ABSTRACT

In recent years critical attention has turned with new interest towards re-positioning George Eliot at the nexus of an ever-expanding network of intertextual and cross-cultural currents. While older studies document the many influences that contributed to her work, the angle of perspective focused on individual agency rather than on aspects of cultural cross-fertilization and resulted mainly in emphasizing an authorial, as well as national, uniqueness that was the hallmark of Eliot studies. Although her wide reading and very intellectual approach were acknowledged as atypical, 1 and the freight of learned commentary in her novels was often felt to detract from her narratives, the essential Englishness of the final product was never brought into question. In this vein, while Gordon Haight's superb biography documents Eliot's many journeys to Germany, her ongoing exchanges with German intellectuals as well as her extensive reading and writing on German culture, these are presented largely as an incidental backdrop to the writing of her veiy TDnglish.' novels. In other words, in spite of the foreignness of many of her sources of inspiration it remained an unspoken and unchallenged premise that they in no way detracted from an 'Englishness' largely based on her famous and much-loved descriptions of rural England. 2 Thus we read her work selectively, and even when substantial evidence points in a direction other than that of our initial premise, it remains oddly unseen. The 2predisposition to view Eliot as a realist functioned in a similar way: her achievement as a novelist was charted following an arc that progressed from the early Wordsworthian ' novels toward the realization of her 'mature' and uniquely realistic art in Middlemarch and then tailed off or took an unaccountable turn in Daniel Deronda. Such novels as did not fit this general pattern (Silas Marner, Romola, The Lifted Veil', The Spanish Gypsy) were viewed as temporary, sometimes regrettable diversions and were consequently backgrounded without changing the overarching schema.