Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This work offers a reading of George Eliot's last two novels, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda. The thesis challenges the place both Realist critics and post-structuralist theorists ordinarily assign to these two novels in literary history. It does so by locating these works in the context of a number of important contemporaneous developments in pathology, comparative anatomy, evolutionary biology, geology and the philosophy of scientific method. In each of these fields there was a growing sense of the formative and constitutive function of method in any enquiry. This discursive conception of the necessary dependence of the answer on the nature of the question poses a challenge to the purported neutrality and transparency of what has been conceived as literary Realism. I argue here that Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, though they are novels which traditionally have been placed within literary Realism, actually incorporate these contemporaneous developments in epistemology. Though these novels do not eschew didacticism, their awareness of methodological changes in a variety of scholarly fields modifies the nature of narrative authority vouchsafed by making it provisional and historically specific.
Donaldson, George Ross, "A Serious House on Serious earth: Epistemology in "Middlemarch" and "Daniel Deronda"" (1994). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3215.