Publication Date

1971

DOI (Digital Object Identifier)

10.26716/redlands/doctor/1971.2

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Committee or Advisor Chair

F.S. Bromberger

Committee Members

William W. Main

Ward S. Miller

Stanley L. Combs

W. Umbach

Keywords

literature, George Eliot, history in relation to literature, writing, literary criticism, novels

Disciplines

Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature | Fiction | History | Philosophy

Abstract

The novels of George Eliot are lucrative source materials for investigating literature's relation to history. Her works offer a spectrum of possibilities in the approach to the past. Felix Holt, the Radical, for example, describes the awakening of political consciousness in early Victorian rural England: The Mill on the Floss depicts the power of traditional class ties in shaping social mores; Daniel Deronda renders the zeitgeist in budding Zionism; Romola is a tidy set piece on the closing years of fifteenth-century Florence, and Middlemarch projects a Heraclitean reality with close-ups on the capillary action of process, dissolution, and change. When Henry James read Middlemarch, he paid it a high compliment by observing: "If we write novels so, how shall we write History" ("Three Reviews," The Future of the Novel, pg. 89)? Though meant to be rhetorical, James's question is a goad. The following three chapters will take up the challenge implicit in his words by exploring the uses of history in George Eliot's imaginative re-creation of the past in Romola, Middlemarch, and Daniel Deronda.

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