Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Caryl Phillips’s The Lost Child
Lesson Plan Production Details
This cluster pairing invites students to investigate the history of the Black Atlantic through Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847) and Caryl Phillips’s The Lost Child (2015). In small groups, students analyze digital artifacts and sources about Liverpool and the Atlantic slave trade, which prepares them to discuss race, racialization, and white supremacy in Wuthering Heights, and to consider how they influence the novel’s love and marriage plots, its Gothic revenge narrative, its representations of property and lineage, its characters’ anxiety over Heathcliff’s uncertain racial, ethnic, and class origins, and its narrative gaps.
Caryl Phillips’s contemporary works take up questions of history, race, violence, and erasure, often using experimental narrative techniques to depict characters and experiences of the Black Atlantic. In his nonfiction travel book The Atlantic Sound (2000), Phillips journeys from the Caribbean to Britain in a banana boat, reliving the journey he and his family made from St. Kitts when he was a child and visiting major historical cities of the transatlantic slave trade. His novel The Lost Child takes up the story of Heathcliff and his mother in Liverpool and refracts it against other, interconnected plotlines, including scenes of Emily Brontë on her deathbed in 1848 and the coming-of-age story of Ben, a music lover and a biracial boy growing up in postwar Leeds and London.
Excerpts from The Atlantic Sound prepare students to read and discuss the fractured, prismatic storylines of The Lost Child, including the novel’s focus on the story of Heathcliff and his mother before his arrival at Wuthering Heights, parallels between Heathcliff’s and Ben’s stories, and Phillips’s variety of narrative techniques. Students also take part in an activity where they analyze the lyrics of different twentieth-century songs that are woven throughout Ben’s sections, discussing his experiences of alienation and his ability to find strength and solace in popular music.
Building on this interaction between the past and the present, this lesson plan prepares students to undertake a final adaptation assignment in which they can either research and analyze how a twentieth or twenty-first century text refracts Wuthering Heights, or create their own adaptation. This lesson plan is part of an upper-level undergraduate course called “The Brontës and After,” in which students also consider other intertextual relationships among Victorian and postmodern or contemporary novels (among, for example, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, and Namwali Serpell’s “Double Men”).
This lesson plan is organized into two units, one on Wuthering Heights and one on The Lost Child. The suggested activities, sources, and sample discussion questions are not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to indicate just a few possible starting points for investigating these rich, complex novels with students. Any further suggestions or corrections are very welcome.
I like to start the semester with Wuthering Heights because it is in the public domain and can be accessed quickly and easily by students in the first week of class, leaving more time for them to order The Lost Child through our local or city library, if they choose. However, this order does have its pitfalls, in that it could lead students to see one text as original and the other as derivative. Olivia Loksing Moy cautions against reading modes that reinforce “colonial patterns of urtext and sequel, original and copy. To read adaptations as more than just homage is a given, but to read them as more than simply resistance and ‘writing back’ also requires conscientious interventions” (Moy, 2020, p. 410).
Since I teach Wuthering Heights first, I find it helpful to ward off reductive claims about originality and derivation by anticipating and discussing this dynamic with students, and emphasizing Wuthering Heights’s status not as an canonical original urtext but as a book that is itself embedded in other precursor texts and tropes that have been widely discussed by critics (the Gothic tradition, the Byronic hero, the Bible, The Thousand and One Nights, etc.) I also introduce students to some of Phillips’s numerous literary interests beyond the story of Wuthering Heights, including his travel writing, his depictions of other authors (such as Jean Rhys in A View of the Empire at Sunset) as well as The Lost Child’s investment in postmodern narrative techniques and popular music. Another approach is to reverse the order, teaching the adaptation before the Victorian text (see Poland 2024), or to read and discuss adaptation theories that invite students to interrogate notions of aesthetic originality (see Fox 2024).
To prepare students to read Wuthering Heights together, it’s important to discuss how we will collectively navigate some of the problematic and racialized terms that appear in the novel, as well as help students understand terms and images that they may not recognize as racialized because of the unfamiliar historical context. Meyer (1996), Sneidern (1995), and Watson (2001) are all helpful resources for instructors to prepare for this discussion. I also incorporate discussion questions from the syllabus by Bindas (2021).
Liverpool’s significance as a major slave port is essential context for Wuthering Heights. Rather than lecture on Liverpool’s history, I invite students to take part in a small group activity in which they analyze visual images of Liverpool and digitized historical artifacts from the Understanding Slavery Initiative, read a short essay by Lunt (2021) on Liverpool’s ties to slavery in The Black Curriculum, and discuss Liverpool’s status as a diverse international port city with established communities of Black, Irish, and Chinese residents and travellers from all over the world (National Museums Liverpool, “Resources,” n.d.). This historical context helps prepare students to discuss the scenes of Earnshaw’s trip to Liverpool and Heathcliff’s arrival at Wuthering Heights, and to speculate about the gaps in Earnshaw’s account.
On our first day of The Lost Child, I introduce students to Phillips and his works, and we discuss excerpts from The Atlantic Sound, in which Phillips recounts his journey to Liverpool and the city’s erasure of its ties to slavery. We also read Agathocleous’s (Phillips 2015) interview with Phillips and discuss his interest in the moors and his eventual fascination with the story of Heathcliff’s origins. Phillips’ insistence that the retelling of history must be non-linear helps prepare students to navigate the multiple timelines and plotlines of The Lost Child. We then turn to the book with the help of the discussion questions below. When we begin reading the postwar sections (the stories of Monica, Julius, Ben, and Tommy), I also bring in images and information on the Windrush (“The Story of the Windrush”), to help students understand the postwar colonial migration that informs Julius’s storyline, and I incorporate Cousins (2010) on the Notting Hill Riots to contextualize the racial violence that Julius faces.
Popular music is central to Ben’s coming-of-age sections. When we get to these parts of the novel, students take part in another group analysis activity in which they look up and report back on the lyrics from one of the songs that make up the chapter titles of Ben’s sections, connecting these lyrics to events and developments in the storyline, and linking them to the novel’s characters. We then read a brief excerpt from Sánchez-Palencia (2020) that considers the significance of music in Ben’s sections and relates it to Paul Gilroy’s discussion of music in The Black Atlantic.
In my experience, this has been an exciting and generative pairing to discuss with students. However, one limitation of this pairing is that both Wuthering Heights and The Lost Child are rather bleak books. Focusing on histories of enslavement in both novels, as important and necessary as this is, could lead to discussions in which students primarily associate both works’ depiction of Blackness with suffering and abjection. To address this, it is important that this pairing not be the only occasion in the semester in which students read and talk about Black characters and historical figures.
In the contexts of this Brontës class, for example, we also discuss Christophine’s social authority in Wide Sargasso Sea, and close out the term with a reading of Namwali Serpell’s “Double Men,” about a Zambian bonding ceremony and a deception that upends the lives of two female friends, from the collection Reader, I Married Him (2016). The sources in the “Black British History” section of the annotated bibliography below offer more insights into the lives of Black British people in the time periods of Wuthering Heights and The Lost Child and are immensely helpful to discuss with students. The final adaptation assignment also offers students more opportunities to independently research work by Black artists and writers.
Activity: Analysis of Digital Artifacts from the Understanding Slavery Initiative
- In small groups, please read and discuss Lunt’s essay “Liverpool’s Historical Links to Slavery Is Something Everyone Should Learn About” from The Black Curriculum and "The Transatlantic Slave Trade" from the National Museums Liverpool website.
- Then, spend some time examining digital artefacts from the Understanding Slavery Initiative (please note that images may be disturbing). Two items to mention include "Description of a Slave Ship, c.1788," about the slave ship Brookes, built in Liverpool in the 1780s, and perhaps the "Silver Whip." Time permitting, students might also look at pictures and descriptions of Liverpool buildings and street signs that are connected to the slave trade.
- As a class, prepare to discuss Mr. Earnshaw’s trip to Liverpool and his and his family’s first encounter with Heathcliff in Vol. I, Chap. IV. Are there gaps or omissions in this account? What questions does this account raise for you as a reader? How do you interpret young Catherine’s request for a whip in light of the artefacts? What questions do you have about Heathcliff’s unknown past in these passages?
- How do the Earnshaws and Nelly react to Heathcliff and what roles do racism, racial violence, and notions of white supremacy play in their treatment of him? In what ways does Heathcliff internalize these harmful ideas? (See, for example, their reaction to meeting Heathcliff in Vol. I, Chap. IV, and Heathcliff and Nelly discussing his dress and appearance in Vol. I, Chap VII).
- Throughout the book, characters make various attempts to define Heathcliff’s racial and ethnic identity, and his background is much debated. What do the characters’ language about Heathcliff’s racial and ethnic identity tell us about the workings of white supremacy and the insistence on racial categorizations and hierarchies? At the same time, how does the ambiguity of Heathcliff’s origins trouble those same categories? (See, for example, Lockwood’s description of Heathcliff in Vol. I, Chap. 1, the scene of Heathcliff’s arrival at Wuthering Heights, the Lintons’ reaction to Heathcliff in Vol. I, Chap. VI, Nelly’s speech to Heathcliff in Vol. I, Chap. VII).
- In what ways is Catherine’s stay at the Lintons’ a lesson in the inculcation of genteel white femininity? How has her attitude towards Heathcliff changed when she returns home? (See Vol. I, Chap. VII)
- How does Heathcliff’s revenge plot interact with contemporary fears of rebellions against enslavers and/or against British imperial rule?
- Discuss the ending of Wuthering Heights. Is this a happy ending? If so, for whom? What characters and plotlines are elevated, and which fall away? What roles do haunting and the local accounts of Heathcliff’s ghost play into all this?
The Lost Child
"This seven-year old dark stranger, whom Mr Earnshaw ‘rescued’ from the streets of Liverpool in 1771, was one of the first literary characters to seize my imagination... From the vantage point of my bench [in Liverpool], I look around and am suddenly convinced that it must have been down here, by the docks, that Mr Earnshaw spotted the scrawny dark apparition named Heathcliff. And, not for the first time in my life, I close my eyes and try to solve the puzzle of this seven-year-old boy’s origins.” (Phillips, The Atlantic Sound, 115)
- In the quote above, Phillips imagines a more vivid and detailed past for Heathcliff than we are given access to in Wuthering Heights. What new possibilities does this open up? Which does this set aside? Speculate on some reasons why Phillips may have made this artistic choice.
- How does the novel approach the gaps of Wuthering Heights, especially in its opening chapter about Heathcliff’s mother and her history? (See Chap. 1).
- In a 2015 Public Books interview Philipps says that “If you’re trying to reclaim a history, as her [Brontë’s] novel is, it doesn’t move in a straight line” (Phillips, “Yorkshire Calling”). What do you make of this idea? How does this idea of non-linearity inform The Lost Child’s multiple timelines (Heathcliff and his mother in Liverpool in the late 1700s, Emily Brontë on her deathbed in 1848, Julius, Monica, Ben, and Tommy in Leeds and London in the postwar period)?
- How does the novel depict independence movements and Julius’s involvement in these movements? What sorts of threats and dangers does he face as a Black man in London? (See, for example, his involvement with the Anti-Colonial Club, the reference to the Notting Hill Riots, and his role as a party organizer in Section II).
- What struggles do his and Monica’s children Ben and Tommy face as biracial children and how do these interact with Heathcliff’s story? (See, for example, their experiences at their new school and with Mrs. Swinson in Section V).
- What dangers are now made more explicit in sections IX and X? Why does the novel close with the disturbing scene of Mr. Earnshaw and Heathcliff on the moors? How does this interact with the representations of the moors and the ending of Wuthering Heights?
Activity: Analysis of Popular Music and Lyrics
- In pairs or small groups, choose one song referenced in Ben’s coming-of-age chapters (Section VI), listen to the song, look up the lyrics, and analyze them. How does this song interact with Ben’s story?
- Sánchez-Palencia writes that:
Just as, in the wake of slavery, music was an invaluable instrument through which to express the unsayable, Ben is eventually able to revisit his childhood traumas with the help of the interracial repertoire of Pluto Shervington, David Bowie, Freda Payne, and Millie Small. One of the most important aspects in Gilroy’s (1993) The Black Atlantic is precisely his focus on music..because, for him (as for Ben in Phillips’s novel), black music defies categorization and symbolizes a hybrid and anti-essentialist notion of race and identity (345-46)Discuss this quote in relation to Ben’s sections. What (if any) solace do the songs offer as he navigates his journey to adulthood?
Final Assessment: Prompt for Adaptation Assignment
For this final assignment, please compose a piece about adapting one of our novels this semester. You may choose from one of the following options:
- In consultation with your instructor, view or read (on your own) an adaptation and write an analysis of how the adaptation reimagines, reworks, or enters into dialogue with the novel the author chooses to adapt. For Wuthering Heights, this might include: Maryse Condé’s Windward Heights (1998), set in Cuba and Guadaloupe, Andrea Arnold’s 2011 film adaptation, or Barnett Freedman’s 1940 illustrations to Wuthering Heights. You can find a preliminary list of Wuthering Heights adaptations on this Wikipedia page, but you may discover others in your research.
- In consultation with your instructor, explain how you would craft an adaptation to one of the works. Your response should include one sample scene of your planned adaptation and a brief craft commentary that discusses the choices you made and why.
Some questions to consider:
- Which scenes or passages did the artist/director/writer choose to focus on?
- Which characters were emphasized? What aspects of plot, character, and/or setting are reinterpreted or remade in the adaptation?
- What artistic/craft choices did the artist/director/writer make? (Examples: writing in a certain POV, using heavy shading in an illustration, focusing on setting in a film, etc.)
- What new considerations, contexts, themes, and/or characters does the author introduce and why?
This lesson plan could be further fleshed out to include other important intertextual works, such as Maryse Condé’s Windward Heights (1998) and Andrea Arnold’s 2011 film adaptation of Wuthering Heights, or by incorporating additional biographical materials, such as the Brontë sisters’ juvenilia or additional nonfiction essays by Phillips. Or, for an upper-level or graduate seminar, students could investigate how anticolonial writers, in Mufti’s words, “embraced..their relation to the Victorian past as a way to negate it” (395) by reading Mufti’s “Hating Victorian Studies Properly” (2020) in conversation with C.L.R. James’s Beyond A Boundary (1963).
Emily Brontë and Wuthering Heights
- Bindas, Ava. “The Victorian and the Human.” Patricia A. Matthew, peer rev.; Ryan D. Fong, syllabus cluster dev. Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom, 2021.
This syllabus examines legacies of white supremacy in Victorian texts through the framework of Black studies, Black feminism, and postcolonial theory. Weeks 7, 8, and 9 of the syllabus (pp. 6-7) address the body, kin, and the environment in Wuthering Heights. These weeks provide useful discussion questions on these topics for students, as well as links or references to framing critical readings by Christina Sharpe and Kathryn Yusoff.
- Meyer, Susan. Imperialism at Home: Race and Victorian Women’s Fiction. Cornell University Press, 1996, pp. 96-125.
Meyer reads Heathcliff’s insurgency as a striking instance of reverse imperialism that brings colonial violence and the colonial gaze to the English domestic interior, reading Wuthering Heights in the context of the Opium Wars, Liverpool’s slave trade, the American Revolution, Canadian discontent, and uprisings in the West Indies. Meyer also interprets the novel’s resistance to closure as a satire of how fiction can work to quash socially resistant energies, which is helpful in discussing the ending of Wuthering Heights with students. Meyer’s interpretation can be usefully contrasted with Watson’s and excerpted and given to students.
- Sneidern, Maja-Lisa von. "Wuthering Heights and the Liverpool Slave Trade." ELH, vol. 62, no. 1, 1995, pp. 171-96.
von Sneidern sets Wuthering Heights in the context of slavery, abolition, and myths of racial superiority in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, arguing for the novel as a “site in which the problematics of an Anglo-Saxon mythology saddled with the fact of slavery and the "fact" of race are revealed, if not resolved” (174). This article offers valuable historical context for discussing the novel, such as James Somersett’s 1771 case against his enslaver, Somerset vs. Stewart, in which the judge ruled on whether an enslaved person who came to England could be forcibly removed and sent away for resale, a case that was just decided at the time of Mr. Earnshaw’s journey to Liverpool (172).
- Watson, Reginald. "Images of Blackness in the Works of Charlotte and Emily Brontë," CLA Journal, vol. 44, no. 4, 2001, pp. 451-70.
Watson argues that the depiction of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights reveals Brontë's racist attitudes towards people perceived as “Black” or “other,” reading his character through the lens of Sterling Brown’s analysis of the “tragic mulatto” stereotype (453). Watson compares the depiction of this stereotype in Wuthering Heights to the portrayal of Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre, and makes a strong case for Heathcliff’s character as a troubling “reinforcement of the idea that in one of mixed heritage, the ‘white’ side gains, but the ‘black’ side destroys what is gained” (459-460). Watson concludes that the Brontë sisters’ established place in the literary canon should not lead readers to overlook these negative depictions. Watson’s interpretation can be fruitfully contrasted with Meyer’s, and excerpted and given to students.
- Lunt, Chantelle. “Liverpool’s Historical Links to Slavery Is Something Everyone Should Learn about.” The Black Curriculum, 2021.
Lunt details Liverpool’s connection to the slave trade, its history as home to the oldest Black community in Europe, its persistent racial inequalities, and contemporary efforts to raise awareness about the city’s past. This is an accessible and informative essay that can be assigned to students or introduced and read in class.
- "The Transatlantic Slave Trade." National Museums Liverpool, 2020.
This site offers brief contextualizing essays about the transatlantic slave trade and provides a good list of online digital resources that can be used in the classroom.
Caryl Phillips and The Lost Child
- Kirlew, Shauna M. Morgan. "For the ‘Dark Star’: Reading Womanism and Black Womanhood in the Novels of Caryl Phillips." ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, vol. 48, no. 3-4, 2017, pp. 49-76.
Kirlew analyzes Phillips’s depiction of Black women in three of his novels, showing how he upends nineteenth-century archetypal portrayals for more complex representations of Black women characters (51). Phillips’s novels approach “a representation of black womanhood in a white supremacist world, all the while recognizing male privilege in the world of the text and even in the prose form and structure” (51). While this essay does not discuss The Lost Child, it offers an intersectional framework that is helpful in thinking about the novel’s representation of Heathcliff’s mother and Julius’s first wife.
- Ledent, Bénédicte, and Evelyn O'Callaghan. "Caryl Phillips' The Lost Child: A Story of Loss and Connection." ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, vol. 48, no. 3, 2017, pp. 229-247.
This article discusses The Lost Child in the context of the “lost children” born of the violent encounter between eighteenth-century northern England and the Caribbean (230). Ledent and O’Callaghan argue that Phillips’s novel reclaims the missing stories of these children and makes use of narrative disjunction to mirror the fragmented families it describes. This article offers helpful insights on intertextuality, narrative structure, orphanhood, and family that can be discussed in class.
- Ledent, Bénédicte, editor. The Caryl Phillips Bibliography. 2021.
This online bibliography catalogues numerous books, special issues, articles, essays, dissertations, and other sources on Phillips’s work. It also catalogues his primary sources, including his fiction, non-fiction, stage plays, screenplays, and other works.
- Agathocleous, Tanya. “Yorkshire Calling: An Interview with Caryl Phillips.” Public Books, 2015
In this freely accessible interview, Phillips and Agathocleous discuss Phillips’s childhood in Leeds, his fascination with the moors, historical memory and amnesia, and the complex narrative structures of both Wuthering Heights and The Lost Child. This interview is a good gateway into beginning a discussion of Phillips’s novel with students.
- Sánchez-Palencia, Carolina. "Caryl Phillips’s The Lost Child"> (2015): Re-imagining Emily>Brontë’s ‘unquiet slumbers.'" Journal of Postcolonial Writing, vol. 56, no. 3, 2020, pp. 342-355.
Sánchez-Palencia argues that The Lost Child ranges between two highly racially violent periods in British history, the mid-Victorian period and the post-Windrush period, in order to challenge “the imperial dogma of linear time,” while using fragmentariness and multivocality to express “a postmodern articulation of colonial trauma” (351). The article pursues this argument through the framework of postcolonial melancholia as formulated by Paul Gilroy, Anne A. Cheng, and Craig A. Smith, and examines Phillips’s interest in the female literary precursors Brontë, Rhys, and Condé. This argument is helpful in discussing the novel’s different historical timelines with students, and also makes a strong case for the novel’s musical allusions as a means through which Ben navigates his childhood traumas.
Black British History
- Bressey, Caroline. “Cultural Archaeology and Historical Geographies of the Black Presence in Rural England.” Journal of Rural Studies, vol. 25, 2009, pp. 386-95.
Bressey’s article challenges the whiteness of the rural British imaginary through archival research that highlights the lives of Black people who lived and worked on country estates in the eighteenth century. For example, the article discusses the genealogy of the Dare family, who comprised at least three generations in Gretton, a village in Northhamptonshire (387).
Bressey also includes visual artifacts by applying the artist Ingrid Pollard’s approach of “cultural archaeology” to representations of Black people in portraits of rural English aristocrats (387-389). This article is useful in preparing students for a discussion of the rural imaginary and the Black presence in Wuthering Heights. Instructors could excerpt from this piece to highlight the historical presence of Black people in rural England in the eighteenth century, and share some of the images Bressey analyzes.
- Cousins, Emily. "The Notting Hill Riots (1958)." BlackPast, 2010
This web-accessible essay provides information about the 1958 Notting Hill Riots, in which white “Teddy Boys” attacked Black residents in Shepherd’s Bush, London, and Notting Hill, unleashing a week of riots and racial violence. This is helpful reading for students to understand The Lost Child’s references to the violence and threats Julius faces.
- Gerzina, Gretchen, editor. Britain’s Black Past. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2020.
This edited collection addresses several audiences: “those descended from black ancestors who arrived centuries ago and those who are more recent arrivals, but also, importantly, all those who believe that Black people arrived in Britain only after World War II” (5). The introduction situates Britain’s Black past in the context of contemporary events such as the 2017 Grenfill Tower fire in London and the wrongful deportation of British citizens who had come to Britain from the Caribbean to work and help rebuild the country after 1945 (4). The introduction also connects this past to the marriage of Megan Markle to Prince Harry and the release of the period drama Belle (5), and compiles other valuable resources for learning about Black British history, including the BBC Radio 4 series “Britain’s Black Past” presented by Gerzina and groundbreaking books by Edward Scobie, Folarin Shyllon, and Peter Fryer.
The contemporary events and representations discussed in the introduction are useful in framing discussions of Black history and the connection between the past and the present with students, and the volume itself is a good resource for students conducting final research projects on the Black presence in Britain. Individual essays that might be especially helpful for contextualizing Wuthering Heights include Raymond Costello’s “The Making of a Liverpool Community: An Elusive Narrative” (99-117) and Caroline Bressey’s “The Next Chapter: The Black Presence in the Nineteenth Century” (315-329), among the many other excellent essays in this volume.
- Gerzina, Gretchen. Black England: A Forgotten Georgian History. 1995. Revised ed. London: John Murray, 2022.
Gerzina’s book challenges the historical amnesia that sees a Black presence in Britain only after 1945, focusing on accounts of Black people in England, especially London, in the eighteenth century (6). Through readings of newspaper accounts, visual representations, letters, memoirs, and other sources, Gerzina uncovers the diversity of Georgian London’s Black community, exploring the lives of enslaved people, sailors, soldiers, scholars, musicians, and other London residents.
Gerzina’s book offers crucial historical context for helping students recognize a large and continuous Black presence in London from the time periods of Wuthering Heights on through The Lost Child. Instructors could excerpt passages from the book as part of an introductory lecture, or discuss how the historical record Gerzina offers enhances an interpretation of Wuthering Heights. For example, Gerzina’s discussion of Black men who fought on the British side during the American Revolutionary War (153-186) could be read alongside Nelly’s questioning Heathcliff about whether he has “been for a soldier?” upon his return to Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange (Chap. 10).
- Matthews, David. Voices of the Windrush Generation: The Real Story Told by the People Themselves. London: Blink Publishing, 2018.
Matthews’s collection brings together first-person accounts by nine people who made the trip from the Caribbean to Britain after World War Two. These oral histories include the stories of Nicey and her daughter Jenny, who discuss childhood, family life, and educational differences between Jamaica and England; Charlie Phillips, who recounts his career as a photographer documenting the Black British experience; and Allyson Williams Mbe, who moved from Trinidad and Tobago to Britain after being recruited as a nurse by the NHS, among the many other fascinating stories in this volume.
This is a useful resource to excerpt from and pair with an introductory lesson on The Lost Child and postwar Black British history. For example, students could read and discuss one or more of these accounts alongside images from “The Story of the Windrush.” These accounts could also pair well with a discussion of the Notting Hill Riots. For example, Norman Mullings Mbe’s account discusses the Teddy Boys and police brutality in 1958 and 1959, and recounts his work establishing the International Friendship Council to fight back.
- Olusoga, David. Black and British: A Forgotten History. London: Pan Books, 2016.
Olusoga’s book challenges the erasure of Black people from Britain’s history, arguing that “the presence of black people in Britain although increasingly accepted has been partially obscured by a celebration of the post-war immigration that, although welcome and positive, tends to drown out the longer more complex story” (26-27). The book begins with the history of Afro-Romans in the British Isles and continues on through the representation of the Empire Windrush at the 2012 London Olympic games. As such, it makes for essential reading for the historical contexts that link Wuthering Heights and The Lost Child.
- Phillips, Caryl. “‘One Grim Winter Evening’: The Colonial Migrant in Britain.” Times Literary Supplement, vol. 6142-43, 2020.
Phillips discusses two pivotal historical moments: the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury in 1948, when West Indian migrants legally entered Britain under the terms of the British Nationality Act, and the Windrush Scandal, when postwar migrants, many of Caribbean heritage, were wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and in some cases forcibly deported. From his perspective as a child of immigrant parents and a lover of books, Phillips reflects on why colonial migrants expressed fondness for a country that didn’t want them (4).
Phillips explores this fondness through the real-life story of David Oluwale, a British Nigerian migrant to Leeds who drowned in the River Aire after being assaulted by two police officers, and through Samuel Selvon’s novel The Lonely Londoners (1956), in which the protagonist Moses Aloetta, a Trinidadian emigrant, stands on the banks of the Thames and admires London. Phillips concludes that that “for my parents, and other colonial migrants, to simply reject Britain would have been to reject a huge part of themselves... They were proud British subjects trying desperately to become British citizens” (p. 6). Phillips’s essay offers a valuable perspective on migration and belonging in postwar Britain, as well as an account of the anti-Black violence and discrimination that Julius, Ben, and Tommy face in The Lost Child.
- "The Story of the Windrush." Royal Museums Greenwich. 2021.
This is an accessible Web resource that provides framing essays, video footage, and photographs about the Windrush and the arrival of British Caribbean migrants in Essex in 1948. Students can also follow links to the original passenger lists. This is a helpful resource for introducing students to the postwar plot timeline in The Lost Child, and to contextualize Julius’s migration to Britain.
- Wambu, Onyekachi, editor. Hurricane Hits England: An Anthology of Writing about Black Britain. New York: Continuum, 2000.
Wambu’s anthology showcases writing about Black Britain since the 1950s, from the first generation of postwar migrants to Britain addressing themes of home, the journey, and marginalization (“Introduction” 27), on to a new generation of writers, including Phillips, who began to “rewrite the story of the arrival of their parents,” transitioning from “the post-Empire experiences of the first generation carrying two worlds in their hearts, to the different landscape of multicultural New Britain, which they now inhabit” (“Introduction,” 28). This anthology features novel excerpts and also poems, interviews, lectures, talks, and speeches, offering instructors an opportunity to bring other genres and perspectives to the Brontë/Phillips novel pairing. For example, E.R. Braithwaite’s nonfiction account of his time as a social worker trying to help a biracial orphan be placed with a foster family (107-112) could be read in conversation with Ben’s and Tommy’s foster care chapters in The Lost Child.
Barbara Barrow is Associate Professor of English and docent at Lund University in Sweden, where she teaches in the English Studies and Teacher Education programs. Her recent articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Cusp, Ecocene, and Feminist Pedagogy (as co-author, with Sera Mathew).
Tile/Header Image Caption
Anonymous. Liverpool in 1680 . Painting. Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool. Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation. This work is in the public domain.
Page/Lesson Plan Citation (MLA)
Barbara Barrow, dev. “Wuthering Heights (1847) and The Lost Child (2015).” Renee Fox, Matt Poland, Oishani Sengupta, Emma Soberano, collab. peer revs.; Ryan D. Fong, les. plan clust. dev./copyed. Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom, 2024, https://undiscipliningvc.org/html/lesson_plans/contemporary_bronte_and_phillips.html.