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Title: Vicissitudes of desire in George Eliot’s fiction
Author: Kurata, Kenichi
ISNI:       0000 0004 2691 3158
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2010
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Critics have long recognised the conflicting tendencies towards progress and conservatism in George Eliot, which are reflected in the behaviour of her characters. This study focuses on the oscillating pattern of desire in this behaviour. As the characters alternately fight with and succumb to their desires, these desires seem to be disproportionately intensified, often leading to tragic consequences. The thesis seeks to analyse this process in the light of G. W. F. Hegel's and Jacques Lacan's elaborations on the nature of desire, which provide the theoretical basis for the discussion of the fiction. While Lacan sees desire as seeking its own sustenance and intensification, ultimately converting itself into a desire for an unfulfilled desire, Hegel sees desire as a movement of self-consciousness towards a return to itself that is accomplished by desiring the desire of another self-consciousness, that is, recognition. The thesis will explore several variations on the logic of desire which divert it from its path towards recognition, and these can also be seen as various types of addiction: namely, the art of hunger, Protestantism, money-hoarding, Orphic desire, the vicious circle of writing, the gambling appetite and the dialectic of homecoming. By examining through close reading how these motifs are given vivid illustration in George Eliot's fiction, this thesis will demonstrate that the theme of intensified desire is a prominent feature that runs throughout her works and is of central importance in understanding the complex emotional lives and interactions of her characters. The myth of Orpheus's descent to the underworld, which depicts an intensification of a desire for a structurally unattainable love object that is the dead Eurydice, can be seen as a paradigm that is applicable to Eliot's early works. The ascetic figure of Maggie in The Mill on the Floss is then compared to the hunger artist in Franz Kafka's short story, through analysing the abundant food references in the novel. Her adolescent asceticism can be figuratively understood as a kind of anorexia and later develops into a kind of bulimia in her relationship with Stephen. Silas in Silas Marner, too, can be seen as a hunger artist in his addiction to work, until he is freed from his fixation through raising Eppie. In Middlemarch, there is a continuity between the earlier figure of Maggie and Dorothea, and also between Silas and Casaubon. Dorothea, who marries Casaubon out of her art of hunger, utilises her marital relationship to work out and overcome that same art of hunger, guided by Ladislaw as the advocate of spontaneous enjoyment. In the other unhappy marriage, Lydgate's relationship with Rosamond is examined in relation to his appetite for gambling, and that appetite is then seen to play a central part in Daniel Deronda where it is related to Gwendolen's mode of desire, which feeds off and intensifies the desires of others until it is stifled by Grandcourt. Deronda, on the other hand, finds a tentative solution to the impasses of desire in his commitment to the Jewish cause, which can be understood in relation to the text's references to the myth of Ulysses. The centrality of the problem of desire in Eliot's fiction is finally underlined by its reappearance in the work of one of her important successors in the exploration of the psyche, Henry James, whose The Portrait of a Lady can be seen to inherit its critique of desire from Daniel Deronda.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Japan. Monbushō [Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture]
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature