Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. M. Ross
George Eliot's later novels are discussed with reference to Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of dialogism. Although Bakhtin traces dialogism from comedy and carnival, Eliot's dialogism is rooted in tragedy. Romola is set during Florentine carnival and Savonarola's sacred parody of carnival. While Eliot and Bakhtin, following Goethe, both use carnival as an image of ambivalence, in contrast to Bakhtin, Eliot recognizes carnival's violence when it is not simply a metaphor. Deviations from a key intertext, Paquale Villari's Life and Times of Girolamo Savonarola, are critical to understanding the novel's ambivalence. Felix Holt and The Spanish Gypsy are studied in light of Eliot's discussion of tragedy, a genre that Eliot argues contains irreconcilable positions. Neither work arrives at an absolute pronouncement for dealing with social inequities. Although Felix has usually been seen as Eliot's mouthpiece, I argue that Felix Holt and the separately published address are dialogic and Eliot does not present any simplistic single correct course for English politics. Bakhtin's discussion of the difference between epic and novel is a starting point for looking at Eliot's use of parodic heroes in Middlemarch, in which incessant parody provices multiple views on every action or word, and large abstract truths cannot be found. Harriet Martineau is introduced as a model for Dorothea's possibilities, and the monologism of Martineau's work forms a contrast for Middlemarch. In Daniel Deronda, Eliot's hero realizes his inability to believe in an epic stance, and the possibility of politics is challenged. Daniel is paralyzed, unable to act because of his own consciousness of dialogism. The Zionism eventually embraced by Daniel is not endorsed absolutely but is subject to the various perspectives of the novel. The usual understanding of the concluding allusion to Milton's Samson Agonistes is challenged by examining Milton's depiction of the conflicting duties of family and nation.
Hollis, Hilda, "Unsatisfactory Answers: Dialogism in George Eliot's Later Novels" (1998). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2195.