Rereading George Eliot

Changing Responses to Her Experiments in Life

By Bernard J. Paris

Subjects: Literary Criticism
Series: SUNY series in Psychoanalysis and Culture
Paperback : 9780791458341, 234 pages, July 2003
Hardcover : 9780791458334, 234 pages, July 2003

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents



1. No Longer the Same Interpreter


Reading George Eliot Then and Now
A Psychological Perspective
Rhetoric Versus Mimesis
Critical Controversies


2. "An Angel Beguiled": Dorothea Brooke


Calvin Bedient on Middlemarch
Rhetorical Treatment of Dorothea
Dorothea as a Mimetic Character
Dorothea's "Education": Casaubon
Dorothea and Will
Saving Rosamond
Dorothea's Sad Sacrifice


3. The Two Selves of Tertius Lydgate


Lydgate as Foil to Dorothea
Prelude to Lydgate
Lydgate's Two Selves
Lydgate's Demoralization
Lydgate and Rosamond
Lydgate's Sad Sacrifice


4. "A Dreadful Plain Girl": Mary Garth


A Foil to the Egoists
Mary's Hard Life
Mary and Fred
Fred Vincy
That Happy Ending


5. "This Problematic Sylph": Gwendolen Harleth


Great Achievements and Great Problems
A Confusing Picture of Gwendolen
More Versions of Gwendolen
Gwendolen's Sorrows
Enter Grandcourt


6. "The Crushed Penitent": Gwendolen's Transformation


Gwendolen's Terror and Guilt
Captain Davilow and Mrs. Glasher
Postmarital Miseries


7. Gwendolen and Daniel: A Therapeutic Relationship?


Critical Disagreements
Is Deronda's Influence Transformative?
Gwendolen and Grandcourt's Death
Deronda Not Gwendolen's Therapist
Gwendolen's New Existence


8. Deronda the Deliverer


An Imagined Human Being
Daniel's Peculiar Position
Search for a Vocation
Deronda's Ambivalence
The Failed Relationship with Gwendolen





A noted Eliot scholar explores how we become different interpreters of literature as we undergo psychological change.


In a probing analysis that has broad implications for theories of reading, Bernard J. Paris explores how personal needs and changes in his own psychology have affected his responses to George Eliot over the years. Having lost his earlier enthusiasm for her "Religion of Humanity," he now appreciates the psychological intuitions that are embodied in her brilliant portraits of characters and relationships. Concentrating on Eliot's most impressive psychological novels, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, Paris focuses on her detailed portrayals of major characters in an effort to recover her intuitions and appreciate her mimetic achievement. He argues that although she intended for her characters to provide confirmation of her views, she was instead led to deeper, more enduring truths, although she did not consciously comprehend the discoveries she had made. Like her characters, Paris argues, these truths must be disengaged from her rhetoric in order to be perceived.

Bernard J. Paris is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Florida and the author of a number of books, including Experiments in Life: George Eliot's Quest for Values and Imagined Human Beings: A Psychological Approach to Character and Conflict in Literature.