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Feminism, Politics and Religion, and the Narrative Voices

Author ChenGuangHua
Tutor OuYangMeiHe
School Nanchang University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords George Eliot Middlemarch polyphony narrative voices feminism
Type Master's thesis
Year 2007
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The life of George Eliot is somewhat like a legendary one. Her colorful ruralchildhood life provided for her rich resources of literary creation, and to a certaindegree contributed to her talents displayed when she was rather small. Still early in herlife she was influenced by her friends with religious skepticism and.liberal ideas.When she was twenty-seven, she translated and published Feuerbach’s The Essence ofChristianity and Strauss’s The Life of Jesus. In 1851, she became assistant editor ofThe Westminster Review, and thus formed a friendship with the rationalist philosopherHerbert Spencer, and was greatly influenced by his philosophy, and because of this shediscarded her Christian belief, and established a conjugal relation with the thenphilosopher, literary critic and dramatist G. H. Lewes.Eliot wrote abundantly and published Scenes of Clerical Life and seven otherfull-length novels and some other works including poems. Middlemarch is generallyconsidered to be her masterpiece, in which a series of characters, events, and questionsabout morality, religion, science, and even profession are merged into the plots set inthe imaginative town of Middlemarch of Loamshire, and depicts panoramically the lifeof the nineteenth century British countryside.There have been voluminous comments on Middlemarch centering on the womenquestion, mythical archetype and creation method, but Bakhtin’s theory of polyphonyseems to remain outside of critics’ attention. The essence of polyphony is dialogue,which surely is not the creation of Bakhtin, but he is the first to lift it to the height ofphilosophy of act through studying the communicative function of language. For him,"dialogue is the communication of spiritual initiatives", a realm in which individualswith different subjective rights hold talks equally, and thus achieve co-existencethrough proving and knowing and compensate each other Or rather it is an ideal of"harmonious difference".~1 As an expression of ideas, it actually airs differentideologies. In contrast to "monologue", which is linked with hegemony, "dialogue"brings forth profound changes to the relation between author and novel, author andcharacter, character and character, author and reader, and reader and novel, making it possible for them totake part in the dialogues instead of being just as spectators.My application of the theory of polyphony to Middlemarch helps discover theparticularity of Eliot’s ideas about women: only reason can direct efforts to rationalgoals; men and women do not survive to. fight, but for love and care; over-devotion tothe masculine society and the negation or ignorance, of their own nature account forDorothea’s failure in realizing her dreams. At the same time, Eliot’s attitude towardpolitics and religion is not totally hostile, but instead she resolves to a rational one,hoping that they can care more about the life of common people. Concerning thecreation skills of the novel, the double narrative voices invite the reader to experiencethe same feelings with the author and the characters, and at the same time meditatewith them.

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