LANCE DAVIS CHASE, Marquette University


This dissertation examines George Eliot's use in her fiction of "telling," including voice and point of view, and "showing," or the direct presentation of religious experience. Chapter One presents the subject of the dissertation, George Eliot's ability to convince her readers she was religiously orthodox and yet not offend the "non believers" in her audience. Several explanations for this successful ambiguity are suggested. Chapter Two deals with George Eliot's "telling." Her skillful and varying use of voice is investigated. The various voices such as dramatized second self, self conscious narrator, first person intrusive, implied author and ironic voice are discussed and traced in her fiction. Her increasing skill in use of voice is demonstrated. In Chapter Three the focus is on George Eliot's "showing." Still dealing largely with her presentation of supernatural experience, the chapter discusses what her description of these events appears to say about them. William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience is employed as a touchstone by which to objectively view George Eliot's showing of the religious and supernatural experience. Chapter Four summarizes the techniques George Eliot utilized in her fiction so that both "believers" and "non-believers" found support for their own views. The lack of objectivity of the religious audience and the very ambiguity of much supernatural experience were inherent aspects from which George Eliot benefitted. Her use of transvaluation as an aid to her ambiguity is reiterated. The multiple voices she employed are again referred to. The ironic voice is discussed and George Eliot's faith in the power of belief to determine consequences is referred to as a further enhancement for her ambiguity. This final chapter concludes with an observation that George Eliot's "religion" of fellow feeling even for her had its limitations and her willingness to admit those limitations in her fiction further protected her from exposing a clearly identifiable religious or philosophic identity which might have offended her readers.

Recommended Citation

CHASE, LANCE DAVIS, "PREACHING WITHOUT BOOK: THE RHETORIC OF RELIGION IN THE NOVELS OF GEORGE ELIOT" (1980). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI8111849.