How did Emily Bronte modify or react to her cultural environment or predominant cultural movements?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Emily Brontë lived a life relatively isolated from the broader cultural currents of the period. She was born in 1818 and died in 1848, at the age of 30. With the exception of a few years away at school, she lived her entire life at Haworth, Yorkshire, where her father was a clergyman, and spent most of her time socializing with her brother and sisters, or reading and walking on the moors; the Brontë children did not socialize with the lower class children of the village.

Other than contributing to a collection of poems published pseudonymously with her sisters, Emily only published one book, the novel Wuthering Heights. This work shows the influence of two major literary movements, the Gothic and the Romantic. 

Gothic novels, such as those of Anne Radcliffe (most famously The Mystery of Udolpho and The Italian) normally have dramatic and gloomy atmospheres, set in remote locations, usually with a woman in peril and quasi-supernatural manifestations (often explained rationally towards the end of the works, but contributing until then to an atmosphere of horror). Another common feature of the Gothic shared by Wuthering Heights is layered narrators, often including letters or manuscripts from the past furthering essential plot elements (for example, as seen in the layered narration of Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Robert Maturin).

Emily's novel also bears many of the hallmarks of Romanticism, with its brooding hero (Heathcliff), extended descriptions of untamed nature, conflict between nature and civilization, and valuing of the natural human and condemnation of the way civilization can repress and weaken people. 

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