Wuthering Heights

Social, political and cultural context

These books offer good historical surveys of the period in which Emily Brontë was writing:

  • Asa Briggs, The Age of Improvement. London: Longman 1959.
  • Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Capital, 1848-1975. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1975.
  • F. M. L. Thompson, The Rise of Respectable Society. A Social History of Victorian Britain. 1830-1900. London: Fontana, 1988.

General surveys of various aspects of the literary and intellectual history of the period:

  • Philip Davis, The VictoriansThe Oxford English Literary History 1830-1880Volume 8. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Jerome H. Buckley, The Victorian Temper: a Study in Literary Culture London: Cass, 1966.
  • Robin Gilmour, The Victorian Period. The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature 1830-1890. London: Longman, 1993.
  • William F. Houghton, The Victorian Frame of Mind 1830-1870, London: Yale University Press, 1957.
  • Michael Wheeler, English Fiction of the Victorian Period. 1830-1890. London: Longman, 1985.

An excellent general discussion of the world of Victorian publishing:

  • John Sutherland Victorian Novelists and Publishers. London: Athlone Press, 1976.
  • Classics of the new feminist literary history of the 1970 and 1980s:
  • Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic. The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984.
  • Elaine Showalter, A Literature of their Own. Princeton University Press, 1977. 

Works by Emily Brontë and her sisters

The following annotated editions of the novel are currently available:

  • Wuthering Heights. Ed. Pauline Nestor. London: Penguin Classics, 2003. 
  • Wuthering Heights. Ed. John S Whitley. Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 1992.
  • Wuthering Heights. Ed. Helen Small. Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2009.

The other completed novels by the Brontë sisters are:

  • Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, 1847, Shirley, 1850, Villette, 1853
  • Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey, 1847, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 1848

All are widely available in good editions in such paperback series as Everyman, Penguin Classics, Oxford World Classics and Wordsworth Classics. 

All three sisters wrote poetry and there are several paperback selections in print.

General guides to the Brontës

  • Heather Glen (ed), The Cambridge Companion to the Brontës. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • Patricia Ingham, Authors in Context: the Brontës. Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2006. (Another useful and wide-ranging book, which makes an excellent starting-point for study.)


  • Juliet Barker, The Brontës. London: Phoenix, 2001. (An exhaustive 1000+ page study which demolishes many myths and includes some interesting new material.)
  • Edward Chitham, A life of Emily Brontë. London: Amberley, 2010. (A short and readable biography.)

Critical works on Emily Brontë

  • Wendy Craik, The Brontë Novels. London: Methuen, 1968. (An excellent and helpful introductory study.)
  • Terry Eagleton, Myths of Power. A Marxist Study of the Brontës. London: Macmillan, 1975. (Pioneering Marxist reading of the sisters’ novels.)
  • Inga-Stina Ewbank, Their Proper Sphere: A Study of the Brontë Sisters as Early-Victorian Female Novelists. London: Edward Arnold, 1966. (A very sound contextual examination.)
  • Lucasta Miller, The Brontë Myth. London: Vintage, 2002. (An entertaining and perceptive history of the development of the sisters’ reception and reputation.)
  • Marianne Thormahlen, The Brontës and Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • Marianne Thormahlen, The Brontës and Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. (Full-length studies of crucial dimensions of the sisters’ lives and works.)
  • Raymond Williams, The English Novel from Dickens to Lawrence. London: Chatto & Windus, 1970. (Classic general account of the novel in its 1840s context.)

Criticism of Wuthering Heights 

Most of the books listed in the previous section have chapters or sections on Wuthering Heights easily found from the contents page or the index. Good starting-points for exploring the variety of critical approaches to the novel are:

  • Patsy Stoneman (ed), Wuthering Heights (New Casebooks). London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1993.
  • Miriam Allott (ed)., Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights: A Casebook. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1992.

As well as their useful booklists, these guides include a survey of the history of the critical reaction to the novel since it was published.

Exploring the Gothic

There is a growing range of works on Gothic literature. The following provide a good start:

  • C. Bloom (ed), Gothic Horror: A Reader’s Guide. London: Macmillan (1998)
  • S. Gilbert & S. Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the C19 Literary Imagination. Yale: Yale University Press (1979)
  • M. Kilgour, The Rise of the Gothic Novel. London: Routledge (1995)
  • D. Stevens, The Gothic Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2000)


Note: Remember that websites – including this one – are secondary resources like any other. It is important to check the source of the site and to find out about the author(s). Also, remember that any material you draw from the site should be clearly referenced in essays or project work.

The Victorian Web

A good general site for Victorian literature, with specialised information on a variety of contextual topics as well as individual authors.


This is the site for the Brontë Parsonage Museum and the Brontë Society and contains some useful information.


A well-organised and informative one-stop site.

Film and TV

Wuthering Heights has proved popular with makers of both feature films and television adaptations. It offers some strong characters, changes of scene, hints of the supernatural, opportunities for dramatising suffering and pathos and has at its centre an intense, brooding love story.

There is an excellent review of the main film and TV versions at http://www.wuthering-heights.co.uk/watch.php which gives entertaining opinions and ratings.

As well as these, there have been opera, ballet and musical versions, as well, of course, as Kate Bush’s song. Extracts from some of these can be found on the internet. 

Working with adaptations

The obvious question to ask about any adaptation is: How faithful is this version to the original? Although it is interesting and sometimes amusing to identify what is omitted or changed, there are other, more challenging, questions to be asked. Some, for instance, concern the history and structure of the film and television industries:

  • Why was this version of the novel made at this time? In what ways might it be speaking to contemporary concerns?
  • Who were its likely viewers?
  • What were the motives of the studio or television company and the director?
  • What significance is there in the casting of the various roles?

Perhaps the most important questions relate to the way in which the story is interpreted, and here the answers to that original question about fidelity to the original can be reformulated as new questions:

  • Why might the director have omitted some parts of the plot (including some characters)?
  • Are there any ‘new’ characters or incidents? Why are they in this version?
  • How is the story interpreted? Where does the emphasis lie?
  • How are the characters presented? Are they shown as more, or less, sympathetic than in the novel? Why?
  • What might the director’s interpretation tell us about contemporary attitudes towards the issues raised by the novel?
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