Keuss, Jeffrey F.
A poetics of Jesus: a/christology in the early fiction of George Eliot.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This thesis argues for a reading of George Eliot's early fiction - Scenes of Clerical Life, Adam Bede, and The Mill on the Floss - as an exercise in developing what I have termed a poetics of Jesus. This constitutes a poetics that is a space of continual clearing (lichtung) and an ultimate deconstruction of barriers that inhibit the nexus of the subject and the sacred. I reflect on the work of eighteenth and nineteenth century Anglo-German Higher Criticism and Victorian novelists and situate George Eliot as a writer who seeks to transfigure poetics as that which recovers what John Hick has termed a 'language of love'. This is a language that comes before the systemic formalism found in Christian poetics after Augustine to F.C. Baur, Ludwig Feuerbach, and David Friedrich Strauss. In her fiction George Eliot achieves what I term a transfigurational language that is different from contemporary writers of the Victorian period. In the development of her poetics from Scenes of Clerical Life, Adam Bede, and through The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot juxtaposes the evoked image of Christ with her fiction in order to let both image and word interact. Eliot's fiction allows the tension between representation and conception of Christ to produce a recovery of a poetics that is similar to the notion of Christ expressed by Thomas Altizer as 'an apocalyptic totality if only because it embodies such a radical and total transformation'. Ultimately, Eliot's fiction offers what I term a poetic cartography of grace that provides a map of meaning which cannot be limited within the space of language. In the act of moving through the sign/signifiers of the sacred, George Eliot exemplifies a poetics that reaches beyond language and outside the limits of theological discourse, evoking an 'a/christology' that actually embodies the figure of Jesus as 'true fiction'.
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