In his study of Eliot as a psychological novelist, Michael Davis examines Eliot's writings in the context of a large volume of nineteenth-century scientific writing about the mind. Eliot, Davis argues, manipulated scientific language in often subversive ways to propose a vision of mind as both fundamentally connected to the external world and radically isolated from and independent of that world. In showing the alignments between Eliot's work and the formulations of such key thinkers as Herbert Spencer, Charles Darwin, T. H. Huxley, and G. H. Lewes, Davis reveals how Eliot responds both creatively and critically to contemporary theories of mind, as she explores such fundamental issues as the mind/body relationship, the mind in evolutionary theory, the significance of reason and emotion, and consciousness. Davis also points to important parallels between Eliot's work and new and future developments in psychology, particularly in the work of William James. In Middlemarch, for example, Eliot demonstrates more clearly than either Lewes or James the way the conscious self is shaped by language. Davis concludes by showing that the complexity of mind, which Eliot expresses through her imaginative use of scientific language, takes on a potentially theological significance. His book suggests a new trajectory for scholars exploring George Eliot's representations of the self in the context of science, society, and religious faith.
’… thought-provoking book… [Davis's] concentrated attention allows him to tease out subtle nuances that more general studies pass over.’ Victorian Studies
Contents: General editors' preface; Introduction; The mind and body; The history of the self: the formation of mind; The possibilities of emotion; The will, consciousness, the unconscious; The science of 'spirit': the mind and religious experience; Conclusion: 'Separate yet combined'; Bibliography; Index.
The Nineteenth Century Series aims to develop and promote new approaches and fresh directions in scholarship and criticism on nineteenth-century literature and culture. The series encourages work which erodes the traditional boundary between Romantic and Victorian studies and welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to the literary, religious, scientific and visual cultures of the period. While British literature and culture are the core subject matter of monographs and collections in the series, the editors encourage proposals which explore the wider, international contexts of nineteenth-century literature – transatlantic, European and global. Print culture, including studies in the newspaper and periodical press, book history, life writing and gender studies are particular strengths of this established series as are high quality single author studies. The series also embraces research in the field of digital humanities. The editors invite proposals from both younger and established scholars in all areas of nineteenth-century literary studies.