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Paper Proposal

For my final paper, I would like to use a metaphysical approach to explore the connection between Catherine and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights as a direct mirror of their destructive environment and how this in turn causes them to be destructive to themselves and one another. To do this, I will begin with establishing what ideal love resembled in the Gothic/Victorian era. This image will be present in both literature and real life figures that had a prevalent presence in England. I will then use this as a standard to which the Catherine and Heathcliff’s love will be held to, to determine it destructive or not. However, the metaphysical lens will prove itself useful after I have presented the history of Eros during the Victorian Era. As this is a Gothic/Victorian novel, using a lens that is something other than Psychoanalytic will be a rather refreshing means of research.

There hasn’t been much written on this topic. However, one of the prolific writers in this field who has been considered to have altered the way in which the novel is viewed, deeply believes the theme of Wuthering Heights is metaphysic. His name is Lord David Cecil, and he wrote the book, Early Victorian Novels proposing that the novel’s main conflict is between the calm and the storm. He believes that Wuthering Heights is the storm and Thrushcross Grange is the calm. Other critics have written about Cecil, either disclaiming his theory, or praising it for its innovative thinking.

There is a gap in the current understanding of what I am proposing, in that, this is a topic that hasn’t been entirely explored. Upon researching like-minded critics of this work, I found a handful worthwhile that simply mentioned Wuthering Heights and the term “metaphysics” in the same sentence. To write a research paper exploring the Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship as destructive in comparison to their surroundings, will be an attempt to close this gap. Many people steer towards Psychoanalysis when one hears of Romance and the Gothic, but to explore something a bit more unconventional such as metaphysics will be exciting and will add to the research of this unknown topic.

My focus for this paper will be primarily on the first half (first 17 chapters) of the novel. Specifically, I will pay attention to the opening description of the two domains. I will also look at Lockwood’s dream at Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff’s reaction to Catherine being left behind at Thrushcross Grange with the Lintons. Again, paying close attention to Heathcliff’s reaction, I will use the passage in which Catherine professes her love for Heathcliff and her reasons for not choosing him over Edgar. I will also draw a parallel to the way in which the atmosphere of the kitchen is described as well as the tumultuous storm that occurred during the conversation. Paying attention to Catherine’s reaction when Heathcliff comes back after three years will also be worthwhile and finally, when Catherine is on her death bed, the conversation that transpired between the couple will also be something to look at closely. In these scenes, I will take note of the atmosphere, connecting key elements of metaphysics to this work and how it predicts the way Catherine and Heathcliff interact.

Works Cited

Hume, Robert D. “Gothic versus Romantic: A Revaluation of the Gothic Novel.” PMLA, vol. 84, no. 2, 1969, pp. 282–290. JSTOR

Hagan, John. “Control of Sympathy in Wuthering Heights.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction, vol. 21, no. 4, 1967, pp. 305–323.

Mum, Edwin. “The Victorian Novel THE Reputation of the Victorian Age.” The Spectator Archive, 28        Dec. 1934

Madden, William A. “Wuthering Heights: The Binding of Passion.” Nineteenth-Century

Fiction, vol. 27, no. 2, 1972, pp. 127–154.

Mills, Pamela. “Wyler’s Version of Brontë’s Storms in Wuthering Heights.” Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 24, no. 4, 1996, pp. 414–422.

Is “The Problem of Old Harjo” really a work of Romance?

Upon reading “The Problem of Old Harjo” by John M. Oskison, I began asking myself if this work really added to the Romance genre. Given everything that was discussed in class, this story is not as obvious in the romance department as one would imagine a work would be in a class called Bad Romance. But, as I continued to read, I noticed that the Bible, and the way it was interpreted at the time, played a big role in the meaning (moral) of the story. As I further understood the biblical parallels of this story, I also saw many terms from A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes being explained.

At the beginning of the story, we are introduced to Old Harjo, a Native American, who has converted to Christianity from his Cherokee religion. However, he is not fully “accepted” by the Mormans in his village, because he is considered a proclaimed bigamist with two wives. Interestingly, he is likened to Abraham from the Old Testament of the Bible. Abraham is considered the father of the ancient Hebrews (Oskison 531). Comparing Old Harjo to Abraham seems fitting, considering, they are both patriarchal figures in their villages and they also had two wives. However, the Mormons decided to see past this fact in the story, and still would not allow Old Harjo into the faith. This is where the first term from Barthes’ discourse comes into play. “Embrace” is described as, “the gesture of the amorous embrace seems to fulfill, for a time, the subject’s dream of total union with the loved being” (Barthes 104). Miss Evans, the young missionary who helped Old Harjo see that he was a sinner and urged him to repent, believed that he was genuine and that the “Spirit of the Lord of the Lord” had descended upon him (Oskison 531). Old Harjo wanted to be baptized and do everything he can to be closer to God because he was enraptured; there was a moment of affirmation where Old Harjo felt fulfilled. (Barthes 105). But, this wasn’t enough.

In the eyes of the Mrs. Rowell, a missionary who deemed herself more experienced with the ways of the unchangeable Indians, Old Harjo’s soul was not good enough to be apart of the Christian faith (Oskison 532). He could not lay himself at the feet of the Lord. Here lies the mode of alteration, another term defined by Barthes. It is, “abrupt production, within the amorous field, of a counter-image of the loved object. According to minor incidents or tenuous features, the subject suddenly sees the god Image alter and capsize” (Barthes 25). Barthes also draws reference from a passage by Dostoevsky, “I perceive suddenly a tiny speck of corruption. This speck is a tiny one: a gesture, a word…something unexpected which appears (which dawns) from a region I had never even suspected…” (Barthes 25). This definition and example are present in Ms. Rowell’s insistence of breaking apart Old Harjo’s family. But why is this a big deal when he is willing to offer his heart and soul to God? This is a counter image of the loved object. In other words, in order to be apart of which Old Harjo desires, he must give up what he also loves, even though his “bigamy” was accepted in the Old Testament during the time in which Abraham, his spiritual brother existed.

What I took from this, based on what the biblical references and Barthes’ insight, is that you should not force your definition of love on someone. If you do not understand the love someone has for something or someone, that is okay. They are in full comprehension of their own emotions and feelings, and so it should be left to them. Forcing Old Harjo to choose one wife over the other in order to stand in the presence of the Lord, is outrageous and Miss Evans felt it too. If someone is genuinely in love with his spiritual development, allow it to be; allow the person to embrace it wholeheartedly, because the references used from Bible spoke nothing but love for faith regardless of external situations. Perhaps this is a romance after all.

Works Cited:

Barthes, Roland. A Lover’s Discourse. Hill and Wang, 2010. Print.

Oskinson, John. “The Problem of Old Harjo”. University of Virginia, 1907. Print.

Final Essay Rough Proposal

This part of the semester is particularly hard because I have to discuss in detail a topic and text of my choice. While there are many other papers that I would like to expand upon, I think I am going to write about Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. This time around, I am more interested in the character development as each character in different ways managed to suck me in.

My focus will either be on the connection that is shared between Heathcliff and Catherine or the love triangle between Heathcliff, Catherine, and Edgar and why she was drawn to Edgar physically, but emotionally and spiritually drawn to Heathcliff. I think the Talia Schaffer reading will prove especially useful as I develop that question.

I am also thinking about researching the parallels between the couples, Catherine and Heathcliff and Cathy and Hareton. These pairs would be rather interesting to discuss because of how similar, yet how different they are from their predecessors in the way they look, they behave, react to situations, and above all love each other. Based on what our intended focus should be, either the notion of love, intimacy, attachment, or romance, I see bits and pieces of each of these concepts in my ideas. But, I am still unsure as to which argument will be the most worthwhile.

Blog Post #2 : The Wife of Bath’s Prologue

The Wife of Bath’s Prologue in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, is an iconic work of feminism. Alison, is a woman of resilience, strength, sass, and virtue. She embodies feminism in every way possible. She stands up for herself, she is vocal and honest, and she takes pride in her body and her soul. The wife of Bath believes that women should whole-heartedly engage in sexual intercourse without shame because it is an action ordained by God who says women are to be fruitful and multiply. After all, she begins to mention important men of the Bible who have once had many wives and weren’t condemned for it. The Bible also emphasizes the importance of virginity, a virtue which she says is for the innocent. However, they had to have also been created, a fact which involves sexual intercourse. So far, Alison maintains that women should be perceived the same way men are, in a sense where they could enjoy sex in any way that they can without being frowned upon.

Of her five husbands, three were good and two were bad. The two that were good were submissive and were easily manipulated by the power of her sex. She would lie to her husbands to make them feel guilty about anything they may or may not have done, just to get what she wants. Alison was ruthless and unapologetic about it. She is, what most people would argue men are like today.

Her fifth husband Jankyn, who was among the two that treated her terribly, was the one she loved the most. He was was the most challenging. Because he demanded more from her as a wife, she found pleasure in doing the opposite. However, his ideology of women was entirely skewed. He had a book of wicked wives. In it, there were stories that told of the most deceitful women in history, such as Eve taking a bite of the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, Delilah’s betrayal of Samson, and Clytemnestra’s murder of Agamemnon. To torment her, Jankyn, would read these stories at night reminding her of women’s capabilities.

This is where it gets good. One day, Jankyn caught Alison ripping pages out of this book and hit her across the head, thereby deafening her in one ear. As she lay on the floor crying, he felt sorry and promised to never hit her again. He walked over to her fallen body, and was later greeted with a blow to his face. When they finally made up, he gave her his estate and she was loving again. Alison used her feminine power and her “weakness” to effectively win over her husband and get exactly what she wanted.

This prologue is used to show not how terrible women can be, but how they can also use their sex and power to get what they want. They shouldn’t be apologetic about it, but revel in their abilities. According to the Wife of Bath, women should enjoy their lives in any way that they can. It is the only way to survive.

Blog Post #1: What is the “disaster”?

The Writing of the Disaster by Maurice Blanchot is a confusing piece. Reading through it, I wasn’t quite sure what to call “disaster”. It still remains nameless.  However, I can’t help but wonder, is”disaster” is a passionate word for love?

The very first paragraph can be dissected in many ways. “The disaster ruins everything, all the while leaving everything intact. It does not touch anyone in particular.” There is such ambiguity in this language. Here, the “disaster” does not scream “love” to the reader, but it does have an aura of volatility, a silent whisper that can shake the very canal of your ear. It can do damage without actually touching you. Now that I think about it, the opening to this novel may regard love as something that may not have been directly experience, but through others, it can be palpable enough to leave its mark. “It ruins everything, all the while leaving everything intact.”

Blanchot then says, “”I” and not threatened by it, but spared, left aside. It is in this way that I am threatened, it is in this way that the disaster threatens in me which is exterior to me – an other than I who passively become other”…what? I’m not if anyone else was as confused by this as I was. But there is a sense of contradiction. It’s almost like saying, “Love will grab you by the love handles and show you a whole new world, but in that world, there is also pain.” I don’t get it. It’s a good thing, but it is also an entity that will shake your entire being apart. However, at the same time, Blanchot might be discussing that although this “disaster” does not touch anyone in particular, it is random and one can be a victim at any time, and that is what’s frightening. “There is no reaching the disaster.” Yeah, until it grabs you by the loins.

“Out of reach is he whom it threatens, whether from afar or close up, it is impossible to say; the infiniteness of the threat has in some way broken every limit.” I think this sentence draws back to my earlier thought where the aura of volatility that irradiates “love”, which I presume to be the “disaster” is silently assaulting your soul. As a result of the rays that stretch from “love”, it breaks barriers and becomes more infinite than believe, and that is what I believe to be the most threatening part of it all. I think this may be the threat that Blanchot is so cautious of in this first paragraph.

“We are on the edge of disaster without being able to situate it in the future…” One doesn’t know when love will come about, and that is what puts everyone at the edge. At any moment, one could fall off. There is no way in telling when one of those rays will tap on right on the chest and push you over. Nearly everything about this first paragraph pinpoints “disaster” in the direction of “love”. Or perhaps, I’ve got it all wrong.


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