'The divine voice within us' : the reflective tradition in the novels of Jane Austen and George Eliot
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This thesis argues that a ‘tradition of moral analysis’ between Jane Austen and George Eliot — a common ground which has been identified by critics from F.R. Leavis to Gillian Beer, but never fully explored — can be illuminated by turning to what this thesis calls ‘the reflective tradition’. In the eighteenth century, ideas about reflection provided a new and influential way of thinking about the human mind; about how we come to know ourselves and the world around us through the mind. The belief in the individual to act as his/her own guide through the cultivation of a reflective mind and attentiveness to a reflective voice emerges across a wide range of discourses. This thesis begins with an examination of reflection in the philosophy, children’s literature, novels, poetry, educational tracts and sermons that would have been known to Austen. It then defines Austen’s development of reflective dynamics by looking at her six major novels; finally, it analyzes Middlemarch to define Eliot’s proximity to this aspect of Austen’s art. The thesis documents Eliot’s reading of Austen through the criticism of G. H. Lewes to support a reading of Eliot’s assimilation of an Austenian attention to mental processes in her novels. Reflection is at the heart of moral life and growth for both novelists. This thesis corrects a tendency in Austen’s reception to focus on the mimetic aspect of her art, thereby overlooking the introspective sense of reflection. It offers new insights into Austen’s and Eliot’s work, and it contributes to an understanding of the development of the realist novel and the ethical dimension in the role of the novel reader.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2018-12-31
Embargo Reason: Print and electronic copy restricted until 31st December 2018. Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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