George Eliot and Goethe

An Elective Affinity


In the first half of the nineteenth century in England there was a strong interest in German literature and German scholarship. George Eliot studied German and German literature from the age of twenty. Her first publication, in 1846, was a translation of Friedrich Strauss's Das Leben Jesu; followed, in 1854, by the translation of Ludwig Feuerbach's Das Wesen des Christentums. That same year George Eliot left England with George Henry Lewes on her first visit to Germany. During the next three months they visited Frankfurt, Weimar and Berlin to collect material for Lewes's biography of Goethe. In this study, Gerlinde Röder-Bolton explores the impact of Goethe on George Eliot, whose elective affinity with Goethe was both ethical and artistic, and analyses George Eliot's responsiveness to Goethe's moral vision and the literary uses she makes of her familiarity with Goethe's work. George Eliot and Goethe: An Elective Affinity concentrates on The Mill on the Floss and Daniel Deronda, showing how the intertextual relationship with Die Wahlverwandtschaften holds the key to an understanding of the latter part of The Mill on the Floss, while the first part of Faust and Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre throw new light on Daniel Deronda. This study, with its close analysis of a range of works by George Eliot and Goethe, is essential reading for anyone interested in both or either of these authors or in Anglo-German literary relations.

Review Quotes

”… this lucidly written, jargon-free (…), and insightful study… “ in: Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 26.2, June 1999

Table of contents

Introduction. PART ONE The Mill on the Floss - Die Wahlverwandtschaften: Narrative Strategy and Personal Morality. I The Mill on the Floss: The Problem of the Ending. II Two Quartets. III The Laws of Attraction - The First Stage: Sexual Attraction. IV The Laws of Attraction - The Second Stage: Enchantment. V The Laws of Attraction - The Third Stage: The Awakening. VI The Supremacy of Natural Law. PART TWO Daniel Deronda - Faust I: Narrative Structure and the Struggle for Gwendolen's Soul. I The Make-Believe of a Beginning. II The Struggle Between the Good and Evil Genius. III The Pact. PART THREE Daniel Deronda - Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre: The Process of Individual Bildung. I The Idea of Individual Bildung. II The Process of Individual Bildung: Alienation. III The Process of Individual Bildung: The Great Temptation. IV The Process of Individual Bildung: Disillusion. V The Make-Believe of an Ending. VI Connecting with the Past. VII A European Novel. Select Bibliography. Index.