Emily Brontë

Elisabeth Jay

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online March 2011 | | DOI:
Emily Brontë


The reputation of Emily Jane Brontë (b. 1818–d. 1848) rests on one published novel, Wuthering Heights (1847), and some two hundred extant poems and fragments, produced between 1836 and 1848. In 1846 she contributed twenty-one poems to a volume, produced jointly with her sisters, Charlotte and Anne. Poems (1846) by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, as the sisters styled themselves, sold only two copies. It is difficult to tell how many of her poems are autobiographical in origin and how many originally belonged to prose narratives, composed by Emily and her younger sister, Anne, successively recounting the chronicles of two imaginary kingdoms, Parrysland and Gondal. Wuthering Heights, initially greeted as an eccentric and amoral study of uncouth characters inhabiting an uncivilized setting, has subsequently been recognized as one of the most original novels of the 19th century. Emily’s extreme reserve and the destruction of almost all her private papers mean that a few incontrovertible facts, woven together with interpretations of her extant output have been molded into highly mediated accounts by biographers and critics alike from the very first. Modern criticism’s predilection for the ambiguous and the unresolved has found the absence of any indication of authorial intention an additional attraction. If this makes Emily Brontë’s work appear passively enigmatic, a kind of Aeolian harp from which every passing theoretical tendency can extract its own tune, it is as well to remember the strong impact that her novel in particular has made on the wider culture and the creative responses it has generated by way of “afterlives.”

Article.  9002 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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