English, Department of


Date of this Version


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The George Eliot Review 30 (1999) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/


The George Eliot Review 2018 (30)


This is a modest book, edited by three people who are so modest that they reveal nothing at all about their identities. It is possible to discover from a footnote on p.159 that it is a product of a conference on George Eliot although further details of that event remain undisclosed. Two of its contributors, however, are well known in George Eliot circles: Barbara Hardy and Felicia Bonaparte. Their essays are certainly worth reading while all the other contributions have something new to say about Eliot's work even if they are by today's standards under-theorized. One looks in vain in the index for any reference to Bakhtin, Barthes, or Hillis Miller, Eagleton, lameson or the French feminists (to cite but a few of the names one would normally expect to find). The book could almost have been written in the 1960s (it is difficult to avoid the suspicion that some of the essays were). But it is not without its merits.

The essays by Barbara Hardy and Felicia Bonaparte which open and close the book are characteristically impressive performances. Hardy explores the oft-noted similes and metaphors associated with windows in the novel, paying careful attention to detail and coming down strongly on lesser critics who make the mistake of locating Dorothea's vision of the 'largeness of the world' in the 'pearly light' of dawn in chapter 80 in the boudoir rather than the marital bedroom. Bonaparte maps the rivers of passion and time in The Mill on the Floss, charting the multiple worlds created by the complex musical and mythological allusions in the novel and teasing out the antagonism of valid claims which comprise the tragedy of this novel.