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The Cuckoo's History: Human Nature in Wuthering Heights

From: Philosophy and Literature
Volume 32, Number 2, October 2008
pp. 241-257 | 10.1353/phl.0.0025



Wuthering Heights has proved exceptionally elusive to interpretation. By foregrounding the idea of human nature, Darwinian literary theory provides a framework within which we can assimilate previous insights about Wuthering Heights, delineate the norms Brontë shares with her projected audience, analyze her divided impulses, and explain the generic forms in which those impulses manifest themselves. Brontë herself presupposes a folk understanding of human nature in her audience. Evolutionary psychology converges with that folk understanding but provides explanations that are broader and deeper. In addition to its explanatory power, a Darwinian approach has a naturalistic aesthetic dimension that is particularly important for interpreting Wuthering Heights.

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