Totality and autonomy: George Eliot and the power of narrative

Lynn, Andrew Bertrand (1999) Totality and autonomy: George Eliot and the power of narrative. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This study aims to explore George Eliot's early fiction in terms of her response to the two competing philosophical traditions of Spinoza and Kant. The dispute between these two traditions begins from differing claims regarding the possibility of metaphysical knowledge, and this of course will have important consequences for both ethics and aesthetics. I argue that Eliot, through her fiction, contributed powerfully to this debate, and my central concern will be her choice of the novel genre as a medium for these ethical and philosophical interventions. The first part of this study sets out the terms of this historical debate, and considers Eliot's distinctive philosophical, ethical and literary programme, which I describe as a 'religion of immanence'. I offer readings of Scenes of Clerical Life and Adam Bede in relation to various philosophical issues such as Spinoza's three kinds of knowledge, Kantian ethics and aesthetics, hermeneutics and biblical criticism, and the literary theory of the early Romantics. The second part of this study draws together these various historical strands, and in a sustained reading of The Mill on the Floss attempts to place Eliot within a post-Romantic paradigm, which is seen as a way of unifying the two traditions with which Eliot engages. I show how Eliot's fiction interacts with the literary theory of the Jena Romantics, and most importantly their conception of music as a paradigm for a non-representational approach to language and literature. I also discuss Eliot's use of the Bildungsroman model, which throws up surprising connections between hermeneutics and that other intense search for origins, Darwinism. I argue that George Eliot's negotiation of these philosophical issues is played out through narrative, which is at the heart of a distinctive ethical and literary project that draws upon the rich resources of the Aristotelian tradition.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Stephen Prickett
Keywords: English literature
Date of Award: 1999
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1999-71898
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 09:31
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 09:31
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71898

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