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Neuromanticism: Emily Brontë and the embodied mind

Kraus, Sara (2019) Neuromanticism: Emily Brontë and the embodied mind. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Scholars often regard Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights as a late Romantic novel, though few studies have explored exactly what is meant by this designation or how a Romantic influence comes to bear on the text. Certainly, Romantic literature is more than a mere sum of its parts and the same should be said of Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, for the novel does not simply borrow Romantic aesthetics such as a reverence for nature or a longing for one’s youth, but engages with the larger philosophical debates that concerned Romantic writers as well as the contemporaneous scholars who influenced them. One major debate concerns the potential material nature of the mind or soul and the threat such a materiality brings to orthodox Christianity’s vision of transcendence—a highly contested topic that, as this study shows, appears time and again not only during the Romantic movement but also throughout the Enlightenment. This thesis provides an overview of Enlightenment and Romantic scholars who consider the possible materiality of the mind and soul. Emphasis is placed on the increasingly materialist (though no less contentious) ontologies which appear contemporaneously to the Romantic movement and influence its literature, in part, by offering a new conception of what is meant by materiality. Rather than conceive of matter as inert or inactive, scholars such as Erasmus Darwin and Joseph Priestley propose a vision of matter as active and alive, meaning it has more in common with the mind and soul than ever before. This new understanding of matter collapses the distinctions between the human and natural world, just as it does the distinction between the mind and body. I argue that it is this conception of materiality and its corresponding implications for notions of the mind, body, and natural world which underpins Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Kraus, Sarasjk101@pitt.edusjk101
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee MemberBrylowe, Thora
Committee MemberTwyning, John
Committee MemberMacCabe, Colin
Thesis AdvisorMurray Twyning, Amy
Date: 28 August 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 28 June 2019
Approval Date: 28 August 2019
Submission Date: 29 July 2019
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 64
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Materialism Romanticism Emily Brontë Wuthering Heights Heathcliff Catherine Nature Erasmus Darwin Priestley Science
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2019 19:08
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2019 19:08


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