George Eliot's Twofold Mind

Gregory Tate

in The Poet's Mind

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199659418
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191749018 | DOI:

Series: Oxford English Monographs

George Eliot's Twofold Mind

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This chapter moves forward to the 1860s to consider the poetry of George Eliot, which, like Tennyson's verse, presents two divergent accounts of psychology. One, similar to her novelistic practice, deploys theories of physiological psychology as the basis for the analysis of mental processes. The other, founded on Eliot's conception of poetry as a spiritual medium, evokes an aspect of mental life that defies analysis. The chapter examines the theories of evolutionary psychology and ‘organic memory’, put forward by Herbert Spencer and by Eliot's partner Lewes, that were important influences on Eliot's poetry. It also reads Eliot's novella ‘The Lifted Veil’ as a meditation on the relations between poetry, prose, and the study of the mind. It then traces Eliot's efforts to reconcile her two accounts of psychology in her epic poem The Spanish Gypsy, her sonnet sequence ‘Brother and Sister’, and the poetic quotations used in her novels.

Keywords: George Eliot; Spencer; Lewes; physiological psychology; evolutionary psychology; organic memory; The Lifted Veil; The Spanish Gypsy; Brother and Sister

Chapter.  12319 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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