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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Expanding Eliot's realist aesthetic : embodied realist strategies in George Eliot's The lifted veil Shonoda, Mary-Anne


Scholarship on George Eliot’s The Lifted Veil (1859), initially interpreted this novella as an anomaly in her realist oeuvre. More recently, scholars have responded to the text through critical frameworks that emphasise the novella’s realist aspects, particularly its engagement with Victorian science. In this thesis, I draw on research from cognitive psychology and cognitive linguistic studies to show Eliot uses what I call, embodied realist strategies—strategies that require readers to make sense of textual information by drawing on stored, embodied experience—to reveal new ways that the novella aligns with Eliot’s realist aesthetic and ultimately expands our understanding of it. In Chapter One, I situate The Lifted Veil within key visual and critical contexts and outline the three embodied realist strategies that I use to analyse her novella: multimodal integration, the synaesthetic sensorium and sympathy-via-sensory-analogue. Chapter Two applies these embodied realist strategies to analyse The Lifted Veil, revealing how the novella renders the extraordinary experiences of its protagonist palpably real and intimately knowable. In doing so, I demonstrate how Eliot grounds her narrative in ordinary, embodied human experience and ultimately provides a means for readers to legitimately sympathise with the novella’s protagonist. This approach thus responds to claims that Eliot’s ethics of sympathy lead only to projection or disguised egoism. Finally, in the coda to this thesis, I briefly outline how embodied realist strategies may be productively applied to novels already recognised as realist, such as Eliot’s Middlemarch, to explain realist effects not yet considered by Eliot scholarship.

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