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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.64, No.1, 95 ~ 117, 2018
George Eliot’s Sociological Poetics in Dorothea’s Story
Geum Hee Park
Although acclaimed as George Eliot’s masterpiece, Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life (1871-72) has been attacked by feminists since shortly after it was serialized. The main cause of feminist criticism is that she portrays her heroine, Dorothea Brooke, in an androcentric viewpoint and describes her lived experiences through male discourses. In order to identify what such feminist criticism originates in, this article places the novel in the sociopolitical contexts where Dorothea lived while authoring herself, and then analyzes it with M. M. Bakhtin’s two important concepts, self-authoring and architectonics. As a result, Middlemarch has many shortcomings in the phases of the heroine’s self-authoring and eventually the architectonics. In case of self-authoring, Eliot does not fully explain Dorothea’s responses to her first husband and egoistic priest Edward Casaubon, and then her second husband and English-Polish dilettante Will Ladislaw until she reaches her ultimate marriage conclusions. Incessant authorial intervention obstructs the heroine’s smooth interactions with her two husbands. In addition, the novel does not provide any sufficient comments about Dorothea’s responses to Middlemarchers’ opinions even if handling their opinions in the heroine’s self-authoring influences the novel’s persuasiveness. Dorothea’s story has proved its own limitations by its frequent omissions and authorial intrusions. In Bakhtin’s terminology, Middlemarch does not properly contain I-for-myself, the-other-for-me, and I-for-the-other. It can be said that these shortcomings resulting from Eliot’s cross-dressing narrative have caused attacks by feminists.
Key Words
Dorothea Brooke, Feminist criticism, Cross-dressing, Self-authoring, Architectonics
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