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Appraisal ‘Wuthering Heights’: Passion And Property

Peter Miles
Published 1990 · Art

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Wuthering Heights has a familiar form of title. In many novels’ title-formula an individual’s name figures in a way which has become a resonant convention: Moll Flanders, Tom Jones, David Copperfield, Mrs Dalloway. Such titles enact the novel’s involvement as literary form with ideas about the integration of personality, and with assumptions about the centrality to human life, interaction and understanding, of the discrete subjective consciousness epitomised by the hero-figure of the Western liberal middle-class novel. In the case of Wuthering Heights, a tendency runs through Gothic and Romantic fiction into the High Victorian novel and beyond, for novels to be named after places, after buildings, after homes, after properties: Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Peacock’s Crotchet Castle, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park, Dickens’s Bleak House, Trollope’s Framley Parsonage, Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Perceiving the broad tendency, however, only highlights the subtly different connotations shadowing such terms as ‘places, buildings, homes, properties’, the tensions which lie immanent between the terms, and immanent in the novels.

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