Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


School of International, Cultural and Community Studies


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Supervisor

Travis Kelleher

Second Supervisor

Susan Ash


This thesis will explore the way in which responses to Wutheting Heights have changed over time due to the influence of changing standards of literary value. Although Emily Bronte's Wutheting Heights is considered a work of classic literature, it has received a range of both positive and negative responses since it was published in 184 7, influenced by the literary standards of realist, gothic and modernist literature. When Wuthering Heights was written and published, the popular genre of the time was realist fiction, while the gothic genre had experienced both a rise and decline by the 1920s. Wutheting Heights was rejected by the first group of reviewers because it combined elements of both realist and gothic writing. Reviewers conducted a moral and didactic reading that opposed the gothic behaviour of the characters and rejected the ambiguous aspects of the novel. At the turn of the 20th century, however, the rise of the modernist movement allowed Wutheting Heights to be reexamined by critics who read the book through a modernist frame and found aspects of the story to privilege, earning the novel a more positive valuation. These reviewers were interested in finding psychological reasons to explain the behaviour of the characters, and rejected the realist point of view presented by Nelly and Lockwood, the novel's narrators. Based on this analysis, the shifting popularity of literary movements has brought about the initial rejection and later privileging of Bronte's novel. My claim will be supported by analysing the critical responses to Wutheting Heights from different time periods that reflect the dominant attitudes to literature and opinions of Wutheting Heights. In exploring the responses to Wutheting Heights, I aim to show how it is possible for the same text to have a constantly changing value, due to the transformation of standards and trends in literature.