English, Department of


Date of this Version

Fall 2007


Published in SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 47: 4 (Autumn 2007), pp. 921-941. Copyright 2007 Johns Hopkins University Press. Used by permission.


This article attempts to show that the grammar of perspective governing pictorial realism is less applicable to music because music exists in a place beyond language and because it requires fewer symbolic, re-presentational forms; it is closer to the essence of the thing itself. In “Notes on Form in Art” (1868), George Eliot writes that “boundary or outline and visual appearance are modes of Form which in music and poetry can only have a metaphorical presence.” George Eliot’s “battle ground of conflicting metaphors” then ceases to pose so much of a problem in the aural world of Middlemarch since conflicting and dissonant sounds are absolutely necessary for the existence of musical harmony. Schopenhauer concedes, in terms very similar to Miller’s, that the observable world is “a constant battle-field” of one will, “whose inner contradiction with itself becomes visible” (WW, 1:344). Music, for Schopenhauer and George Eliot, offers an important alternative to the visible contradictions of the observable world. The Westminster Review article from 1853 asserts that Schopenhauer’s ideal artist “is he whose heart beats with sympathy for all creatures around him . . . acknowledging them as manifestations of the same great Will as himself.” This is why realism in Middlemarch is not solely a matter of “keen vision”; it is also a correlative “adjustment of tones and rhythm to a climax, apart from any imitation.”