Wherefore art thou, Heathcliff?
When Emily Brontë set pen to paper to write Wuthering Heights, she probably had no idea that she was about to change the face of romance forever. Heathcliff was the hot shot heard 'round the world, and almost two centuries later, even Bella Swan is reading about him.
In this detailed fifteen-lesson course, you'll get the ins and outs of this 19th-century novel, including
- dozens of readings about vampires, ghosts, and necrophilia…oh my!
- unique Common Core-aligned activities about obsessive love and brooding men. Leave the rainbows and butterflies at the door, folks.
- a crash course in Gothic fiction and Romanticism.
- a brief side trip to visit everyone's favorite Gothic dude, Edgar Allan Poe.
Unit 1. Wuthering Heights
Edward and Bella, meet Heathcliff and Catherine. This 15-lesson course will introduce you to the original brooding hero and give you bragging rights over all your friends who think that the whole vampire thing started with Buffy. Suckas.
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 1: Can You Feel the Love Tonight?
Take a little bit of Twilight, a dash of Gone with the Wind, and a smattering of Othello, and what do you get? A gothic, vampire-laden, tumultuous romance, set against the backdrop of jealousy and revenge.
In other words, Wuthering Heights.
But before you get sucked into the stormy drama of Wuthering Heights (and, trust us, you will), we want to mention a few important details.
- Emily Brontë is kind of an enigma, so we won't spend a ton of time thinking about how her life, interests, and beliefs may (or may not) have affected her writing. Because really, it's mostly conjecture. Not even the experts know. Instead, we'll focus our time on the Gothic and Romantic side of things.
- Unless 19th-century novels are your thing, you're probably going to find Brontë's style of writing to be tricky. But once you get the hang of it, it will be a breeze. Read carefully, and if you need to, listen to an audio version online—sometimes all it takes is learning to observe the punctuation.
- Wuthering Heights uses of a frame story or frame tale. That means there's an overarching narrative that contains another narrative. Keep your eye out for it.
Let's get to it.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.1a: The Woman, the Author
Emily B had a major case of the one-hit wonders. So let's get to know the woman behind the book. Read through this comprehensive background about Brontë:
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.1b: Getting Started
Before you dive into Wuthering Heights, remember: take your time with Brontë's writing style, and feel free to mark passages that really throw you for a loop. You'll have plenty of time to revisit them. Start with Chapters 1-4, and in case you are feeling a bit confuzzled, drop by our chapter summaries to make sure you didn't miss anything important.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 1.1a: Topic Blog (or Tumblr)—On-going assignment
There's a lot going on in Wuthering Heights, and while we want you to sponge up as much as possible, we want to be sure you focus a bit, too.
Your task will be to stalk one character and one theme or motif from Wuthering Heights that really piques your interest. Whenever or wherever your topic comes up, make a note. (There's an app for that, BTW.) Then turn those notes into posts on your own blog.
Step 1: First things first. Take a look at this list of themes, motifs, and characters:
- Nature and weather
- Doubles (names, places, family structure, etc.)
- The supernatural (ghosts, vampires, and so forth)—just a quick FYI: vampirism isn't limited to the simple matter of sucking blood; it also has to do with "selfishness, exploitation, a refusal to respect the autonomy of other people" (Foster 16)
- social class, education, and property
- Setting: for example, Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange, the moors; and then all those other out-of-the-way places that invite exploration
- Freedom versus captivity and togetherness versus isolation or solitude (symbolically represented by doors, gates, locks, and so forth)
- Eyes (and other inherited features)
- Characters, including Catherine Earnshaw, Heathcliff, Ellen "Nelly" Dean, Mr. Lockwood, Edgar Linton, Isabella Linton, Cathy Linton, Hindley Earnshaw, Hareton Earnshaw, Joseph
Step 2: Once you have a good sense of the big issues and key characters Wuthering Heights explores, consider the following questions:
- Which topic or character type really intrigues you?
- Do you have strong views on any of the topics or characters?
- Do you have personal experience or an educational background that ties in with any of the topics or characters?
- Is there a topic (or character) that you would like to get to know better?
Step 3: Using those questions as your guide, choose one theme/motif and one character to follow throughout the book.
Step 4: Set up a Tumblr or topic blog focusing on your choice of topic and character. Then, based on the reading and research that you have done so far, make your first entry.
Oh, yeah: you'll be wanting some nuts and bolts. The concept behind this project is to follow your chosen topic or character type through all of your Wuthering Heights reading. Yes, all. That way, you can see how Brontë explores that one concept in various ways. It also gives you a chance to think about and react to the ideas she is writing about.
Your blog/Tumblr entries can be of various sorts, but they should always be related in some way to your main topic or character. Here's a list of suggestions to start you off; feel free to add to the list:
- You can comment on what you see happening.
- If there is an implied question, you can respond to it.
- You can ask questions of the text.
- You can make connections between the topic/characters and other historical or current events or ideas.
Your entries should be varied. Now, this means at least two very different things.
Thing 1: Vary the types of entries you make. In other words, don't always ask a question or always comment.
Thing 2: Vary the content of your entries.
- Consider including a poem or song that connects to the issue.
- Post a painting or comic that relates to your topic.
- Include some original art or lyrics that you've created.
- Include a link to an article (newspaper, historical document, etc.) that relates to your topic.
Step 5: Get posting. The frequency of your posts may vary, but aim for one post per lesson. In case it's not convenient to post when you are in the middle of reading a thrilling passage, just jot down a note whenever or wherever your topic comes up. (There's an app for that, BTW.) Then turn those notes into posts later.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 1.1b: Double-Entry (Dialectical) Journal—On-going assignment
Throughout this unit you will be keeping a double-entry or dialectical journal. A what now?
Basically, there will be two columns:
- In one, you'll jot down interesting tidbits, quotes, ideas, thematic concerns, symbols, and anything else from your assigned reading in one column.
- In the other, you get to have your say.
It's human nature to have something to say, but your goal is to take it up a notch and have something meaningful to say. Your entries may take many forms:
- You can pose questions.
- You can highlight passages that really get under your skin or that make you gasp in horror—and say why.
- You can compare what you read to something else.
- You can talk about how something is developing over the course of the book.
Please note: we did not say summarize. So let's keep it that way.
Ultimately, the dialectical journal that you keep will be an informal record of your experience reading about the tumultuous (and sometimes downright crazy) events and people of Wuthering Heights. You will be referring to this journal throughout the course, especially when you are in the idea-gathering stage for other activities. So no slacking.
Now that we've touched on the preliminaries, here's what you do:
Step 1: Grab a notebook or open Word and create a simple table: two columns, lots of rows. Get into the habit of writing a heading for each new lesson's work, and always include a note of which chapters you're reading that day.
Step 2: Read whatever's on deck for the day (in this case, the first four chapters of Wuthering Heights).
In the left column of your organizer, jot down quotes or points from the reading that make you want to pause so that you can have your say. Then, in the right column, say what's on your mind. For this lesson generate at least five entries (1 quote/idea + your response = one entry). Response length will vary. But, on average, you should aim for 3-5 sentences.
Step 3: Reflect on what you've seen, heard, and written. Note any trends or patterns that are beginning to emerge. If you are keeping a paper notebook, then jot any noted trends at the top or bottom of the page. If you are working in Word, then consider inserting a page break after your last row of dialectical entries for the day or merging the last two cells and jotting your note there.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Quiz 1.1c: Wuthering Heights, Chapters 1-4
- Course Length: 3 weeks
- Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, College
- Course Type: Short Course
- High School
Just what the heck is a Shmoop Online Course?
Common Core Standards
The following Common Core Standards are covered in this course:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1