'Spells That Have Lost Their Virtue': The Mythology and Psychology of Shame in the Early Novels of George Eliot

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/321007
Title:
'Spells That Have Lost Their Virtue': The Mythology and Psychology of Shame in the Early Novels of George Eliot
Author:
Bell, Mary E.
Issue Date:
2014
Publisher:
The University of Arizona.
Rights:
Copyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Embargo:
Release 1-May-2015
Abstract:
George Eliot's early novels Scenes of Clerical Life, Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, and Silas Marner, resist or rewrite English cultural myths that embody shame as a method of social control, especially myths from the Bible related to the doctrine of election. Eliot employs a two-level structure suggested by her reading of Feuerbach, Spinoza, and R.W. Mackay, in which the novels follow biblical plotlines, while she presents a positivist understanding of moral motivation derived from Spinoza, in which repressed shame must be acknowledged in order to attain moral freedom. In Chapter One, I argue that her favorite book as a child--The Linnet's Life--forecasts the psychic work of Eliot's protagonists. I also read Rousseau's Confessions--a book that she claimed had great influence on her--and demonstrate how Rousseau's understanding of shame as a corrupting influence shaped her treatment of shame in her novels. In Chapter Two, I discuss Scenes of Clerical Life in the context of English mythologies of the French Revolution. Deploying the gothic mode, Eliot rewrites characters from Carlyle's History of the French Revolution, and Dickens's Little Dorrit, to interrogate the tendency of the English to view all people like themselves as the elect, and to vilify and shame those who differ. In Chapters Three and Four, I argue that Eliot structures the plots of Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss from the Genesis story of Cain and Abel, which is the type of election. Eliot uses this mythological structure to interrogate the power of shame to produce the very evil behavior it condemns, in Hetty, Maggie, and Mr. Tulliver. I discuss Romantic and Victorian versions of the Cain and Abel story, such as Byron's closet drama Cain compared to Eliot's own extension of the story in her poem The Legend of Jubal. I also discuss the treatment of the story of Cain and Abel in various theological treatises, by Bede, Augustine and Calvin. In Chapter Five, I argue Silas Marner's history parallels the history of the Hebrews from the flood, to the Babylonian exile and return. Eliot's treatment suggests that whether Silas is wicked or elect, the narrative is about the vindication of God, not Silas. In contrast, Silas himself is vindicated in the plot with Godfrey because of his choice to care for Eppie. Eppie represents the positive development of Christianity from the ancient Hebrew religion, as it was influenced and purified by Babylonian monotheistic religion. For Eliot (following Feuerbach and Mackay), the "Essence of Christianity" was not the shaming doctrine of election, but rather the doctrine of Christ, who offered forgiveness rather than blame and shame.
Type:
text; Electronic Dissertation
Keywords:
mythology; psychology; shame; Spinoza; Venerable Bede; English; George Eliot
Degree Name:
Ph.D.
Degree Level:
doctoral
Degree Program:
Graduate College; English
Degree Grantor:
University of Arizona
Advisor:
Epstein, William H.

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.language.isoen_USen
dc.title'Spells That Have Lost Their Virtue': The Mythology and Psychology of Shame in the Early Novels of George Elioten_US
dc.creatorBell, Mary E.en_US
dc.contributor.authorBell, Mary E.en_US
dc.date.issued2014-
dc.publisherThe University of Arizona.en_US
dc.rightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.en_US
dc.description.releaseRelease 1-May-2015en_US
dc.description.abstractGeorge Eliot's early novels Scenes of Clerical Life, Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, and Silas Marner, resist or rewrite English cultural myths that embody shame as a method of social control, especially myths from the Bible related to the doctrine of election. Eliot employs a two-level structure suggested by her reading of Feuerbach, Spinoza, and R.W. Mackay, in which the novels follow biblical plotlines, while she presents a positivist understanding of moral motivation derived from Spinoza, in which repressed shame must be acknowledged in order to attain moral freedom. In Chapter One, I argue that her favorite book as a child--The Linnet's Life--forecasts the psychic work of Eliot's protagonists. I also read Rousseau's Confessions--a book that she claimed had great influence on her--and demonstrate how Rousseau's understanding of shame as a corrupting influence shaped her treatment of shame in her novels. In Chapter Two, I discuss Scenes of Clerical Life in the context of English mythologies of the French Revolution. Deploying the gothic mode, Eliot rewrites characters from Carlyle's History of the French Revolution, and Dickens's Little Dorrit, to interrogate the tendency of the English to view all people like themselves as the elect, and to vilify and shame those who differ. In Chapters Three and Four, I argue that Eliot structures the plots of Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss from the Genesis story of Cain and Abel, which is the type of election. Eliot uses this mythological structure to interrogate the power of shame to produce the very evil behavior it condemns, in Hetty, Maggie, and Mr. Tulliver. I discuss Romantic and Victorian versions of the Cain and Abel story, such as Byron's closet drama Cain compared to Eliot's own extension of the story in her poem The Legend of Jubal. I also discuss the treatment of the story of Cain and Abel in various theological treatises, by Bede, Augustine and Calvin. In Chapter Five, I argue Silas Marner's history parallels the history of the Hebrews from the flood, to the Babylonian exile and return. Eliot's treatment suggests that whether Silas is wicked or elect, the narrative is about the vindication of God, not Silas. In contrast, Silas himself is vindicated in the plot with Godfrey because of his choice to care for Eppie. Eppie represents the positive development of Christianity from the ancient Hebrew religion, as it was influenced and purified by Babylonian monotheistic religion. For Eliot (following Feuerbach and Mackay), the "Essence of Christianity" was not the shaming doctrine of election, but rather the doctrine of Christ, who offered forgiveness rather than blame and shame.en_US
dc.typetexten
dc.typeElectronic Dissertationen
dc.subjectmythologyen_US
dc.subjectpsychologyen_US
dc.subjectshameen_US
dc.subjectSpinozaen_US
dc.subjectVenerable Bedeen_US
dc.subjectEnglishen_US
dc.subjectGeorge Elioten_US
thesis.degree.namePh.D.en_US
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineGraduate Collegeen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineEnglishen_US
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Arizonaen_US
dc.contributor.advisorEpstein, William H.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberEpstein, William H.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberHardy Aiken, Susanen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberMonsman, Geralden_US
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