Focus: the writer’s art, value as ‘literature’ or part of the canon

Key figures: FR Leavis described Wuthering Heights as ‘a sport’ in that it was different from anything that preceded it or followed it.

Points of interest: Gothic tradition, poetic style. Despite being considered unique, Wuthering Heights has captured the attention of generations, filtering into popular culture and school set texts. Could also explore how Wuthering Heights has affected the literature that follows it.

Dislikes: No sense of tradition and therefore, worth. Simply a ‘romance’ novel- most people associate it with Cathy and Heathcliff only. Just like Romeo and Juliet, they are known for what they symbolise (i.e. passionate, all consuming love), rather than what they actually are. The fascination lies with the Brontë sisters in general, rather than the text alone.


Focus: how a text relates to its genre e.g. romance, thriller, comedy.

Points of interest: Reading Wuthering Heights as either a novel in the romance tradition (close focus on love relationships, primarily Cathy and Heathcliff) or in the Gothic tradition (focus on supernatural elements, ghosts etc)

Dislikes: Wuthering Heights is diverse in its themes and interests.


Focus: Moral purpose

Key Figures: During the time Brontë was writing, novels that had a strong moral message were very popular with Victorians (consider Jane Eyre for instance which lends itself very well to this type of reading with its exploration of religion through characters like St John and Brocklehurst).

Points of interest: The second section of the novel can be seen as a revision of the first half whereby through education and understanding, the two microcosms of Thrushcross and Wuthering Heights are reconciled with the marriage of Catherine and Hareton. Heathcliff could also be seen as a warning against playing God and getting ‘revenge’ for crimes committed against you.

Dislikes: When it was first published, most negative reviews focused on the immoral behaviour of the characters. Heathcliff is a villain and the behaviour exhibited by many of the characters could be interpreted is immoral or at least, questionable.


Focus: the individual experience of each reader e.g. the expectations the reader brings to the text and what parallels they find with their own lives either personal, social, moral, economic

Key Figures: Roland Barthes declared ‘the author is dead’, giving priority to the reader.

Points of interest: Dependent on reader; examples of reader-response could be Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ or Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘Wuthering Heights’

Dislikes: the cultural and critical resonance of the book e.g. it is impossible to ever read the text without some prior knowledge of either the Brontë sisters or the myth that surrounds Cathy and Heathcliff.


Focus: Language of the text and how it is constructed/ written. Exploring the relationship between words or signs (e.g. the sound pattern of a word, either in mental projection - as when we silently recite lines from a poem to ourselves - or in actual, physical realization as part of a speech act) and what they represent or what they signify (the concept or meaning of the word).

Key figures: Jacques Lacan and Ferdinand de Saussure. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is also crucial as it suggests that different language patterns influence the way we view the world (e.g. Inuits have multiple words for ‘snow’).

Points of interest: The novel tells two stories which are arguably the ‘same’ but the difference is in how they are presented. The multiple narrative is also of inetrest as it suggests our opinions of the story and characters depend on who is telling it to us (e.g. Lockwood’s ‘condensed’ version of Cathy’s death or his opening Gothic impression of Wuthering Heights. Is the Heights really a sinister place or does his language just suggest that it is so?)

Dislikes: The lack of finite knowledge about the actual story as it is all told after the story has ended. Social/class dialogue and inevitable engagement with characters on personal/social level.


Focus: What is not written in texts- gaps, silences, absences. Need to go ‘beyond’ the text and accept there is no one ‘truth’ within language.

Key figures: Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes

Likes: Any reading that suggest Wuthering Heights represents something else e.g. Marxist, feminist.

Dislikes: Inconsistencies within the text e.g. unreliable narrator, changing nature of characters


Focus: Things that seem repressed within the text, psychological states, emotional conflicts

Key figures: Carl Jung, Freud

Points of interest: Cathy’s repressed sexuality and reasons for madness before death, dreams within novel (Lockwood/ Cathy’s dream of heaven), Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross as representations of the civilised and savage within human nature, the ‘moors’ as a symbol of dangerous spaces of the imagination, Heathcliff represents human nature/ will to survive

Dislikes: Reading novel as reconciled e.g. second half is improvement of first


Focus: Exploring women’s experiences of the world and a need to expose ‘masculine’ patterns in literature

Key figures: Gilbert and Gubar, Simone De Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf. In 1969 in her influential book Sexual Politics, Kate Millet suggested that the mechanisms that express and enforce the relations of power in society such as Western social arrangements and institutions are covert ways of manipulating power so as to establish and perpetuate the dominance of men and the subordination of women.

Points of interest: Written by a woman; female narrator in control of story; Cathy as a symbol of repressed sexuality and her daughter as an example of empowered womanhood.

Dislikes: The dependence of Cathy on Heathcliff, narrative closure reliant on marriage between Cathy and Hareton, the need for Lockwood as a male frame narrator


Focus: Class struggle and causes of conflict between the privileged and working classes.

Key figures: Terry Eagleton believes Marxist criticism is necessary to explain the text more fully and to recognise that all texts are a product of a particular time.

Points of interest: Divisions between Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange; Heathcliff’s acquisition of property/power and subsequent usurpation of Hindley and Edgar Linton; presentation of Heathcliff as an ‘it’; Hetahcliff as a victim of social prejudice; Catherine’s refusal to marry Heathcliff on grounds of social prejudice.

Dislikes: In the end, the established classes win through (Hareton and Cathy both products of established class); Nelly maintains importance of position throughout; the need to frame the narrative with Lockwood.


Focus: Exploring black struggle and the negative treatment/depiction or absence of the ‘other’ within literature

Key figures: Edward Said, Aimé Césaire

Points of interest: Presentation of Heathcliff as ‘it’ and what it tells us about society and description of dark skin/ Gypsy and his subsequent rise to power.

Dislikes: Eurocentric attitudes, ‘we don’t in general take too foreigners here’, irrelevant as it focuses on a particular place.


Focus: The context in which literature is produced and received over time.

Points of interest: Emily Brontë’s life, history/background of time it was produced, reception of novel at time published, interpretations of novel over time

Dislikes: Political/economic discussion provoked by Heathcliff, poetic style/language and the fact that Wuthering Heights does not reflect its time in many ways.