George Eliot: Daniel Deronda
36 Battery Place
New York, NY 10280
Several months after Daniel Deronda’s publication, George Eliot wrote in her diary that its “success at present is greater than that of Middlemarch,” with some people dubbing the novel her “best.” She added, however, that the novel’s “Jewish element” has been “met with much repugnance or else indifference.” In the decades that followed, Eliot’s detailed portrayal of bigotry and patriarchalism has been interpreted countless times. Edward Said and Terry Eagleton have explored the novel’s “proto-Zionism,” viewing it respectively as advancing a paradoxical idea of “secular religion” and as dangerously utopian. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar have deemed it “proto-Feminist,” emphasizing Eliot’s incisive account of “female destiny.” What might Daniel Deronda teach us about race, money, nationalism, and belief today? How was it received in Victorian England, and why has it always attracted the attention of prominent literary critics? How does it fit into the genre of the novel, and in what ways does it deviate from it?
At once psychological and political, Daniel Deronda delves into the inner lives of its young protagonists as they search for what lies beyond the material. Each of them ponders the role played by family origins, class, desire, and religion in the formation of one’s moral and cultural identity. In this course, we will read the novel in its entirety, as well as excerpts from scholarly and other articles examining Eliot’s relationship with Judaism, feminism, cosmopolitanism, and more.
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm
October 16 — November 06, 2019