Wuthering Heights Questions and Answers
by Emily Brontë

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How has new criticism impacted critical perspective on Wuthering Heights?

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  • Literature as a thing unto itself without author/historical intent: New Criticism
  • New Criticism’s synonyms = objective criticism, practical criticism, textual criticism, close reading
  • According to Enotes:

New Criticism, a critical approach that treats the literary text as autonomous and unconnected to moral, historical, or political realities.

You will want to look for the following:

  • an objective correlative, the artistic and literary technique of representing or evoking aparticular emotion by means of symbols that objectify that emotion and are associated with it.  According to Eliot (from "Hamlet and His Problems"):

“The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative’; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.”

  • Pay close attention to the text’s diction its meanings (connotation and denotation) and even its etymological roots, particularly related to love and death
  • Study the diction and figurative language closely, focusing on the narrative styles of Lockwood and Nelly and the dialogue of Catherine and Heathcliff.
  • Search for structure and patterns; e.g. oppositions in the text (paradox, ambiguity, irony), the differences between Nelly and Lockwood's narrations
  • From parts to an organic wholeness, focusing on love and death
  • How the themes (patterns, tensions, ambiguities, paradox, contradictions) are manifested in character, particularly Heathcliff.  For example, look closely at the pattern of the novel.  It is a double narrative.  There are two of everything, two settings, two Heathcliffs, two Catherines, etc...  Also, look closely at the ending.  According to my notes:
"While the Victorian were acutely aware of conflict, they were less willing than the moderns to see it as intrinsic to love or as having a constitutive function. In art they displaced conflict onto fictitious characters, often onto femme fatales in distant, ancient, or imaginary places." (Kern 373)
  • The other solution – joining in death. (sometimes quite liteterally; e.g. Heatcliff joining Catherine in death).

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