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Wuthering Heights

by Emily Brontë

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Since it was first filmed in Great Britain in 1920, Wuthering Heights has been a popular basis for films. There have been numerous adaptations of the love story of Cathy and Heathcliff. Many critics agree that the English version directed by William Wyler (United Artists, 1939), which starred Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff, Merle Oberon as Cathy, with supporting performances by Flora Robson and David Niven, is the best version. This highly dramatic black-and-white version emphasized the dark, brooding moors and accentuated the passion of the star-crossed lovers. Another popular English version (American International, 1971) was directed by Robert Fuest and starred Timothy Dalton, Anna Calder-Marshall, Harry Andrews and Hugh Griffith, and focused more on Cathy's smoldering, much-abused and vengeful love. Abismos de Passion (Mexico, 1953) is a Spanish-language version which was directed by Luis Bunuel and starred Iraseme Dillan and Jorge Mistral, with music by Richard Wagner.

Media Adaptations

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  • Wuthering Heights continues to inspire filmmakers: adaptations include those by William Wyler, starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, 1939, available from HBO Home Video and Home Vision Cinema; by Robert Fuest, starring Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall, 1970, available from Congress Entertainment, Karol Video, The Video Catalog; a reworking under the title "Abismos de pasion," by Luis Bunuel, starring Jorge Mistral and Irasema Dilian, 1953, available from Xenon, Media Home Entertainment, Applause Productions; and by Peter Kosminsky, starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche, 1992 (not released in the U.S., but later broadcast on Turner Network Television).
  • Sound recordings have been published by Listen for Pleasure, 1981; Recorded Books, 1981, and Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio, 1995. The novel was read by Michael Page and Laurel Merlington for an audio version, Brilliance Corporation, 1992, entitled Wuthering Heights Readalong, Lake Publishing Co., 1994.
  • The novel has been adapted as a four-act opera by Bernard Herrman, libretto by Lucille Fletcher, 1950. An adaptation by Carlisle Floyd, who also wrote the libretto, in three acts was first performed in 1958. The novel was also adapted for the stage by Charles Vance and published by Samuel French, 1990.


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Davies, Stevie. Emily Brontë: The Artist as a Free Woman. Manchester, England: Carcanet Press, 1983. Discusses not only the novel but also Brontë’s personal life and tragedies, the fantasy worlds created by her and her siblings, and her poetry. Provides an incisive look at the novel’s structure and an in-depth study of the personalities and motivations of the main characters.

Everitt, Alastair, ed. Wuthering Heights: An Anthology of Criticism. London: Frank Cass, 1967. A collection of introductory critical explorations of the novel that examine such fundamental issues as structure, narrative strategies, origins, the supernatural, madness, and sadomasochism.

Kavanaugh, James H. Emily Brontë. New York: Basil Blackwell, 1985. Offers a late twentieth century critical interpretation of the novel, including a deconstructionist reading. Useful also for its survey of critical approaches to this novel.

Miles, Peter. Wuthering Heights. Basingstoke, England: Macmillan, 1990. Provides various readings of Brontë’s novel as well as an introduction that traces the history of the most popular interpretations of and reactions to the book. Includes a helpful bibliography, mostly covering the more traditional approaches.

Vogler, Thomas A., ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Wuthering Heights. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968. Offers insight into the novel’s background, important themes such as childhood and incest, and an informative account of the lives of the Brontë family. Also includes selected portions of important mid-twentieth century critical responses.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Allen, Walter. The English Novel. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1955.

Benvenuto, Richard. Emily Brontë. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1982.

Brontë, Charlotte. “Editor’s Preface to the New [1850] Edition of Wuthering Heights.” In Wuthering Heights, edited by David Daiches. Penguin, 1965, pp. 37-41.

Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. New York, NY: Modern Library, 1950.

Crailic, W. A. The Brontë Novels. London: Methuen, 1968.

Daiches, David, ed. In the introduction to Wuthering Heights. Penguin, 1965, pp. 7-29.

“Emily Brontë.” In Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism, edited by Cherie Abbey and Janet Mullane, vol. 16. Detroit: Gale Research, 1987.

Evans, Barbara, and Gareth Lloyd Evans. The Scribner Companion to the Brontës. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1982.

Gerin, Winifred. “Emily Brontë.” In Reference Guide to English Literature, edited by D. L. Kirkpatrick. St. James Press, 1991, pp. 300-02.

Glen, Heather, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Brontës. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Kanwar, Asha. Fictional Theories and the Three Great Novels. New Delhi: Prestige Books, 1991.

Karl, Frederick R. An Age of Fiction: The Nineteenth Century British Novel. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1964.

Kavanagh, James H. Emily Brontë. London: Basil Blackwell, 1985.

Liddell, Robert. Twin Spirits: The Novels of Emily and Anne Brontë. London: Peter Owen, 1990.

Miles, Peter. Wuthering Heights. London: Macmillan Educational, 1990.

Mitchell, Hayley R. Readings on Wuthering Heights. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1999.

Pool, Daniel. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

Punter, David. Gothic Pathologies: The Text, the Body, and the Law. Houndmills, UK: Macmillan Press, 1998.

Sadoff, Dianne F. Monsters of Affection: Dickens, Elliot and Brontë on Fatherhood. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.

Swinburne, Algernon Charles. “Emily Brontë.” In The Athenaeum, No. 2903, June 16, 1883, pp. 762-63.

Tayler, Irene. Holy Ghosts: The Male Muses of Emily and Charlotte Brontë. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1990.

Traversi, Derek. “The Brontë Sisters and Wuthering Heights.” In Twentieth Century Interpretations of Wuthering Heights. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1968.

Winnifrith, Tom. “Emily Brontë.” In Dictionary of Literary Biography Volume 21: Victorian Novelists before 1885, edited by Ira B. Nadel and William E. Fredeman. Gale Research, 1983, pp. 55-67.

Winnifirth, Tom. The Brontës. London: Macmillan, 1977.

For Further Study
Allot, Miriam. The Brontës: The Critical Heritage. Routledge, 1974. A collection of criticism on the works of the Brontë sisters, including reprints of early reviews of Wuthering Heights and Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell and Charlotte Brontë’s observations on her sister’s novel.

Eagleton, Terry. “Myths of Power: A Marxist Study on Wuthering Heights.” In Case Studies In Contemporary Criticism: Wuthering Heights. St. Martin’s, 1992, pp. 399-414. Eagleton analyzes the novel in terms of class differences in nineteenth-century England.

Gerin, Winifred. Emily Brontë: A Biography. Clarendon, 1971. Gérin discusses Emily Brontë’s life and the effect of her environment on her work.

Wion, Philip K. “The Absent Mother in Wuthering Heights.” In American Imago, Vol. 42, No. 2, 1985. Wion suggests that the early death of Emily Brontë’s mother accounts for Brontë’s portrayal of orphaned characters in search of mother figures.

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Historical and Social Context