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Title: Beyond the Bildungsroman Illusion: Representations of Intellectual Development In the Works of George Eliot and G.W.F. Hegel
Authors: Lerro, Eduardo
Advisors: Brodsly, Claudia J
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: 19th Century
George Eliot
Intellectual Development
Subjects: English literature
Comparative literature
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Virtually any piece of literature from any time period can and has been subsumed to a Bildungsroman concept; and nearly every type of novel, or sub-group of novels, has been read as a kind of Bildungsroman. Although these claims appear to be anchored in the history of a certain literary form, they often have little in common aside from the assumption that the process of intellectual development that the Bildungsroman describes remains categorically stable and un-problematically meaningful across otherwise distinct spheres of culture, language, and genre. Beginning with an analysis of eighteenth-century English and German exchanges of language that demonstrates the origins and limitations of Bildungsroman discourse, this dissertation dissevers Hegel’s and Eliot’s works from the Bildungsroman concept and establishes the foundation for a theory of intellectual development capable of reflecting nuances that Bildungsroman discourse ignores. By closely reading Hegel’s “Spirit of Christianity” and Phenomenology against Eliot’s Romola and its Proem, we argue that Hegel and Eliot share a commitment to integrating socially mediated processes of historical consciousness with subjective processes of intellectual change. These integrated conceptual processes, because they transform the developing subject’s understanding of herself and therefore find themselves reflected in the world within and through which the subject conceives herself, describe representations of intellectual development that complicate the naive conceptualizations of intellectual change upon which so many contemporary accounts of the Bildungsroman rely. But if Hegel and Eliot agree on the importance of conceptual knowledge, they differ in respect to conceptual priority: whereas Hegel’s phenomenological holism demands a rigorous philosophical impartiality, Eliot openly privileges the production of ethical concepts over all other representational priorities. Departing from critics of literary realism who describe Eliot’s aesthetic contribution through a narrow focus on descriptive representations of the natural world, we conclude that Eliot’s ethically motivated representations of intellectual development demand a revision to received narratives of the English realist novel: as metaphysical as it is real, the world undergirding Eliot’s morality-driven realism relies on a theory of intellectual development that subordinates the representation of the natural world to the ethical concepts through which that world attains its moral purpose.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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