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Empty HousesTheatrical Failure and the Novel$
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David Kurnick

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151519

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151519.001.0001

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George Eliot’s Lot

George Eliot’s Lot

(p.67) Two George Eliot’s Lot
Empty Houses

David Kurnick

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on George Eliot's tangled engagement with the drama. It begins with an analysis of the mutual constitution of theatricalized space and characterological interiority in Romola (1863) and Felix Holt (1866)—transitional novels in which her emphasis on psychological inwardness works at the expense of demonized crowds. But during this period she also undertook a dramatic work that challenged her most fundamental formal and ethical commitments. Conceived as a play but published as an epic poem mixing dramatic and narrative forms, The Spanish Gypsy shows Eliot refusing both the novel as a form and the inward cultivation it seems designed to encourage. The Spanish Gypsy includes narrative passages that take the grammatical form of free indirect discourse, in which a character's habits of mind are mimicked by the narrator's prose. But the exteriorized perspective demanded by the dramatic origin of The Spanish Gypsy assures that these eminently psychologizing sentences emanate from and attach to no character in particular, instead appearing to echo in an auditorium populated with spectators. Eliot carried this experiment in externalized forms of psychological narration into the novels she wrote next, Middlemarch (1871–72) and especially Daniel Deronda (1876).

Keywords:   George Eliot, drama, Romola, Felix Hold, The Spanish Gypsy, Middlemarch, Daniel Deronda

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