The Hidden Ghost in Me: Emily Brontë's Homeward-Bound Soul

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Spydell, Anna Marie
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University of the South , School of Letters Thesis 2022 , School of Letters , Emily Brontë , Wuthering Heights , transcendence , home , nature , mothers , death
Emily Brontë’s relationship with the idea of “home” was complex. It is well-known that she was so knit together in relationship with the genius loci of her native landscape that she became desperately ill from a sort of “failure to thrive” on the few occasions she traveled, aching for the open air and the boundless freedom of the moors. However, in her writing and in the little we know of her life, Brontë expressed a deep longing in her soul, a reaching for something beyond herself to fill a hole, assuage a yearning, and to grant her everlasting authenticity and liberty. She writes repeatedly in her poems of a desire to commune with boundless nature, and to be boundless herself and never separated from it. Her work moves in non-linear form in search of a residence in which to thrive in freedom and peace: the characters of Wuthering Heights move back and forth between the houses of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange in search of a belonging they find only in frustrated form with one another, and in barely described but undeniably present liberty on the moors that lie between. Her poetry, too, yearns for a place that provides both freedom and safe respite from a place of non-belonging: in the quietude of nocturnal nature, and even in the peace that Brontë imagined would accompany death. While remaining deeply attached to her own home at the parsonage, Emily Brontë suffered from a kind of homesickness—an ache that roved from other worlds, to this world, to other people, and even to non-being. It is through this quality of longing that I and many others have found deep connection and communion with Emily Brontë. Growing up in a difficult domestic situation, I was lucky to discover the Brontës at an early age, and attached myself firmly to Emily, and to Wuthering Heights. In this thesis, I seek to excavate what lies beneath that attachment. One way in which I have found connection with Brontë and her work is through our mutual preoccupation with homegoing, and the different places we seek to home ourselves throughout life. Certainly, Wuthering Heights has been one home for me, a text I have carried with me wherever I go. I seek to explore the different kinds of homes Brontë’s writing invokes: home in a lover; home in the wild; home in death; a home in the creation of art. Emily Brontë explored these spiritual residences in her work: the ways they free us, and the ways they entrap. All of these Brontëan notions of home have, over long years of attachment, become forever entangled with my own. In partnership with Emily Brontë, I search for the true and final home in the life and work of Emily Brontë, and the deep meaning that it holds for those who yearn after something fugitive.