The transformative power of education in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

In the final chapter of Emily Brontë’s novel, Wuthering Heights, the reader is presented with an idyllic denouement: flowers bloom in the garden among the fruit trees; open windows reveal a fire in the hearth; and Cathy Linton is giving a reading lesson to Hareton Earnshaw. Through an idealised vision of education, he is being transformed from his previous condition as an illiterate brute. This scene provides a glimpse of education as a highly valued and valorised endeavour, necessary for a happy and civilized society.
Using this nineteenth century novel as a case study, this session uses literary criticism to examine and understand the meaning of education and the value placed upon it. I draw upon notions of binary oppositions developed within the critical theory of Levi-Strauss and Derrida. This will provide insights into the social construction of education within the context of rapid industrialisation, urbanisation and changing social, cultural and political relationships. Comparisons will be made with constructions of education within other nineteenth-century novels and within other cultural artefacts.