"What Have You Been Judging From?": Subjectivity and Judgment in Jane Austen's Novels and George Eliot's Middlemarch
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This study draws on critical sources such as Lukács’s Theory of the Novel and Benjamin’s essay “The Storyteller”, and on the ideas of Aristotle, Arendt, and Murdoch, among others, to examine the structures – such as dialogue, free indirect style, irony, and narrative intrusions — through which Austen and Eliot depict social interaction, subjectivity, and deliberation in their novels. Chapter One explores the problems of judgment which these structures stage in Austen, and suggests that Austen presents successful judgment as arising dialectically from the conflict between external restriction of speech and internal freedom of reflection. Chapter Two argues that the experience of (temporally distorted) epistolary communication provides Austen’s characters with a template for further critical introspection. Chapter Three considers Eliot’s mixed response to the modes of understanding the world staged in the nineteenth-century novel's structures of subjectivity and judgment. The study finds that while Austen and Eliot present opposite models for transcending the limitations of subjectivity, both use the novel form to emphasize the moral importance of everyday deliberation.
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