Week 10

Danielle Charette, Catherine Park
Victorian Culture and Literature Week 10 Outline
March 24, 2013

George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, “The Lifted Veil,” The Natural History of German Life,” “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists, ”Poovey, “Writing about Finance in Victorian England,” reviews of Mill

1      George Eliot is a “female author” yet her name and position in the Victorian “canon” seems to transcend this label. What does it mean to be a “female author”?

a       Eliot’s “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists”

i        “mind and millinary”, “rank and beauty”, “lofty style,” “mixed style,” “the white neck-cloth style”

ii      What should be the project of a female author? Are the responsibilities of a female author different from the male author?

1      “the most pitiable of all silly novels by Lady novelists are what we may call the oracular species–novels intended to expound the writer’s religious, philosophical, or moral theories” (449)

iii     Eliot’s comment on the writing of females: “the most mischievous form of feminine silliness is the literary form, because it tends to confirm the popular prejudice against the more solid education of women” (454)

iv     Does Eliot fall into the same “silly female” trap when she opts for the literary form as her own expression of truth and education?

b      Is The Mill on the Floss a reparative reading of the Silly Novels (Rachel’s Victorian Studies Class)?

2      Over the course of our seminar, how are female writers/educators treated within the scope of the novel and in a larger context of the critics/social world?

a       Bronte= the role of the schoolmistress

b      Oliphant = writing as economic necessity

c       Reade = writing as providing social model for moral improvement between female friends (letter-writing)

d      Critics’ treatment of the female writer:

i        Jeannette’s Seminar Paper: “In the near-comically sexist “Saturday Review” review of The Mill on the Floss, the (anonymous) critic writes of the surprise that he and others felt that a woman—George Eliot—could write a well-loved novel. The difference between a man’s writing and a woman’s was so great that this critic was able to “detect many subtle signs of female authorship” in Eliot’s work—though only after knowing that he was a she” (2).

ii      ”minuteness of painting and a certain archness of style”: what people like to say about female novelists?

3       What is Eliot’s attitude toward education? What are the forms of Victorian education in general?

a       More of Jeanette’s Paper: Oxfordian, vocational, female

b      Do women authors have an obligation as “representatives of the female intellect”? (Eliot “Silly Novels” 455)

c       Is Maggie a representative of female intellect?

1      what are Maggie’s responsibilities to her family (especially after father’s demise) as a female?

a       her relationship to her father as the “little wench”

2      The female’s role/non-role within family/society?

d      Christina’s Seminar Paper: Roland Barthes selection from The Preparation of the Novel

i        The model for writing as striving for something different than what writers pursue?

ii      Does note-taking capture learning? Facilitate it? REVISIT AT END

iii     The shift from reality effect and what this offers us; Thinking about trajectory of course and ways we interact with reality effect and readings of realism

e       The arch of the seminar: how do we write the realistic novel? TO how do we place the realistic novel within the scope of society?

f       The arch of the seminar 2: thinking of the novel as representational, having suspicions about realism and how realism hides its style from the reader TO thinking of the novel as referential and reading the references as part of the project of realism?

i        Is Barthes trying to loosen up what he said earlier in the reality effect and accommodate for a referential reading?

4      Women and the Real

a       Project of Eliot’s realism

i        compare to Reade’s project of the realist novel: “truth,” “hard evidence,” the researched objective, “new scientific” model

b      Miriam’s Seminar Paper: “On one level, the lifted veil of the title refers to the veil that has been lifted between Latimer’s mind and the minds of others. As a result of this lifted veil, he develops a ‘superadded consciousness of the actual’ (Eliot 88), the ability to see reality, at last about other people, to an extent that others cannot.”

c       the feminine voice not bogged down in Latin and Greek (“Silly Novels”)

d      Eliot’s sense of the obligation to depict various classes and not just the “drawing room novel.”

i        The Natural History of German Life: “our social novels profess to represent the people as they are, and the unreality of their representations is a grave evil. The greatest benefit we owe to the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies”

1      Miller: Garnering sympathy through the use of theatrical form

ii      Rhone and Rhine section of The Mill on the Floss (pg. 282-283)

e       why should you represent people like this in the novel? What is the comment on novel writing embodied through representations of these people?

i        Allison’s Close Reading Paper: “Under the pen of Eliot, realism takes on a historical/materialist bent that seeks out not what is ideal and beautiful but instead what is at once observable and—Eliot allows herself at least this authorial power—what might be identified as ‘inalienable truths’ about the deficiencies of human nature that are always ‘really’ there.”

1      “If any man of sufficient moral and intellectual breadth, whose observations would not be vitiated by a foregone conclusions…his work would be a valuable aid to the social and political reformer” (56)

5       Presentation of economic and legal decision-making in Eliot

a       Sierra’s Criticism Summary: The sphere of financial/legal decision-making, writing about financial/legal decision-making and its repercussions on people’s interactions and understanding of finance in the real world:

i        According to Poovey, the emergent discourse of financial writing is characterized by its “aspirations” (26) toward a completely and accurate account that would then serve as instrument for introducing ethics into the system it critiques (Sierra, 1)

1      Use of “the Derridean “supplement” to get at the problem of insufficient representation in writing and its relation to changing notions of value.”

ii      The way in which objects ground us in our environment/ observation & objectivity?

1      The Tullivers’ sense of ruin upon losing their household objects and furniture (per Barthes’ “Reality Effect”)

a       Poor Mrs. Tulliver, it seemed, would never recover her old self…the objects among which her mind had moved complacently were all gone…all the pleasant little cares about her treasures which had made this world quite comprehensible…since she had made her first purchase of sugar tongs (288).

b      “there is a chill air surrounding those who are down in the world, and people are glad to get away from them, as from a cold room: human beings, are men and women, without furniture, without anything to offer you, who have eased to count anybody, present embarrassing negation of reasons for wishing to see them, or of subjects on which to converse with them”  (292)

c       Maggie as “the only bit of furniture on which “Mrs. Tulliver “could bestow her anxiety and pride”

2      Attitudes toward finance and British identity/notions of Empire








6      Eliot’s narrative style à Looks ahead to Middlemarch

a       Is Eliot’s style more “natural and readable” than Reade’s?

i        Are there instances of obvious research in Eliot? What kinds of paratextual information is provided in Eliot’s work that inform and orient the reader?

1      One-line summaries of chapters

a       Are these one-line summaries comparable to Reade’s closing remarks at the end of chapters? How is such paratextual information rendered by serialization?

b      “The Lifted Veil” and the invention of Latimer as a third-person                   narrator (Miriam)

i        How to read “Lifted Veil” as a story experimenting              with limits of omniscient narration

7       Eliot’s depiction of the disabled—i.e. Philip as hunchbacked in Mill and Latimer in “Lifted Veil” as sickly

a       Disabled men as “womanish” (“Lifted Veil” 81) yet scholarly

b      Is Eliot suggesting that the scholar less wedded to body and gender?







8      Research exercise: Letters, Authors, Pseudonyms, Publishers

a       Research roundup: Jeannette and Christina

b       The effects of the changes in the epigraph

c       Our impressions of the Reade visit

i        interesting findings?

ii      how are we going to use information gained through the Reade visit to further our own projects/inform our own research processes?

iii     From last week: Ngai’s “Merely Interesting”

d      The Aesthetics of Research and Objects of Interest

i        What does “interest” mean? The evolution of “interesting” and its application to art

e        Our own research projects: What is everyone doing?





         To do/Break Talk

        1. Blog posts – talk about
          1. Documentation of outlining process
            1. Cathy’s take: It is easier to document outlining process when communication is remote because distant virtual communication is inherently representational
            2. How do we document the artifacts of teaching/learning when Honors seminar is rightly supposed to be a closed, small, safe space?


        1. Reflecting on note-taking, what does it mean to take notes on archive object


        1. Autonomous aesthetic note-taking
          1. How does the status of the note-taking change when the status of the author changes?  Note-taking as a process?


        1. Objects of research
          1.  what goes in the text from the notes/what does not


        1. What are we going to do with Reade’s documents? How will we document our own notes on his notes?
          1. Charles Reade Twitter Feed:
            1. The possibility of incorporating this new genre of research and application can be +/-. Is Reade tweetable? What do we gain from tweeting him?