winter and George Eliot

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

Christian reminds me in class that I’ve been a little light on British Literature. But I’m really wondering whether Monday night creative writing will ever meet again? I’m sure it will. However, it seems as if a while has passed since “nature” has presented us with a hole.

As to BL, the point was raised at the end of a discussion on George Eliot whether she was too hard on the silly novelists in her excursions against the popular conventions of her time. Eliot, aka Mary Ann Evans, had a thing for generating fiction that reflected close perception and representation of reality, a close scrutiny of human action, and a sense that “experience” was important to the development of character (both in her fictions and in real life). This is why she and Mill have a lot in common about “convention” and culture and a concern with “development” itself, as did Blake.

For a look at some of these issues see Logan’s “George Eliot and the Fetish of Realism” 2002 Studies in the Literary Imagination(TL).

The question, however, of her critique of the women writers of her time and their “fluff” was put in class in the context of market ecology. That is, Eliot is attempting to impose her will on readers and writers. But what if the market calls for the fluff against which she writes, if indeed it is fluff? Isn’t she trying to stiffle choice and strangle the market? As a market related analysis, this point of view emphasizes the market itself rather than the human values that drive those markets. Markets don’t exist outside of human context. It also assumes that since the market exists, it must be a good thing. I have no opinions about any of these issues. The important question for me is why Eliot brings her powers against the conventions in the first place and the reasoning (and resonance) behind her critique. How is her critique “moral” or “demonic” in terms of Blake? And how does her critique develop ideas we’ve been following about “nature,” individuality, and social change?


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