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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: March 2012

Preface

Summary

This book is developed from the hypothesis that George Eliot wanted the public to read her sentences almost as carefully as she wrote them-to find and respond subconsciously to those places in the prose where vibrations within the syntax itself deliver subtle shocks to the system beneath the contextual level of story and character. My argument is that by doing so, the novelist was fighting the statement she made herself in Middlemarch, that ‘we do not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual’. Through examination of her texts with reference to her manuscripts, I hope to show that George Eliot's active process of writing, rereading and revision is evidence of her commitment to shaping these syntactical vibrations in order to make her readers respond to the pain in even the quietest, most ordinary moments of life.

The introduction explains how I first encountered the vibratory movements within the grammar, as well as the overall methodology of the research. From there I begin with George Eliot's second novel, The Mill on the Floss, using contrasting editions of the work to discuss in more depth the importance of punctuation in creating those vibrations, with particular reference to manuscript revision. Because of the autobiographical links between the young Marian Evans and the character of Maggie Tulliver, I feel that The Mill on the Floss is a natural place to begin the exploration of how George Eliot chose to shape her sentences when entering a character's mind.

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