learning in his adolescence.Lockwood tries to bar the dream-Cathy’s entry withbooks. Catherine and Joseph threaten each other’s library... That Catherine is able to protect her own literacy at theHeights, and then resocialise Hareton throughliteracy, constitutes a powerful undermining of Heathcliff’s strategies. This shared literacy becomes the centralmotif of the new Wuthering Heights.(Peter Miles, An Introduction to the Variety of Criticism:Wuthering Heights)
MetanarrativeIt is a tale told by the fireside on a winter’s evening by anelderly woman, the family nurse, sitting and narrating as shesews. Fleeting echoes of childhood fairy tales are recalled asshe proceeds. Mr Earnshaw’s journey to Liverpool and hispromise to bring back presents for the three children left athome resemble the journey and promise of the merchant in‘Beauty and the Beast’ ... What Mr Earnshaw brings home is a‘dirty, ragged, black-haired child’ (Chapter 4) who wins hisdaughter’s heart. In the fairy tale the Beast is transformed intoa handsome prince and this idea is echoed in the novel whereHeathcliff appears to be the Beast’s equivalent.Fairy-tale transformations are constantly taking place ... (HildaD Spear, Macmillan Master Guides: Wuthering Heights)
Critical Readings19th 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 infuence both ways of writing and ways of reading texts.
Critical readingsPostmodern texts Feminist texts• Multiple perspectives, plots and • Lack of identity of women under male narratives power• Awareness of form• Self-conscious and metatextual • Questioning of role of women to find (interested in the process of writing) their natural state or to fulfil roles defined• Unreliable narrator or narrators for them by men• Distortions of desire, memory or • Strong presence of female characters dreams • Polarised gender differences• Use of mise en abyme (story within a story) • Examining the empowerment of women• Intertextuality (implicit or explicit • Raising awareness of male and female reference to other texts) stereotypes• Uncertainty: difficulty in finding the/a • Domination of women, controlling the truth• Contradictory selection of events • Use of ‘female’ forms of writing such as letters and diaries, often marginalised in traditionally male writing
How does it help or hinder our reading of thenovel to read it as:• a Gothic novel?• a love story?• a postmodern text?• a feminist text?
Using literary theoryAO3 Explore connections and comparisonsbetween different literary texts, informed byinterpretations of other readers.
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 1Catherine’s death drive involves two foundational desires: the desire to mergewith Heathcliff and the desire to return to an innocent state of childhood. In anow-famous speech, Catherine tells Nelly that she could no more separate fromHeathcliff than she could from herself. ‘Nelly,’ she explains, ‘I am Heathcliff ’. Butwhile she is alive, this union can only be represented; in the representation, theunion is always failed. ‘My great thought in living is himself,’ she continues, ‘If allelse perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and, if all elseremained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger. Ishould not seem a part of it.’ Her thought, not her self, is Heathcliff. Their union isonly maintained through Catherine’s identity; neither envisioned future makes aspace for her dissolution. As it is, then, their love is tied to the convention whichestablishes subjectivity, namely language. Though she conceptualizes theirmerger, her attempts at communication always recategorise the union into adecidedly live – and limited – outcome. When she begins to beg for herdeath, celebrates its onset, Catherine seems to be recognizing that an intense andmasochistic dissolution – death – is the only way truly to merge with Heathcliff.(Robin de Rosa, To Save the Life of the Novel at www.rrmla.wsu.edu/ereview)
Critical extract 2In social terms the Heights can be read as embodying the world of thegentleman farmer: the petty-bourgeois yeoman, whereas the Grangeepitomises the gentry. Eagleton argues that Heathcliff ’s social relationto both the Heights and the Grange is one of the most complex issuesin the novel. Heathcliff fiercely highlights the contradictions betweenthe two worlds in opposing the Grange and undermining the Heights.He embodies a passionate human protest against the marriage marketvalues of both the Heights and the Grange, while violently caricaturingprecisely those values in his calculatedly callous marriage to Isabella. Inthis, Heathcliff can be seen to be a parody of capitalist activity, yet he isnot simply this, for he is also a product of and participant in thatsystem. The contradiction of the novel is that Heathcliff both embodiesand antagonises the values which he wishes to contest. (ClaireJones, York Notes Advanced: Wuthering Heights)
Critical extract 3There is a conflict of the primal nature of woman (which is a state offreedom) and the socially acceptable woman of discipline and etiquette.Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange act as symbols; WutheringHeights as the natural state where women can be free, and Thrushcrossas society where women are expected to act according to social law.The dramatic transformation of Catherine after five weeks’ stay at theGrange reinforces the idea that ladylike attributes are notnatural, rather constructed. Catherine’s illness represents her downfallas she is unable to be the natural, free woman that she can be atWuthering Heights and with Heathcliff. Notably, her original visit toThrushcross Grange trapped her there, as opposed to her choosing togo there ... In the same way, Catherine suffers her illness at ThrushcrossGrange. This idea of being trapped is articulated when Catherine admits‘I’m tired, tired of being enclosed here’.(http://hschelp.wordpres.com)