Recontextualising George Eliot
A cosmopolitan, progressive, and modern Victorian Writer
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The cosmopolitan nature of George Eliot’s thought, the diversity of her career, the controversial political views she held on colonialism, the social progress she promoted, and the original use she made of her artistic culture in her fiction all prove she is a multifaceted figure whose writings need to be re-interpreted and recontextualised in the light of twentyfirst century criticism. This research intends to explore Eliot’s cosmopolitanism in terms of her Judaeo-Christian European intellectual heritage, link it with Medieval Islamic thought and culture, and further extend it to determining her attitude to Islam and Arabs within the colonial context of her time. The research also wishes to investigate the extent to which some medieval Islamic philosophical ideas that have migrated to Europe have contributed in shaping Eliot’s progressive views about achieving both individual self-improvement and social progress through her lifelong adoption of realism, which depicts the flaws of Victorian society, promotes human sympathy and raises her readers’ awareness. The dissertation finally aims at highlighting Eliot’s sense of modernity apparent in both her way of thinking and writing, which undeniably connects her with some aspects of modernist literature, as well as with other artistic disciplines whose techniques she originally exploited in enhancing the quality of her fiction. Combining biographical analysis and reader-response criticism approaches, the methodological rationale adopted in the thesis is at the interdisciplinary interface between the history of ideas and literary criticism, which means that a special focus will be devoted to Eliot’s biographical and intellectual backgrounds as necessary contexts to interpret her works and understand her postures. This dissertation is meant as a contribution to Victorian studies in extending the findings made so far by contemporary critics about Eliot’s cosmopolitanism to include Islamic intellectual heritage, which she has chosen to ignore. This research equally demonstrates that Eliot’s perception of both Arabs and Islamic culture is a biased and a prejudiced one.
- Doctorat langue Anglaise