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Title: Victorian realism and European philosophy : George Eliot, Mary Ward and translating ideas into fiction
Author: Phillips, G.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7428 4173
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis focuses on the impact of translating as experience, metaphor and influence for the two writers featured in this study, George Eliot and Mary (Mrs Humphry) Ward. I argue that the emotional and intellectual requirements for translation, sympathetic identification and critical judgement, are significant and under-investigated influences on their creative practice. Although it is well known that both writers translated works which challenged prevailing religious understandings, I emphasise that their approach to their translations was itself one of hermeneutic and stylistic fidelity, and explore the process of translation conceived as a series of human relationships. I argue that both women explored the capacity of the ideas and language of their translations to provide conceptualisations of human relationship as the fulcrum and guarantor of emotional value in a Godless world. The considerable critical interest in Feuerbach’s influence on Eliot has focused mainly on subjectivity and the duty of understanding others, but I consider her emphasis on human relationships as acts of faith. Critical interest in Spinoza has been far more limited, and this thesis champions the importance of this relationship for Eliot’s writing in relation to the process of psychological change, the role of intuitive knowledge, and the subjectivity of ethical understanding. The influence of Amiel’s portrayal of the intellectual and psychological experience of losing faith on Ward’s fiction has been largely unexplored in criticism, an oversight this thesis is intended to correct. Chapter 1 contextualizes Ward and Eliot in relation to Victorian conceptualisations of translation more widely, and stresses the context of nineteenth-century translation conceived as a search for fidelity, (in distinction from more recent critical models imposing currents of conflict and mastery). Chapter 2 examines the impact of Eliot’s translation of Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity on ideas around the sacred nature of human relationships, and in particular the influence of Feuerbach’s metaphor of translation on Eliot’s narration. Chapter 3 considers Eliot’s translation of Spinoza’s Ethics, arguing that Spinoza’s ideas about processes of psychological change and the subjectivity of good and evil are more fully integrated into Eliot’s fiction than has traditionally been thought. Chapter 4 considers Mary Ward’s translation of Amiel’s Journal Intime in relation to her most famous novel, Robert Elsmere, tracing how Amiel’s sense of multiple psychologies and his own analyses of other philosophers contribute to Ward’s delineation of the loss of faith. Chapter 5 considers his influence on Helbeck of Bannisdale and Eleanor, and how those novels use metaphors related to translation to consider the gaps between the languages of individuals, and between emotion and its recognition. Ward’s role as translator is examined with reference to hitherto unpublished letters to her father during the final editing of Helbeck of Bannisdale, along with the significance for Eleanor of Ward’s introduction to Joubert’s Pensées and her collaboration with Katharine Lyttelton on its translation.
Supervisor: Bradley, M. ; Raines, M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral