Happy birthday, Emily Brontë! Celebrating what would have been the author’s 196th birthday, we have selected several journal articles in honor of her work. Her most famous novel, Wuthering Heights, was poorly received when it was first published and Bronte died of tuberculosis just a year later. Today, Wuthering Heights is considered a classic and a masterpiece of literature.
In “Postcolonial Life and Death: A Process-Based Comparison of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and Ayu Utami's Saman,” Tiffany Tsao examines the two novels' respective treatments of internal colonization,a shared thematic concern that only becomes apparent with critical attention to the similarities between scenes found in each work. Read an excerpt below:
Viewing Wuthering Heights and Saman as alike in their portrayals of the violence of domestic colonization inevitably illuminates and augments key aspects of each work. That is, when we focus on the features that the two works have in common, the differences we discover about those features, ones that previously meant little in a sea of innumerable differences, gain new significance. More specifically, we find that the two works diverge in their portrayals of the extent to which the colonization process may transform the “savage” and, consequently, the extent to which a post-colonial life based on pre-colonial ways of life is possible. Whereas Wuthering Heights portrays colonization as enacting a total transformation of the savage into the civilized, Saman portrays “savage” pre-civilization as an enduring and powerful reality that remains unaltered by the attempts of civilizers to change it. As a result, Wuthering Heights regards resistance to civilization as a reversion to a non-existent, pre-civilized past; Saman, by contrast, envisions it as the product of a way of life that has always been ongoing, independently, beneath civilization’s veneer. To put it another way, unlike Wuthering Heights, Saman posits the existence of an alternate reality an unseen primordial realm that continues untouched and undisturbed by the incursion of a so-called civilization that is oppressive.
Read more from “Postcolonial Life and Death” here.
In “'Whose Injury is Like Mine?’ Emily Brontë, George Eliot, and the Sincere Postures of Suffering Men,” Kevin A. Morrison argues that these authors, focusing on the transition from a traditional yeoman economy to a system of capitalist property ownership, present male suffering as authentic and histrionic, indicative of both power and powerlessness, and as an attempt to manage perceived threats to the self. Read an excerpt:
I employ the term sincere postures to describe Brontë’s and Eliot’s efforts to figure the gestural and rhetorical modes of male suffering as suffering while also recognizing them as calculated strategies. Representing male suffering as both authentic and histrionic, indicative of both powerlessness and power, enables these novelists to acknowledge the emotional violence that men inflict on women but then to assign a specific cause for it largely outside men’s individual control. This is less an effort to excuse such behavior than it is, I think, an attempt to authorize Brontë’s and Eliot’s own respective projects of establishing sympathy as the foundational virtue of the new bourgeois owning class whose hegemony they help to bring about. If men’s behavior toward women can be seen as emanating from genuine distress rather than inherent misogyny, women can play an active role in offering the kind of succor that might heal the wound and stop the violence that male suffering produces. However, this paradox, in which suffering is at once both a symptom of masculine precariousness and incoherency and an asset for a man’s preservation and reassertion of authority, allows Brontë and Eliot to resolve one problem only to introduce another. If suffering is constitutive of masculine dominance, then the concept of reparative compassion is incoherent because male authority relies on appeals to female sympathy to keep it intact. In my reading, these novels are poised between conservation and critique, producing an ambivalence that can be reconciled only through “imaginary or formal ‘solutions’” to the disquieting paradox of liberal masculinity.
Read more from “’Whose Injury is Like Mine?’” here.