English Language and Literature ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-13-2018


The year 1847 marked the appearance of Wuthering Heights on the literary scene. Writing under the pseudonym of Ellis Bell, Emily Brontë soon became known as the “Sphynx (sic) of Literature” following the publication of the culminating masterpiece of her literary career. Although she was not a trained philosopher, her drawings, poems, letters, devoirs, and only novel offer an organic approach to philosophical matters, particularly in her engagements with the meanings of time and space and her interrogations of death.

Surrounded by the pervasive presence of death from her earliest years and beyond, Brontë moved to rigorous interrogations of the afterlife in her writing beginning with explorations of the Bible and organized religion. Not finding answers there, she turned to Nature and the tenets of Stoicism that self-sufficiency, delayed fulfillment, and an afterlife in which the spirit is not restricted to an unfathomable heaven. Ultimately, she envisioned a world where any gap between the spatio-temporal and spiritual could be traversed thus eliminating the barriers between the two realms. The cosmos that Brontë constructs is an immanent space where any divine presence is manifested in the random workings of Nature. The wild moors behind the Haworth Parsonage represented this space, both literally and metaphorically. She often features windows to mark permeable barriers between two spaces and powerful storms to move her characters through time and space. Thus, a powerful storm on the moors transports Catherine Earnshaw, Brontë’s conflicted heroine of Wuthering Heights, from the afterlife back to her childhood home where she discovers a male visitor in her ontological space. When he shatters the window glass, she grasps the opportunity to intervene in her own story. This is the extraordinary event that sets the tone for the discussion that features major developments in Brontë’s intellectual and artistic journey as well as her protofeminist and protomodern contributions to literature.

No scholar to date has examined the life and oeuvre of Emily Brontë in this manner. This study offers an enriching exploration of the powerful framework that she constructs in her philosophical interrogations of death.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Gail Turley Houston

Second Committee Member

Gary Harrison

Third Committee Member

Aeron Haynie

Fourth Committee Member

Carolyn J. Woodward


Emily Brontë, Death, Philosophy, Deleuze, Time, Space

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