CAHSS Faculty Articles

Title

Wuthering Heights: Dreams of Equilibrium in Physiology and Physics

Department

Department of Literature and Modern Languages

Publication Date

Fall 2016

Publication Title

Victorian Review

ISSN

1923-3280

Volume

42

Issue/No.

2

First Page

307

Last Page

322

Abstract

Excerpt

IN THE 1850 preface to Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847), Charlotte Brontë yields to the will of critics and acknowledges the purported rusticity of Emily's novel: "I admit the charge, for I feel the quality. … [Wuthering Heights] is moorish, and wild, and knotty, as a root of heath" (341). Far from condemning her sister yet never fully condoning her intensities, Charlotte accepts that Emily's novel reflects its author's sequestered life, which Charlotte considered one that wanted only worldly experience and time for Emily to realize greater mastery and a mellower maturity. While the infamously unbridled passions of the novel may have appeared vulgar in its time, however, the execution of the novel was not. On the contrary, as this article will argue, Wuthering Heights advances a holistic perspective on the ways in which material science connects with poetic imagining. By commingling the maturing disciplines of mid-century physiology and physics with literature, the novel accommodates a definition of self not as absolute and ordered but as dynamic and "knotty," conveying an appreciation of disorder similar to that which delivers psychosocial and biothermodynamic equilibrium.

DOI

10.1353/vcr.2016.0066

Peer Reviewed

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