Wuthering Heights: Dreams of Equilibrium in Physiology and Physics
Department of Literature and Modern Languages
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.
Farrar, A. M. (2016). Wuthering Heights: Dreams of Equilibrium in Physiology and Physics. Victorian Review, 42 (2), 307-322. https://doi.org/10.1353/vcr.2016.0066