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Title:Tragedy and society: The novels of George Eliot
Author(s):Marck, Nancy Anne
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Kramer, Dale
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, English
Abstract:Eliot's belief that reform must begin with the individual led naturally to her appreciation of tragedy as the best means of arousing human sympathy and inspiring social activity. I locate Eliot's early social ideas in her essays, drawing attention to similar ideas about reform in the writings of her contemporaries, particularly Feuerbach and Marx. I also discuss the aesthetic components of Eliot's theory of tragedy: the collision between the individual and the general, the fellowship of human suffering, the pressure of inheritance, and the tragic actor's submission to social laws.
In Scenes of Clerical Life, Eliot was experimenting with the elements of tragedy which dominate her later works. l go on to trace these elements in Adam Bede, where the cohesive force of Hetty Sorrel's crisis provides the first clear example of Eliot's use of tragedy as a "strategy of containment," a means of artificially uniting the community and repressing discordant social elements. To this end, Eliot constructs an "entailed Nemesis" in order to reveal the destructive potential of rebellion in The Mill on the Floss, to emphasize that widespread reforms are part of a slow, organic historical process in Romola, and to revile mob violence in Felix Holt, where Eliot endorses the reform of ideas rather than social structures.
The final novels provide an even darker view of social improvement. In Middlemarch, the tragic sufferer must adapt his/her aspirations to the limiting conditions of social life since the tragic posture of rebellion is impossible within the world of the novel. I discuss Daniel Deronda as a departure from Eliot's early conceptions of realism, tragedy, and reform and conclude by analyzing Deronda's utopic mission as Eliot's final withdrawal from the issue of social reform in England.
Issue Date:1992
Rights Information:Copyright 1992 Marck, Nancy Anne
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9215853
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9215853

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