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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Separateness with Communication: George Eliot's Anticipation of Globalisation

Sung-Ae Lee.

The transformative power attributed to literature through reflecting and influencing society is an implicit premise of George Eliot's novels, and especially evident in her deployment of utopian tropes to depict both negative, dystopian elements in society and positive, utopian elements. Her last novel Daniel Deronda (1876) is a critique of contemporary (1860s) British society, mainly focusing on its relationship with Jewish people and their religion, but broadening this focus to envision the future of the world and the idea of "progress." By drawing an analogy between gender and race relations, whereby female subordination is presented in such a way that female habitus is a space colonized by men, Eliot interrogates the assumptions underpinning imperialism and racial domination. Colonized space is dystopian space, and within it individuals become abjected (in Julia Kristeva's sense), because women, people of colour, and people of subordinate class are subjected to the monologic values of the colonizer. Eliot's use of utopianism is particularly suited to a Bakhtinian analysis, since it points to the view that perspective should be negotiated among a variety of voices (that is, dialogically). Daniel Deronda is perceived as an inspirational force behind Zionism and the establishment of Israel in 1948, but its own dialogical principles, and grounding sense of the relationship between colonizing and colonized peoples, would preclude the displacement of indigenous people such as Palestinians. Eliot's stated principle of "separateness with communication," affirmed Jewish nationalism as well as nationalism in general as a way of ensuring cultural and political identity for people (as folk), but at the same time disavowed the implication in such identity that "exiles," or "foreigners," might thereby become abjected as "other."


Sung-Ae Lee  (Australia)
Ph.D. Student
Department of English
Macquarie University

Sung-Ae Lee is a Ph.D. student at Macquarie University, where she is in the final stage of writing on Utopian and Dystopian Elements in George Eliot's Novels. She has an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Sydney, an M.A. in Linguistics from California State University, Fresno, and a B.A. from Ewha Womans University, Korea.

  • Gender
  • Class and race
  • Abjection and transgression
  • Utopia and dystopia
Person as Subject
  • Eliot, George

(30 min Conference Paper, English)