'The ethics of art' : incarnation, revelation and transcendence in the aesthetics and ethics of George Eliot and M.M. Bakhtin
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This thesis offers an analysis of George Eliot's aesthetics and ethics from the interdisciplinary perspective of literature and theology. I examine the role that religious motifs play in Eliot's "ethics of art," and argue that the motifs of incarnation, revelation, and transcendence are central to Eliot's aesthetic aim of extending her reader's sympathies. Eliot's ethics of art is designed to help her reader transcend his or her inherent egoism, and to improve the way her reader understands his or her own self in relation to the world and to others. An exploration of the religious motifs of incarnation, revelation, and transcendence explains how Eliot achieved this aim without resorting to didacticism or preaching. In order to demonstrate this, the thesis offers a reading of Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda in which I employ three concepts that are present in the early philosophical writings of Mikhail Bakhtin; non-alibi in being, excess of seeing, and self/other relations. The motif of incarnation is central to each of these concepts and forms a bridge between Bakhtin's aesthetics and ethics. In applying these concepts to a reading of Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, I demonstrate the way in which Eliot's "ethics of art" relies on theological motifs.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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