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Transformation of Rage

Transformation of Rage: Mourning and Creativity in George Eliot's Fiction

Peggy Fitzhugh Johnstone
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Transformation of Rage
    Book Description:

    George Eliot has been widely praised both for the richness of her prose and the universality of her themes. In this compelling study, Peggy Fitzhugh Johnstone goes beyond these traditional foci to examine the role of aggression in Eliot's fiction and to find its source in the author's unconscious sense of loss stemming from traumatic family separations and deaths during her childhood and adolescence. Johnstone demonstrates that Eliot's creative work was a constructive response to her sense of loss and that the repeating patterns in her novels reflect the process of release from her state of mourning for lost loved ones.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4397-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Jeffrey Berman

    As New York University Press inaugurates a new series of books on literature and psychoanalysis, it seems appropriate to pause and reflect briefly upon the history of psychoanalytic literary criticism. For a century now it has struggled to define its relationship to its two contentious progenitors and come of age. After glancing at its origins, we may be in a better position to speculate on its future.

    Psychoanalytic literary criticism was conceived at the precise moment in which Freud, reflecting upon his self-analysis, made a connection to two plays and thus gave us a radically new approach to reading literature....

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    George Eliot’s fiction synthesizes the intellectual currents of the nineteenth century. As a lifelong zealous reader and self-directed student, Eliot gained not only a rich background in literature and history, religion and philosophy, art, music, and languages (German, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, and Latin), but throughout her life she kept up with the latest developments in the sciences, including the emerging social sciences of psychology and sociology. Her partner, George Henry Lewes, was also famous in his own right for his substantial writings on a wide variety of subjects, including literature, philosophy, biology, and psychology. Among the eminent names in...

  6. ONE Self-Disorder and Aggression in Adam Bede
    (pp. 24-40)

    After the completion of “Janet’s Repentance,” the third and last story inScenes of Clerical Life, George Eliot wrote her editor, John Blackwood, on September 5, 1857, that “I have a subject in my mind which will not come under the limitations of the title ‘Clerical Life,’ and I am inclined to take a large canvas for it, and write a novel” (Letters2:381). On October 17 she wrote, “My new story haunts me a good deal, and I shall set about it without delay. It will be a country story—full of the breath of cows and the scent...

  7. TWO Narcissistic Rage in The Mill on the Floss
    (pp. 41-67)

    George Eliot beganThe Mill on the Flossin January 1859, shortly after the completion ofAdam Bede. Her first reference to it is a journal entry on the twelfth: “We went into town today and looked in the Annual Register for cases ofinundation” According to Gordon Haight, she “copied … several passages, mostly of 1771, describing ships driven on to flooded fields, bridges washed away, and a family rescued from the upper storey of their house—all of which appear in the final pages of the novel” (Biography302). By the end of March, she described the novel...

  8. THREE Loss, Anxiety, and Cure: Mourning and Creativity in Silas Marner
    (pp. 68-85)

    After the completion ofThe Mill on the Flossin March 1860, Eliot and Lewes took a trip to the Continent, which Eliot described afterward in a letter as “one of those journies that seem to divide one’s life in two by the new ideas they suggest and the new veins of interest they open” (Letters3:311). It was on this trip that Lewes suggested the idea of writing a historical novel based on Savonarola’s life in medieval Florence. Eliot responded with alacrity and immediately began her research there, in preparation for the writing ofRomola(Haight,Biography326). She...

  9. FOUR Pathological Narcissism in Romola
    (pp. 86-110)

    Literary critics ofRomola, whatever their persuasion, agree that the novel represents a turning point in George Eliot’s career.Romolais a very different kind of novel fromAdam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, andSilas Marner, each of which takes place in provincial England during the generation before its creation. By contrast,Romolais set in medieval Italy. Eliot began her research for her historical novel during her stay with Lewes in Florence in 1860, after the completion ofThe Mill on the Floss. Although the writing ofSilas Marnerinterrupted her plans forRomola, she returned to...

  10. FIVE Fear of the Mob in Felix Holt
    (pp. 111-131)

    AfterRomolawas published in July 1863, Eliot and Lewes became busy with arrangements for another household move; their lease on their house in Blandford Square was to expire in November. In August they bought their last home, the Priory, at 21 North Bank in London—a large, secluded, comfortable house, where they moved in November. Plans for helping Lewes’s younger sons get established in their work had added to their sense of turmoil during the summer. Thornie, in particular, needed guidance. He had failed to pass the final examination for civil service in India, and although his father wanted...

  11. SIX The Vast Wreck of Ambitious Ideals in Middlemarch
    (pp. 132-158)

    After the publication ofFelix Holt, George Eliot finally completed and publishedThe Spanish Gypsy, in May of 1868. By the end of 1868, she had made her decision to writeMiddlemarch, but its writing was delayed, first by a trip to Italy in the late winter and early spring of 1869, then by Thornie’s illness and return from Natal to the Priory in early May, and, finally, by his death on October 19. Both Eliot and Lewes suffered keenly from their loss. Eliot’s work proceeded slowly during 1870; by the end of December, about one hundred pages were written....

  12. SEVEN The Pattern of the Myth of Narcissus in Daniel Deronda
    (pp. 159-180)

    Shortly after the completion ofMiddlemarch, George Eliot, visiting in Homburg, Germany, observed a young woman among a group of gamblers, “completely in the grasp of this mean, money-raking demon.” As she wrote in a letter to her editor John Blackwood, “It made me cry to see her young fresh face among the hags and brutally stupid men around her” (Letters5:314). The image of the young woman was destined to become the germ of her next novel,Daniel Deronda, which opens with her character Gwendolen, a young Englishwoman, in a similar scene. As in her earlier novels, Eliot tells...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 181-194)

    At the end of 1877, the year of Blackwood’s publication of the “Cabinet Edition” of George Eliot’s works, Eliot wrote in her journal:

    Today I say a final farewell to this little book which is the only record I have made of my personal life for sixteen years and more. I have often been helped by looking back in it to compare former with actual states of despondency from bad health or other apparent causes. In this way a past despondency has turned to present hopefulness. But of course as the years advance there is a new rational ground for...

  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 195-202)
  15. Index
    (pp. 203-208)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-209)