Better for Having Known Him? Feminine Desire in Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda 公开

Dobben, Joel Brian (2012)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/7s75dd30h?locale=zh
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Abstract

Abstract


Better for Having Known Him? Feminine Desire in Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda


George Eliot's final two novels, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, portray the struggle
of Victorian female characters to mediate impulse and societal constraint. Their plots deal with
female desire for independence, but they also hint at the limits of freer sexual expression.
There has been, in the last thirty years, a wealth of literary criticism about sexual matters in two
novels which at first glance do not dwel on matters of bodily desire. In most interpretations,
the characters of Dorothea in Middlemarch and Gwendolen in Daniel Deronda are freed from
the sterility of their Victorian marriages through finding male partners who have both greater
sexual potency and a feminine sensitivity. This distinction is not so clear, as the two texts hint at
undercurrents of sexual desire motivating these women to enter problematic marriages.


This essay first explores how these women desire, and why they choose the husbands
they do. They struggle to manage their sexuality when its natural development carried a stigma.
The author posits that Dorothea and Gwendolen, born in this construct, develop desires that
conform to Victorian attitudes yet are off--kilter from normalized sexuality. Their initial choices
of partners express queer desire, in an expansive sense, and it hints at the essential falseness of
the repressive construct created for 19th century women.


These females eventually fall in love with virile yet effeminate men whose existence hints at the possibilities of a hidden world of
freer sexual expression. However, these male figures function in this repressive society, possessing a curious
liminality that limits their ability to fully lift Dorothea and Gwendolen from their miserable
marital situations. Eliot does not give her two heroines happy endings, although she does offer
the possibility of living within a system. Empathy, the ability to understand and form an emotional union with
another, is conveyed in the novels in ways which connote eroticism. This
paper explores the sexuality of the novels while essentially reaffirming their nuanced bleakness.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction……………………………………………………….………………1
1. Strange Fires……………………………………………………………………5
2. That Obscure Object of Desire…………………………………………..……23
3. Liminality's Discontents…………………………………………………...….44
Works Cited……………………………………………………………………...60

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