Preferred Citation: Litvak, Joseph. Caught in the Act: Theatricality in the Nineteenth-Century English Novel. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1992.

Poetry and Theatricality in Daniel Deronda

5. Poetry and Theatricality in Daniel Deronda

My Dear Lewes

I had to go out of Town this morning and have only time to write a line before post hour to say that I read Book Six [of Daniel Deronda] last night and have unbounded congratulations to send to Mrs. Lewes. She is A Magician. It is a Poem, a Drama, and a Grand Novel.

Theodora…. As for the Jewish element in Daniel Deronda, I think it a very fine idea; it’s a noble subject. Wilkie Collins and Miss Braddon would not have thought of it, but that does not condemn it. It shows a large conception of what one may do in a novel.

Until Daniel Deronda (1876), explicit theatrical themes and images appear rarely and fleetingly in George Eliot’s novels.[1] For this reason, however, one senses a powerful pressure of authorial and textual self-reflection whenever one of the earlier novels does engage the issue of theatricality. One such moment occurs in Middlemarch (1872), and, although it was Eliot’s “rule not to read contemporary fiction,” the theatricality that it represents bears a strange resemblance to the extremism and the excess of the sensation novel.[2] At the end of Chapter 15, which offers an account of Lydgate’s psychology, the narrator explains Lydgate’s “strictly scientific view of woman”[3] as a reaction against his infatuation, while a student in Paris, with an actress named Madame Laure, who was playing the part of woman who stabs her lover. After she has in fact stabbed and killed her husband (who played the lover) on stage, Laure explains the circumstances to Lydgate: “My foot really slipped.” But when he hastens to agree that “it was a fatal accident,” he is shocked to hear her say, “I did not plan: it came to me in the play—I meant to do it.”[4]

The force of this brief flashback comes from its suggestion that Laure’s foot is not the only thing capable of slipping.[5] Her grammar, for example, wavers oddly between activity and passivity (“I did not plan,” “it came to me,” “I meant to”), while one wonders what logic—other than that of temporal distance—grounds the distinction between planning to do something and meaning to do it. The self-incriminating nature of her remarks notwithstanding, these very instabilities in fact contribute to Laure’s acquittal: precisely because her husband’s death occurs on stage—that is, in the essentially irresponsible, paradox-ridden world of “fiction,” where unwilled volitions and unplanned meanings are virtually the order of the day—it can be deemed “accidental.”[6] Ultimately, Laure owes her alibi to the general slippage whereby the fictional frame of her performance becomes indistinguishable from the reality of her (more precisely, her husband’s) execution. We could characterize this slippage as that between art and reality, between the “act” and the fact of murder. And that dedifferentiation finally affects Lydgate, who, in this uncharacteristic but character-forming episode, slides from his “scientific” position as male spectator, to be taken in, as it were, by what Jacqueline Rose calls “the spectacle of the woman.”[7]

Moreover, although Middlemarch, like Jane Eyre, attempts to get beyond its (equally French) theatrical prehistory, the potent confusions broached in this episode themselves slide, as it were, to a point near the end of the novel, in a passage whose theatricality, more typically of Eliot’s pre-Deronda fiction, is implicit rather than explicit.[8] As an odd anticipation of Deronda, and as a clue to what is at stake in Eliot’s shift toward a more open and sustained engagement of theatrical issues, the passage is worth quoting. Lydgate again has a starring role, and once again he breaks character: this time, with his male mastery compromised both by financial trouble and by Rosamond’s recalcitrance, he goes to the infamous billiard-room, and, despite his aversion to gambling, loses himself, as Fred Vincy watches, in what the narrative evocatively calls “play”:

The last thing likely to have entered Fred’s expectation was that he should see his brother-in-law Lydgate—of whom he had never quite dropped the old opinion that he was a prig, and tremendously conscious of his superiority—looking excited and betting, just as he himself might have done. Fred felt a shock greater than he could quite account for by the vague knowledge that Lydgate was in debt, and that his father had refused to help him; and his own inclination to enter into the play was suddenly checked. It was a strange reversal of attitudes: Fred’s blond face and blue eyes, usually bright and careless, ready to give attention to anything that held out a promise of amusement, looking involuntarily grave and almost embarrassed as if by the sight of something unfitting: while Lydgate, who had habitually an air of self-possessed strength, and a certain meditativeness that seemed to lie behind his most observant attention, was acting, watching, speaking with that excited narrow consciousness which reminds one of an animal with fierce eyes and retractile claws.[9]

Just as Laure’s slip of the foot intimated other, farther-reaching “accidents,” so the “strange reversal of attitudes” here points to even more unsettling irregularities. If Laure’s transgressiveness threatened Lydgate’s status as objective spectator, implicating him in her equivocality, here, much later in the novel, Lydgate is “really” making a spectacle of himself, as Henleigh Grandcourt might say. Where the earlier scene hinted at a chiastic exchange of the “attitudes” of male power and female vulnerability, the later scene compounds the ambiguity by figuring the biologically minded and proudly “superior” Lydgate not only as an animal and hence as inferior—Lydgate himself thinks of women as animals, and this association has a venerable pedigree in Eliot’s novels[10]—but as an animal whose “fierce eyes and retractile claws” recall the violence performed by the homicidal actress. Like Laure and her less lucky English counterpart, Lady Audley, or—on a less obviously sensationalized plane—like Vashti and her prototype, Rachel Félix, whom George Henry Lewes called “the panther of the stage,”[11] Lydgate is simultaneously scary and pitiable. The passage thus illustrates a tendency of Victorian novels to make spectacularization and feminization virtually synonymous, and to invest both with the apparently contradictory attributes of danger and weakness.

And again like the earlier scene, this one, bizarrely featuring the man of science as a belated revamping of the murderous actress, combines sexual ambiguity with rhetorical or formal ambiguity: just as Lydgate occupies both male and female positions here, so the rather “excited” language that describes his inhabitual way of “acting, watching, [and] speaking” calls attention to it as acting, and to its narrative context as both represented reality and staged scene. The novel’s realism almost threatens here to turn into the more obviously stylized and alienating mode of melodrama. At the same time, however, the passage gives us reason to believe that this sensationalizing may not be so easily contained. In keeping with a familiar pattern, the spectacle spreads out to include its spectators: although Fred Vincy’s “inclination to enter into the play [is] suddenly checked,” the rest of the passage suggests that he may already have been entered into a play—inserted within a frame—that supersedes individual inclinations and disinclinations. However welcome the check on Fred’s bad habit, his sudden positioning as surrogate reader ironically reveals in him—or reveals him in—another, subtler kind of involuntarity: if Fred “look[s] involuntarily grave and almost embarrassed as if by the sight of something unfitting,” his uneasiness may stem from a sense that, like his brother-in-law Lydgate, he can all too easily be made to fit inside whatever it is that does not itself fit a realistic narrative. It is as though even the least astute characters in the novel somehow suspected that, just outside the represented world they inhabit, “Destiny”—whom Nina Auerbach celebrates as an “awesome stage-managing divinity”[12]—“stands by sarcastic with [their] dramatis personae folded in her hand,” ready to impose the archness of a proscenium that would underscore their status as fictional creations rather than real people.[13]

Eliot’s representation of Destiny as both female and sarcastic—that is, as embodying at once a specific kind of person and a specific use of language—serves to reinforce the point that, for all the rapid and startling combinations in these passages, they seem to require that their reader approach them with two distinct sets of analytic terms: while part of what is going on here is about sex and gender—about the sorts of concerns that might be denominated as “feminist” or more broadly as “historicist”—another, equally conspicuous part has to do with questions of rhetoric and epistemology—about the definitive preoccupations of a criticism often dubbed poststructuralist. Of course, at this stage of our inquiry, it should hardly seem surprising that one might have to use these two frames of reference concurrently. Indeed, one of the premises of this book is that, in both nineteenth-century novels and late-twentieth-century literary criticism, problems of textuality and écriture have an intimate and crucial relation to problems of social self-fashioning. What is new in Daniel Deronda—though already adumbrated in the passages from Middlemarch that we have been considering—and what makes Eliot’s final novel especially pertinent in view of the polarizing tendencies of much contemporary criticism, is that it thematizes this relation not only insistently and sophisticatedly, but also in adversarial or even invidious terms.

As we saw in the previous chapter, a sensation novel like Lady Audley’s Secret, in repeatedly staging the breakdown of the opposition between the realistic norm and the spectacular deviation, inscribes a rather sophisticated theory of the novel. Eliot may not have read much contemporary fiction, but the presence of sensational motifs in her novels, combined with her own high-powered theorizing, suggests an intertextual relationship of some importance. In George Eliot and Blackmail, Alexander Welsh has demonstrated some remarkable thematic affinities between Eliot’s novels after The Mill on the Floss and the sensation fiction to which she might seem serenely indifferent.[14] I want to argue that, in addition to sharing the sensationalists’ preoccupation with the control of information in an increasingly urbanized and increasingly anxious culture, Eliot is anxiously engaged in her own systematic misreading of sensationalism. If only as represented to her through Lewes’s literary criticism, sensationalism may have posed something of a threat, a threat that condescending dismissals could not quite deflect.[15] Eliot’s more coherent response, I would suggest, is to superimpose upon sensationalism the very “metalanguage” she has in fact elicited from it. If she cannot escape from sensationalism, at least she can try to regulate it. Containing within their lurid, ostensibly precritical narratives the lineaments of a theoretical discourse about the novel and its theatrical other, novels like The Woman in White and Lady Audley’s Secret remind us that “theatricality,” as its etymology reveals, signifies precisely the mutual implication of the theoretical and the spectacular. The effect of Eliot’s intervention, however, is that, rudimentarily in Middlemarch and elaborately in Daniel Deronda, the theoretical discourse and the still-sensational narratives upon which it now appears to have been mapped, as if from outside, seem not mutually implied but antithetical or antagonistic. James’s Theodora is thus in a certain sense responding on cue when she says of the “Jewish element in Deronda” that it is a “noble subject,” and that “Wilkie Collins and Miss Braddon would not have thought of it.”

Because this effect has been insufficiently acknowledged, the apparent competition between theory and sensationalism repeats itself across the more-than-a-century’s distance since Daniel Deronda was published, in some of the most perceptive and influential readings of the novel. Cynthia Chase’s “The Decomposition of the Elephants: Double-Reading Daniel Deronda,” and Catherine Gallagher’s “George Eliot and Daniel Deronda: The Prostitute and the Jewish Question”—to name two such readings—could be taken to epitomize, respectively, poststructuralist and feminist-historicist practices.[16] What would allow them to be taken thus is that, though each replicates the disjunctively theoretical sensationalism of Eliot’s text, the former absorbs the sexual into an allegory of rhetoric while the latter subordinates the textual to an allegory of the sexual-economic. Chase’s disciplinary technique may therefore be closer to Eliot’s, but I want here to emphasize the curiously hybrid or self-divided quality that both essays share with the novel, a quality that to some extent exceeds, even as it motivates, their subsumptive endeavors. Gallagher’s reading, for example, derives much of its interest from its displacement of classic deconstructive motifs like textuality and dissemination into a more worldly register of economic and sexual exchange, presided over by those seductive emblematic figures, the “almost always Jewish” moneylender and the prostitute: “The inflationary usurer and the infectious or combustible ‘expensive’ woman—these are the assured but dangerous inhabitants of the authorial sphere, the degradingly feminine sphere of exchange.”[17] And while Chase is as intent upon referring referentiality itself to a citational mise en abîme as Gallagher is committed to regrounding the mystifications of writing in the realities of authorship,[18] her reading plays heavily upon the “scandal” of Deronda’s unmentionable circumcision: “As a mark that tells too much of the conditions of history or too much of the limits cutting off signification or storytelling, circumcision is a sign that the story must evade or exclude or cut out: narrative must cut out or cut around the cutting short of the cutting off of narrative.”[19]

My own reading of Daniel Deronda necessarily engages Chase’s and Gallagher’s powerful essays. Yet my aim here is not to “correct” them by resolving the contradiction that they tend rather to manage vertically. Nor am I sure that I would want to resolve it, even if the scope of the present study permitted such an effort: the tension in recent critical writing between theory and an almost irresistibly vulgar theatricality has been too productive to be defused unambivalently. Rather, I hope to show how, in her final novel, Eliot both sets up and attempts to settle a conflict between a certain formulation of the “rhetorical” and a certain formulation of the “social.” I will argue that her model for their relationship, like her model for the relationship of the Jews to the Gentiles, is one of “separateness with communication,”[20] in which “communication,” however, designates a unilateral and hierarchical exercise of power rather than a reciprocity of dialogical equals. That is, it should become clear in the pages that follow that the domination of the social by the rhetorical constitutes not a refusal of politics, but rather a new political technology. It should also become clear that, whether or not one approves of this project, it stands in an exemplary relation to some recent criticism in its most rigorous and energetic modes.

In May of 1875, while she was working on Daniel Deronda, Eliot wrote to one of her correspondents:

We have been much interested lately in seeing Salvini, a genuinely great actor, play Othello. And on Monday we are hoping to see him in Hamlet. I wish you could have the same enjoyment. Great art, in any kind, inspirits me and makes me feel the worth of devoted effort, but from bad pictures, bad books, vulgar music, I come away with a paralyzing depression.[21]

What is striking here, first of all, is Eliot’s testimony to the almost physical vulnerability of the spectator in the face of “bad” art, a vulnerability registered both in Lydgate’s experience with Laure and in the “shock” Fred Vincy feels when he sees Lydgate gambling. “Great art,” in contrast, surpasses the physical or the sensational: instead of “paralyzing,” it “inspirits.” The distinction between “great art” and “bad” is of course one of the more prominent themes in the novel Eliot was then writing. Yet even the example of the great Salvini may suggest how easily that distinction can break down. For Eliot and Lewes saw Salvini not only in Hamlet and Othello, but also in a melodrama called The Gladiator, and in the latter performance, at least according to Lewes, they “were greatly disappointed in him.”[22] Despite this disappointment, though, Lewes was “inspirited” to write an essay on Salvini, with which he ended his book On Actors and the Art of Acting, published in the same year. Since Lewes (in addition to serving as the definitive English interpreter of Rachel[23] and as a mediating link between Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë) was both the foremost English drama critic of his time and George Eliot’s “husband,” this essay may merit a brief look; it may also tell us something about how, in the novel in which she was simultaneously engaged, Eliot was in fact developing a whole technology for regulating the relationship between great art and bad art.

After evaluating Salvini’s interpretation of Othello (for which Lewes’s enthusiasm, apparently more qualified than Eliot’s, began to wane in the fourth act), the critic turns to the sorry spectacle of The Gladiator.

One may say of the play, and of Salvini’s acting, what Johnson said of a poem when Boswell asked him if it had not imagination: “No, sir; there is in it what was imagination once.” Salvini showed us what had been dramatic expression: and so powerful is his mastery that many spectators accepted the conventional signs; just as many readers accept for poetry the splendid images and poetic thoughts which inferior writers gather from other writers far and wide, instead of expressing poetical feelings of their own.[24]

Like the passages from Middlemarch that I discussed above, these lines record the undesirable sliding of a formal or rhetorical boundary: where those passages imaged an increasingly comprehensive spectacularization, whose ultimate effect would be to turn the entire novelistic world into a stage, so Lewes here remarks Salvini’s use of “conventional signs” to blur the line separating “dramatic expression” from its “inferior” simulacrum. The reference to Johnson gives a nice authoritative punch to Lewes’s indictment of this transgression, but Lewes seems to feel that his judgment needs additional support: in reaching out to poetry for a compelling analogy, Lewes exemplifies in miniature the strategy that Eliot elaborates in Daniel Deronda. For though the analogy appears to present poetry, which after all has its own counterfeiters, as simply the equivalent of acting, Lewes’s next paragraph makes clear that poetry here is a synecdoche for a broadly metalinguistic level of analysis that by definition detaches itself from and exercises interpretive authority over the less theoretically articulate products of dramatic art.

I do not blame Salvini for not having interested me in the Gladiator, for I do not think that any actor could have succeeded with such a patchwork. But I must blame his overacting—the apparent determination to get a multiplicity of effects out of materials which might have been more simply and massively presented. An illustration may be cited from his first scene. In telling the hideous history of his child, ripped from its mother’s womb, he turned the narrative into a dramatized presentation, going so far as to repeat the words of the sorceress in high womanly tones. In his gestures there is always an excess in this direction: an excess which would not be felt indeed by Italians, since they are much given to what may be called pictorial gesture; but I cannot think it consistent with fine art, being, as it is, a remnant of the early stages of evolution, wherein gesture is descriptive, and not, as in the higher stages, symbolical: it bears the same relation to the expressive gestures of cultivated minds that picture-writing bears to the alphabet.[25]

Although the visible purport of this passage is that there are (as it were) “higher stages” of acting, which correspond to the putatively more evolved forms of writing as well as to authentic poetry, it is not hard to imagine how Lewes’s aesthetic Darwinism might authorize the ranking of dramatic art as a whole below its ostensible analogues. For one thing, Lewes’s expressive bias would seem to favor poetry, with its privileged relation to interiority, over the drama, which from this perspective always runs the risk of appearing superficial or rather crudely literalistic. It is telling, for instance, that Lewes faults Salvini for at one point “turn[ing] the narrative into a dramatic presentation.” Isn’t “dramatic presentation” precisely what Salvini’s art is all about? Capable of evoking at once the embarrassing earliness of mere “picture-writing” and the decadent lateness of mere “conventional signs,” acting in general would seem to be fundamentally hedged about by the danger of “overacting.” For another thing, by marshaling a certain philosophical abstraction with which to “blame” the “excess” of Salvini’s primitively “pictorial gesture[s],” Lewes symbolizes his own mastery of the very “symbolical” gestures he associates with “fine art” and “cultivated minds.” To be sure, Lewes implies the possibility of some suitably refined mode of dramatic gesture; yet his language has the performative effect of appearing to transcend performance, of gesturing beyond gesture—if not to “poetry” in the strict sense, then to a superior, totalizing discourse of poetics.

That this poetic aspiration entails an equally hierarchical politics is clear from Lewes’s patronizing remark about Italians, to say nothing of his attitude toward cultures that have not yet achieved the distinction of possessing an alphabet. Deploying both poetry and poetics in similar ways in Daniel Deronda, Eliot conspicuously opposes such ethnocentrism, although the immediate beneficiaries of her generosity are the Jews rather than the Italians. As we will see, however, in an important respect her metalinguistic project rejoins Lewes’s in its racial ideology. For in Lewes’s representation of Italian culture, as in Eliot’s representation of Jewish culture, racial or national identity intersects with gender or sexual identity. It turns out, for example, that even in Salvini’s “otherwise rare” portrayal of Hamlet, “there was a dissonance between the high plaintive tones and the massive animal force, both of person and voice—it was an operatic tenor, or un beau ténébreux, grafted on the tragic hero: an incongruous union of the pretty with the grand.”

Shakespeare’s play, Lewes observes, has been “cut down to suit Italian tastes.”[26] And if those tastes betray a certain cultural immaturity, it comes as no great surprise that the cut that suits them suggests to Lewes’s more sophisticated English sensibility “something [as] unfitting” as what a certain Freudian gaze might interpret as castration. Indeed, the implicit characterization of Salvini’s acting as childish—significantly, the “hideous story” he tells in The Gladiator is of a “child, ripped from its mother’s womb”—leads with an almost proverbial inevitability to its implicit characterization as effeminate. He tells the story in, significantly, “high womanly tones.” Like those tones, Salvini’s “high plaintive tones” as Hamlet, yoked incongruously with his “massive animal force,” reinforce the sense of a gender-confusion as objectionable as his effacement of the distinction between “great” and “bad” art.

Just as the spectacle of Lydgate in the billiard-room intimated at once a formal conflation (of realism with melodrama) and a sexual conflation (of masculinity with femininity), so, even in Hamlet, Salvini violates the laws of both genre and gender, “graft[ing]” the “operatic” onto the “tragic” and the “pretty” onto the “grand.” In some sense, then, his characteristic moment remains that in which, illicitly mixing both literary forms and gender attributes, he “turn[s] the narrative into a dramatized presentation, going so far as to repeat the words of the sorceress in high womanly tones.” Salvini always risks “disappointing” because, even at his best, he always threatens to embody the sensationalism whose promiscuous effects—whose scandalous mixture of the “great” and the “bad”—we examined in the previous chapter. As we saw, the notorious and definitive gesture of sensationalism—in which, as in Salvini’s gestures, “there is always an excess”[27]—is that whereby it collapses the barrier erected between the masculine and the feminine and between “narrative” and “dramatic presentation.” As in the identification of the “tragic” with the “grand” and of the “operatic” with the “pretty,” sensationalism reveals the sex-gender system and the text-genre system as being closely and profoundly intertwined. Yet Lewes’s strategy, like Eliot’s, though on a much smaller scale, is to divide the latter against the former, abstracting from a hideously theatricalized narrative an apparently autonomous poetics with which to rule and, ultimately, to reform it. Although Lewes’s theoretical comments about Salvini’s acting, and about acting in general, may seem to constitute so much pedantic embroidery upon the more important particularities of theatrical criticism, they function as condensed versions of what happens so grandly in Daniel Deronda, where the criticism of theatricality gives way to the masterful discourse of “poetry.”

If Eliot’s final novel represents a monumental expansion of Lewes’s project in his essay on Salvini, it might also be read as a working through of the theatrical problems that surface briefly but disturbingly in her own earlier work. With hindsight, the account of Lydgate’s experience with Laure and the description of his gambling, at any rate, begin to look like notes toward the supreme fiction that is Daniel Deronda. Not only is that novel famously preoccupied with actresses and acting, but it opens, just as famously, with a scene of gambling, in which the theatricality of that pastime is imaged more conspicuously than in Middlemarch, as if the anxieties such “play” arouses could thereby be addressed more directly and efficaciously.

The first chapter of Deronda seems to pick up where the scene in the Middlemarch billiard-room left off. Conducted into the casino at Leubronn, we observe an uncanny, sophisticatedly Continental replay of the scene around the Middlemarch billiard table. Having demonstrated the superficial heterogeneity of the international cast of characters, the narrator adds: “But while every single player differed markedly from every other, there was a certain uniform negativeness of expression which had the effect of a mask—as if they had all eaten of some root that for the time compelled the brains of each to the same narrow monotony of action” (p. 37). The casino seems to have the same “paralyzing” impact upon its clientele that bad art has upon Eliot. Again, we witness the contaminating effects of a negative, joyless theatricality, now at an advanced or even epidemic stage. The emptiness of exchange; the indiscriminate overriding of differences; the oppressive atmosphere of quasi-narcotic involuntarity; the narrowness of that artificial excitation—all of the elements of the earlier scene are here, magnified and transposed to a more ostentatiously worldly setting. It is as though the “Study of Provincial Life” itself set the stage for—that is, necessitated—its successor’s study, and critique, of cosmopolitanism.

If, as Jacqueline Rose suggests, theatricality moves from the “outskirts” of Middlemarch to the “heart”[28] of Daniel Deronda, this movement indicates a shift not from insignificance to paramount importance, but from the status of repressed irritant to that of deliberately elicited and methodically targeted pathology. And if the latter novel’s virtually obsessive deployment of theatrical tropes and topoi intimates the difficulty of distinguishing between sickness and cure—apparently, Eliot even considered writing Deronda as a play[29]—we recognize once more the outlines of a tricky homeopathic strategy of fighting theater with theater. Interestingly, however, there are no literal “men of science” among this novel’s dramatis personae. Instead, Science is figuralized here, and if that process entails a certain displacement, Science may thereby find itself at once secondary and seconded, at once deidealized and reinforced. Eliot’s new and improved “scientific” method is announced from the outset, in the often-quoted epigraph to the first chapter:

Men can do nothing without the make-believe of a beginning. Even Science, the strict measurer, is obliged to start with a make-believe unit, and must fix on a point in the stars’ unceasing journey when his sidereal clock shall pretend that time is at Nought. His less accurate grandmother Poetry has always been understood to start in the middle; but on reflection it appears that her proceeding is not very different from his; since Science, too, reckons backwards as well as forwards, divides his unit into billions, and with his clock-finger at Nought really sets off in medias res. No retrospect will take us to the true beginning; and whether our prologue be in heaven or on earth, it is but a fraction of that all-presupposing fact with which our story sets out.

Just as Lewes’s rather banal generalizations about poetry belie their stringent disciplinary function, so the disarming modesty of this Shelleyan deconstruction hides its extensive agenda: the epigraph establishes a metacritical frame for the ensuing narrative, and prescribes the terms for its therapeutic technique. As critics have noticed, the subtext of the reference to the prologue “in heaven or on earth” is Goethe’s Faust, with its two prologues. In a fine reading of Daniel Deronda, David Marshall has argued that this allusion introduces the question of the historically and epistemologically complicated relations between the theater and the novel.[30] Yet the relations here involve not two terms, but four: it is a question not just of the novel and/or the theater, but of the novel and/or the theater and/or Poetry and/or Science.

Appropriately, the novel begins by evoking a play (about a “scientist”) that is also a poem, and whose first prologue, which takes place in a theater and consists of a discussion among a theater manager, a dramatic poet (Theaterdichter), and a comic character, explicitly stages a debate between the claims of poetry (Dichtung) and of the theater. But the force of Eliot’s epigraph—which thereby becomes either less than or all too exemplarily “deconstructive”—is to decide in favor of the former. This is not merely a matter of billing: it is not just that the theatrical reference is relatively cryptic, while Poetry looms large. Personified, in this antigenealogical genealogical fable, as the grandmother of Science, Poetry enjoys a privilege that transvalues, even as it springs from, the apparent disadvantage of being “less accurate.” Poetry is accorded a temporal and ontological priority that not only makes Science look a little derivative or belated, but also postulates a strong aesthetic alternative to the particularly unpleasant and un-Goethean version of the theater we are about to encounter.

Much of that strength, moreover, derives from the flexibility of “poetry”: since, as every novel we have studied in this book makes clear, and as the passages we have considered from Middlemarch and Deronda would seem to confirm, the relative specificity of “the theater” gives way to the more insidious diffusion of “theatricality,” “poetry” must emerge as even more expansive. It is crucial, in other words, that “Poetry,” rather like Goethe’s Dichtung, identify not just a specific literary genre, which can thus be isolated from lesser genres, but (as in many of Eliot’s earlier uses of the term)[31] a general possibility of literariness, charmingly characterized as “make-believe”; once established in this latter, comprehensive sense, Poetry is free to inform those other genres—as it informs science—and, ideally, to rehabilitate them—as it might rehabilitate the novel and the theater, or the most disconcertingly contaminated form of all, the theatricalized novel.

As the author of so theatrical a novel as Daniel Deronda, Eliot herself could be called a Theaterdichter; but she will deploy a novelistic Dichtung that, far from being ruled by Theater, will rule it. At the risk of overschematizing, let me propose that, in accordance with the hierarchy of genres that the epigraph implicitly recommends, the narrative will elaborate and put into practice a “science” of poetry, or of poetic drama, whose aim is to appropriate and neutralize the theatricality that threatens to infect the novel. The defense of poetry comes to mean “poetry as the defense.” Working together, grandmother and grandson allegorize a salutary, perhaps even life-saving, intervention. By opposing a poeticized theatricality to a more virulent theatricality, Eliot would turn the novel as well into a local variant of archi-Poetry, minimizing, if not eliminating, the potential for internal disorder.

The first epigraph is itself an example of the strategy it prescribes: its privileged status as a framing device allows it to contain not only the highly theatrical chapter it introduces, but the novel as a whole. Indeed, the relationship between the epigraphs in general and the rest of the novel epitomizes the discursive hierarchy we have been considering. For one thing, many of those epigraphs are themselves productions in verse, either by other authors or of Eliot’s own invention. By the time Deronda appeared, Eliot had of course already published poetry, much of it, significantly, in the form of verse drama; for that matter, she had already instituted the practice of beginning chapters with mottoes (both poetic and nonpoetic, both original and borrowed) in her earlier novels. But with her poetic epigraphs to Deronda, she creates an aggressively systematic effect of discursive layering which, far from illustrating some sort of heteroglossic carnival, makes graphic the superiority of poetry to prose. Not only her own “fragments” of verse, and not only the quotations from other poets, but all of the epigraphs, even those written in prose, become sites of a master-discourse, in which a generalized and generalizing poetics—what we would nowadays call “literary theory”—exercises hegemonic control over less principled literary forms. And it is precisely when, like the first epigraph, these chapter heads advertise a certain ironic self-mockery that they enforce their policing power most effectively.

That Eliot incorporates into her novel a discursive apparatus that nonetheless persists in looking like an external authority perhaps suggests a certain “crisis” in the Victorian novel, a larger uncertainty about the future of that hitherto dominant form as the end of the nineteenth century approaches. Eliot’s need to enlist the support of “poetry” would indeed seem consistent with the widely held view that the English novel loses something of its vitality and sense of purpose in the latter part of the nineteenth century.[32] It is as though, no longer sure of its own identity, the novel could know itself only obliquely, through a pitched battle between two more visible or more coherent forms, such as poetry and theatricality. Where novels like Mansfield Park, Jane Eyre, and Villette take shape through their own binary struggle with theatricality, many of the more canonical novels later in the century invoke the definitional help of some idealized third party, often for the sake of a compromise with an adversary they cannot hope to control more authoritatively. If Eliot summons “poetry,” Hardy models his novels on Greek (poetic) tragedy, while James, as we will see, programmatically and insistently segregates “the theater” from “the drama,” aligning himself of course with the latter. And it would be eminently plausible, not to say utterly conventional, to see this process as culminating in a generically eclectic work like Ulysses or in the “lyrical” novels of Virginia Woolf.

Yet this familiar story is usually told without reference to the remarkable body of texts that come between Austen and Brontë on the one hand and Eliot and her protomodernist and modernist successors on the other. Before the “crisis” of the novel makes itself felt in more recognizable forms, it is already staged in the sensational texts of Collins, Braddon, Wood, and the late Dickens. Inheriting the collapsed binarisms of the sensation novel, Eliot can claim novelty only by introducing a third term, only by using “poetry” to triangulate the relationship between the novel and theatricality. And if poetry here is a synecdoche for the poetics or the theoretical narrative that is itself latent in the sensation novel, the very abstractiveness of that figuration points to the process in the novel whereby enabling differences are imposed and space-making distances asserted.

Thus, although the first epigraph, with its personification of “Poetry” as a woman, may suggest a confluence of literary theory and a certain feminism, the narrative that follows attests to a separation of the “theoretical” from the “experiential.” We soon discover, for example, that the affection accorded to that rather flatly allegorical grandmother does not seem to carry over to many of the more fully fleshed-out female characters in the novel proper. Indeed, no sooner do we learn to respect that paradoxically but benignly bodiless avatar than the narrative zeros in on a rather sinister Gwendolen Harleth, whose theatrical equivocality, reinforced by the fact that she is “occupied in gambling” (p. 35), is framed in the first paragraph with an almost clinical fastidiousness:

Was she beautiful or not beautiful? and what was the secret of form or expression which gave the dynamic quality to her glance? Was the good or the evil genius dominant in those beams? Probably the evil; else why was the effect that of unrest rather than of undisturbed charm? Why was the wish to look again felt as coercion and not as a longing in which the whole being consents?

And what, we might add, has happened to the “deconstructive” nonchalance about arbitrariness and indeterminacy expressed in the epigraph? As seen by Daniel Deronda—much more adamantly a spectator and much less willingly a performer than female counterparts like Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe—Gwendolen looks like a composite of Lydgate and Laure. (Lydgate, of course, also looks like a composite of Lydgate and Laure.) Viewing Gwendolen as “dramatic,” Daniel necessarily treats her as an object of “scrutiny” (p. 37); once she is thus positioned, it follows that her relation to arbitrariness takes on the guilt associated with gambling, and that her indeterminacy gets moralized, in somewhat panicky but venerable misogynistic fashion, as duplicity. Like her sensationalized precursors in Middlemarch, Gwendolen conflates two kinds of conflation, embodying a rhetorical and epistemological scandal—she theatricalizes reality—and therefore, at the same time, a sexual scandal—arrogating to herself the powers of ambiguity, she almost automatically suggests a Medusa-like bisexuality, as evidenced by the references to her serpentine appearance (pp. 40, 41). Whereas certain deconstructive properties (if that is not a contradiction in terms) may be said to become a poetic grandmother, rather similar effects inspire “unrest,” as at the sight of something unfitting, when associated with a “problematic sylph” (p. 38) performing on the stage of a casino.

Daniel’s “unrest,” of course, follows from his sense of spectatorial “coercion,” a sense that—like Lydgate watching Laure, like Fred Vincy watching Lydgate, or like Robert Audley watching his “aunt”—he risks being drawn, involuntarily, into the sordid masquerade: not by assuming the “uniform,” compulsory “mask” of the compulsive players, but merely by standing and looking. Where the expansive tendency of Poetry must not seem expansionist, the spectacle of Gwendolen is at the center of a microcosm where “uniform negativeness” suggests a world grotesquely corrupted by a pervasive artifice. What’s a nice boy like Daniel doing in a place like this? Catherine Gallagher has called attention to the similarity between the grown-up Daniel, whose mother traded him for a career as, precisely, a performer, and the little boy in the casino, who also seems to have been abandoned for “play.”[33] The description of the child is particularly instructive in light of the context to which he constitutes an “exception”:

There was a deep stillness, broken only by a light rattle, a light chink, a small sweeping sound, and an occasional monotone in French, such as might be expected to issue from an ingeniously constructed automaton. Round two long tables were gathered two serried crowds of human beings, all save one having their faces and attention bent on the tables. The one exception was a melancholy little boy, with his knees and calves in their natural clothing of epidermis, but for the rest of his person in a fancy dress. He alone had his face turned toward the doorway, and fixing on it the blank gaze of a bedizened child stationed as a masquerading advertisement on the platform of an itinerant show, stood close behind a lady deeply engaged at the roulette-table.

Citing this first scene in the novel as a salient staging of “woman as spectacle,” Jacqueline Rose and other feminist critics have hinted at an analogy between this spectacle’s “dynamic quality” and certain definitive features of mainstream film, as theorized most notably by Laura Mulvey in her pioneering essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”—an essay whose insights, as we noted at the end of the previous chapter, seem to be prefigured by a novel like Lady Audley’s Secret as well.[34] Especially when informed by Mulvey’s Lacanian interpretation, the cinematic analogy is highly suggestive.[35] If, as Mulvey argues, cinematic “structures of fascination” build upon structures of the patriarchal unconscious, then the passage about the little boy seems strikingly protocinematic, a fine example of what both film theorists and psychoanalysts would call “projection.”[36]

For the image of the “melancholy little boy” is in some sense a defensive projection of a certain “exhibitionist” potential that, as we will learn, Daniel has good reason to fear in himself. Indeed, far from being “exceptional,” the child is not nearly exceptional enough. Though he looks away from the tables, his is not the controlling male gaze of the normative cinematic spectator, but the “blank [i.e., screen-like and therefore feminized] gaze of a bedizened child stationed as a masquerading advertisement on the platform of an itinerant show.” Again, we are reminded that one need not wear the mask of the player to pulled into the “narrow monotony” of the play. The language here, indeed, seems to be going out of its way to invest the boy (an uncanny offspring of Wordsworth’s Blind Beggar?[37] with theatrical attributes of the most culpably commercial and degradingly reified kind, as if to turn him into a miniature version of the “ingeniously constructed automaton” from which a French “monotone…might be expected to issue”; even his skin, which ought to be exempt from the general unreality, is dressed in the ornate periphrasis of a “natural clothing of epidermis.” Where the epigraph’s reversal and displacement of the Science/Poetry hierarchy occur within an ostensibly gemütlich vignette of grandmother and grandson, the “deconstructive” paradox of natural clothing emblematizes, only pseudocomically, a perversion of nature by culture, and might even—if we were to pause and imagine a suitably lurid shot of this scene—insinuate a whole melodrama of maternal negligence and child abuse.

As Gallagher suggests, Daniel will in fact discover that he has been inscribed in just such a melodrama. Yet the aim of the narrative as a whole, sustained by a projective energy like that of the passage we have been examining, is to write him out of it. If the novel raises the specter of man as spectacle, it does so in order to exorcise the danger posed by such fearful symmetry. Indeed, among all of the metaphors and similes conjured up to evoke the repellent quality of Grandcourt, perhaps none is more damning (or more surprising) than the one that likens him to, of all things, an “actress” (p. 145).[38] If only because of this association, one might argue half-fancifully, Grandcourt must die. What makes Daniel not only Grandcourt’s would-be opposite number, but also the novel’s titular hero, is the fact that he struggles manfully against the theatrical impingements of his own obscure history. Long before his revelatory meeting with the Princess Halm-Eberstein, Daniel takes great pains to deny the theatricality into which others, even with the best of intentions, might seem to coerce him.

One such denial is adduced in chapter 16, where Eliot takes us back into Daniel’s boyhood, to trace his “invisible history.” A certain invisibility, it turns out, is just what Daniel wants to achieve, and what the narrative works to secure for him. The traumatic scene that motivates this reactive project occurs “One morning after [Daniel] had been singing ‘Sweet Echo’ ”—the Lady’s Song from Comus, as Barbara Hardy points out (p. 890)—“before a small party of gentlemen” (p. 207) assembled at Sir Hugo Mallinger’s house. Thinking to praise Daniel’s “beauty” as well as his “thrilling boy voice” (p. 207), Sir Hugo asks him, in front of the audience:

“What do you say to being a great singer? Should you like to be adored by the world and take the house by storm, like Mario and Tamberlik?”

Daniel reddened instantaneously, but there was a just perceptible interval before he answered with angry decision—

“No; I should hate it!”

Daniel’s anger has its stimulus not just in the widespread Western phobia about the presumably feminizing objectification—to say nothing of the inevitably eroticizing “adoration”—of the adult male; it expresses also his recently crystalized suspicion that he is Sir Hugo’s illegitimate child:

He had often stayed in London with Sir Hugo, who to indulge the boy’s ear had carried him to the opera to hear the great tenors, so that the image of a singer taking the house by storm was very vivid to him; but now, spite of his musical gift, he set himself bitterly against the notion of being dressed up to sing before all those fine people who would not care about him except as a wonderful toy. That Sir Hugo should have thought of him in that position for a moment, seemed to Daniel an unmistakable proof that there was something about his birth which threw him out from the class of gentlemen to which the baronet belonged.

As the figural relays of the narrative make clear, however, Daniel’s fear of illegitimacy comments upon, rather than supersedes, his fear of theatricality: if to be theatricalized is to be feminized, to be feminized is almost automatically to be rendered illegitimate—if not in the strict legal sense, then in the more disturbingly inclusive sense of the almost sexually unfitting “play” in which Lydgate, Laure, Gwendolen, and, most spectacularly, Daniel’s mother, the diva, are engaged.[39] His fear of illegitimacy in fact turns out be quite legitimate: in this novel, the “legitimate theater” would seem to be an oxymoron. “Vivid” indeed, the “image of taking the house by storm” cannot but give way to the less gratifying but even more indelible prospect of “being dressed up to sing before all those fine people who would not care about him except as a wonderful toy.” It is as if Daniel’s consciousness reached both backward and forward in the text at once, proleptically taking in the revelation of the not-quite-extenuating circumstances of his birth and abandonment, circumstances that would cast him in the role that, from the very beginning of the novel, we see him trying to cast out: that of the illegitimately, even scandalously “bedizened” toy-like boy “stationed” as an “advertisement”—better, as an avertissement, both “warning” and “foreword”—on the second page of the text.[40] Project or be projected, throw out or be thrown out: such is the primitive logic of Daniel’s sophisticated defense.

The projection of the melancholy figure of the boy indeed condenses a number of the anxieties that the therapeutic narrative thereby works to dispel. For if Daniel’s fear of being thrown out “from the class of gentlemen” is obviously social as well as sexual, what he fears about such social dislocation is the loss not only of class identity but also of national identity. Recalling the “operatic tenor…grafted” onto Salvini’s Hamlet, the references to Mario and Tamberlik echo the danger that Salvini himself embodied: that of incomplete or stunted development on both the individual and the cultural level, a condition suggested not only by the boy’s distasteful aura of cosmopolitanism, but also by his appearance of having been “stationed”—indeed, rendered stationary—on a platform.

Before the end of chapter 16, however, Eliot indicates that, in order to prevent Daniel from turning into a plaything, it is also insufficient merely to reassure him, as Sir Hugo in fact does, of his predetermined role as an “English gentleman” (p. 212). The case of Grandcourt, after all, serves to remind us that that being “grand” in that sense does not necessarily preclude one’s being thought “pretty”: status as an English gentleman does not in itself confer immunity from the perils of theatricalization. To the extent that Daniel is the hero of a bildungsroman, his education entails a rather complicated dialectical itinerary; it is in the mapping out of that education that Eliot’s project most clearly surpasses Lewes’s in its scope and its subtlety. As a boy, Daniel seems to hover precariously at the outer edge of respectable English maleness; as a youth, he escapes the dangers of marginality, gravitating toward the centers of power and privilege in his culture (Eton and Cambridge, to be exact); but then, to counteract the dangers attendant upon that phase of identification, he reverses his direction and travels beyond the England that has solidified him. Daniel explains to his “uncle” why he wants to leave Cambridge and study abroad: “I want to be an Englishman, but I want to understand other points of view. And I want to get rid of a merely English attitude in studies” (p. 224).

And yet this laudably anti-ethnocentric program is not without its own risks. At this point, we can see how Daniel’s Bildung, or formation, coincides with the (risky) formal experiment of the novel as a whole. For the desire to extend “sympathy” to the sphere of international relations accounts for the novel’s own refusal, at the level not only of subject matter but also of composition, of a “merely English attitude”: critics have observed that the novel’s so-called “Jewish half” would achieve for its reader what Deronda would achieve for himself.[41] Yet Eliot is aware that the attempt “to understand other points of view” can land one, say, in the middle of the casino at Leubronn, which, as it happens, is exactly where we find Daniel at the beginning of the novel. And if Daniel’s well-meaning foreign study does not necessarily implicate him in the pervasive artifice that he encounters in the casino, it still comes uncomfortably close to the sort of cosmopolitanism that, before he was confirmed in his career as a gentleman, had provoked in him such “unrest.”

So insistent and multifarious, it seems, is the threat of theatricality that the novel must exercise extraordinary vigilance and agility in defending against it: the defense itself can become the disease.[42] Gently pointing out the “demerits” of character foreshadowed by Daniel’s “boyish love of universal history, which made him want to be at home in foreign countries, and follow in imagination the travelling students of the middle ages,” the narrator summarizes them as a tendency to “linger…longer than others in a state of social neutrality” (p. 220). Though forgiving, the narrative cannot be neutral toward this neutrality. To be sure, as a definitive feature of Daniel’s “travelling student” phase, it cannot simply be equated with the “neuter” fate that seemed to await the boy singer; Daniel Deronda is obviously not “Sarrasine.” But Daniel’s foreign study must not conclude his education, since its characteristic openness is still a far cry from the improved virility—the more-than-gentle-manliness—at which, as we will see, his whole elaborate education is aimed. Far from promoting a mere worldly receptivity, which could just as easily be represented by, say, the sensational figure of Fosco, the narrative that would transform Daniel into more than just an English gent(i)leman requires, both for his postcollegiate career and for the valedictory legitimation of Eliot’s career as a novelist, a very specific and rigorous foreign study indeed. Far from celebrating all things Jewish, that is, this narrative effects, as Gallagher has suggested, the systematic “alienation of all the negative things Jewishness stands for in the book,” the most characteristic of which is precisely worldly receptivity—otherwise known as cosmopolitanism, internationalism, or, in Eliot’s own terms, “social neutrality” itself.[43]

These negative things finally find their most eloquently self-damning avatars, as Gallagher shows, in Daniel’s mother, Alcharisi, and in Mirah and Mordecai’s father, Lapidoth. Actor, gambler, pander, Lapidoth floats from country to country, acting “like a woman” (p. 806) when the role suits him, and like a child in relation to his own children; near the end of this chapter, we will consider the mode of Alcharisi’s demonized worldliness. For now, however, we are faced with a different question, one raised but not satisfyingly answered by Gallagher. Gallagher herself is so worldly a critic—“worldly” not in the sense of being socially neutral but in the sense of being socially engaged and socially acute—that she assigns relatively little specificity to the ostensibly “good” Jewishness that is left after the signs of “bad” Jewishness have been “alienated” or subtracted. This may be because “good” Jewishness (the term is mine, not Gallagher’s) resembles what we might want to call the unworldly or the otherworldly—what a more linguistically oriented critic than Gallagher might focus on, and what the narrative in fact privileges, as “Poetry.” Admittedly, recent developments in literary study have taught us to suspect distinctions between linguistic and social-historical criticism; and one does not have to be a student or a critic of literature to become more than a little nervous about a distinction between “good” (or “poetic”) and “bad” (or “theatrical”) Jewishness. But the reason I make these distinctions is that Eliot’s novel, so concerned with the separation of “great art” from “bad,” itself quite aggressively makes and enforces them: it is this rather violent “science” that the epigraph to the first chapter prefigures. However, I want also to show how the disjunctions or “alienations” in question make possible a whole system of hierarchical or disciplinary linkages, which entail a complex rhetorical procedure in their own right.

Two other epigraphs exemplify this procedure, each figuring Jewishness (or “Israel”) not just in terms of separateness, but in terms of what the novel will identify as a proto-Zionist ideal of “separateness with communication” (p. 792). Here is Eliot’s translation of the epigraph to chapter 42, from Leopold Zunz’s Die Synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters:

If there are ranks in suffering, Israel takes precedence of all the nations—if the duration of sorrows and the patience with which they are borne ennoble, the Jews are among the aristocracy of every land—if a literature is called rich in the possession of a few classic tragedies, what shall we say to a National Tragedy lasting for fifteen hundred years, in which the poets and the actors were also the heroes?

“Israel” here signifies both a separation and a communication: a separation, to be precise, of good Jewish communication from the bad Jewish communication that the novel personifies in characters like Alcharisi and Lapidoth. For Jewish history is defined here as a peculiarly literary history, a fusion of the literary and the historical that manifests itself in the theatrical genre of a “National Tragedy.” Where theatricality in Eliot ordinarily stands for an undesirable admixture, a confusion, of literature and experience, the particular tragedy of “Israel” represents theatricality redeemed, theatricality poeticized: insofar as the heroes are not only actors but poets as well, this tragedy constitutes an ideal “communication”—both between literature and history and, in Zunz’s terms, between Trauerspiel and Poesie.

The second epigraph, which actually occurs earlier in the text, introduces chapter 34, and comes from Heine’s Prinzessin Sabbath:

—Er ist geheissen
Israel. Ihn hat verwandelt
Hexenspruch in einen Hund.
Aber jeden Freitag Abend,
In der Dämmerungstunde, plötzlich
Weicht der Zauber, und her Hund
Wird aufs Neu’ ein menschlich Wesen.[44]
Against Daniel’s mother, the bad or witch-like Jewish princess we will meet later in the novel, this fragment of Heine’s poem invokes a good Jewish princess, who (at least in the context of the novel) symbolizes a kind of counter-magic that restores Jewishness itself to its original, higher state. And if it is a question once again of separating good Jewishness from bad, it is also a question of establishing a therapeutic communication—this time between the Jewish ideal and the English culture it would cure. For the image here of a transformation of the dog (Hund) back into a human being (menschlich Wesen) seems, through an uncanny logic of textual displacement, to reverse the scene of reversal in Middlemarch, in which Lydgate resembled an “animal with fierce eyes and retractile claws.” It is as though the Princess Sabbath, or the Jewish tradition that she emblematizes, had the power to turn Lydgate back into the superior being he once was—as though superior Jewishness provided the antidote to the poisonous magic of theatricality that already afflicts English culture.

Yet the specular relationship between these two images of metamorphosis implies a less reassuring reading of English-Jewish communication: just as the humanizing process must be repeated every Friday evening (jeden Freitag Abend), so Jewishness in general may be seen not as a final solution to the English question but merely as its inverted repetition. For the communication between good Jewishness and English culture to be effective, the separation of good, menschliche Jewishness from bad, doggy Jewishness must be definitive: the cyclicality of Jewish ritual must be subsumed by a linear pattern, a narratable teleology.[45] Imposing that teleology, the bildungsroman centered on the Jewish-English hero thus traces not only his own visible and “invisible history” but also an invisible, (re)visionary history of Jewish-English relations. If Eliot devotes her usual care to the analysis of the protagonist’s moral and intellectual growth, she does so not just for the usual purpose of “unravelling certain human lots, and seeing how they were woven and interwoven”;[46] the painstaking precision with which she delineates Daniel’s progress contributes to the foundation of a new English literary history, whose heroes and actors would also be its poets. In telling Daniel’s story, Eliot asks not what the country can do for the Jews; she asks what the Jews can do for the country.

For example, the reason the ever-careful narrator demonstrates a certain tolerance toward Daniel’s “social neutrality” is that, while it can degenerate into something dangerously like a narcotized theatricality, it can also be converted, through the appropriate disciplinary intervention, into the very poetic, or rather, poeticized, posture that the novel would affirm. In the important retrospective chapter that charts Daniel’s progress from boy singer to English-gentleman-in-training to something ambiguously more or less than that, Eliot provides a clue as to how this risky ambiguity might be counteracted. For Daniel’s social neutrality, which underlies his wanderlust, also manifests itself in the form of a “meditative interest in learning how human miseries are wrought—as precocious in him as another sort of genius in the poet who writes a Queen Mab at nineteen” (p. 219). While Daniel’s cosmopolitan proclivities could, theoretically, turn him into a younger version of the unsavory Lapidoth—one of the novel’s two examples of “bad” (or merely theatrical) Jewishness at its worst—the defensive poetics insinuated here, just as theoretically, hints that Daniel will instead turn into an example of “good” (or poetic) Jewishness at its best—in other words, into a Jewish version of that poetic defender whom the text invokes in the powerfully prescriptive epigraph to chapter one. Tellingly, Daniel is being compared to the very young Shelley, a Shelley who signifies precocity rather than fully developed genius; just as the author of Queen Mab had to ripen into the author of the “Defence of Poetry,” so the hero of Eliot’s peculiarly Shelleyan novel must progress beyond his boyish identification with the traveling students of the Middle Ages, to the point where he seems capable of having written that novel’s epigraph. And just as Shelley also wrote plays, so the epigraph looks forward to the containment, through Daniel, of the theatrical by the poetic.

One might ask, of course, why England needs a Jewish version of Shelley when it can already claim the original as one of its own. Does this analogy imply a flatly specular relationship between the Jews and the English after all? I would argue that, instead of merely setting the Jews up as allegorical figures for more properly English concerns, Eliot is strategically focusing on and isolating a certain “Jewishness” inherent in English culture, so as to fortify it and ultimately to reintroduce it into that culture; again, separateness with communication offers the model for Eliot’s procedure. Eliot’s comments in a letter to Harriet Beecher Stowe suggest something of this dialectic of inside and outside:

There is nothing I should care more to do, if it were possible, than to rouse the imagination of men and women to a vision of human claims in those races of their fellow-men and women who most differ from them in customs and beliefs. But towards the Hebrews we western people who have been reared in Christianity, have a peculiar debt and, whether we acknowledge it or not, a peculiar thoroughness of fellowship in religious and moral sentiment. Can anything be more disgusting than to hear people called “educated” making small jokes about eating ham, and showing themselves empty of any real knowledge as to the relation of their own social and religious life to the history of the people they think themselves witty in insulting? They hardly know that Christ was a Jew.[47]

As one who is both Jewish and English, the saintly (if not Christ-like) Daniel would embody the essence of a saving difference or alterity latent within England and waiting to be mobilized against other, more dangerous (and presumably less integral) alien influences.

One indication of the form this mobilization will take appears at the end of the long paragraph comparing Daniel to Shelley. Of Daniel’s precocious sympathy, the narrator says: “In many of our neighbours’ lives, there is much not only of error and lapse, but of a certain exquisite goodness which can never be written or even spoken—only divined by each of us, according to the inward instruction of our own privacy” (p. 219). That this exquisite goodness somehow resists the vulgarizing translations of both writing and speech betokens a movement away from the awkward exteriority of public experience toward the welcome interiority of private divination.[48] Mustering the familiar oppositions between inside and outside, and between private and public, this passage founds its hope for Daniel’s future not only on the durable prestige but also on the well-known and “exquisite” incorporative capacity of the former term in each dyad.

Given the way the chapter in which this passage occurs insinuates a preemption of theatrical badness by poetic goodness, it seems appropriate that, in the next chapter, Daniel should discover and rescue a suicidal Mirah, who is of course Lapidoth’s estranged daughter. In a sense (although a limited one, as we will see), it is as if Mirah and Daniel were rescuing each other—as if he were rescuing her from the cosmopolitan theatricality for which she has been professionally groomed by her father (“I hated our way of life” [p. 252]), and as if she were rescuing him from the same fate, for which he has been, as it were, genetically programmed by his mother. Early in their first conversation, Mirah asks Daniel, who has been singing the gondolier’s song from Rossini’s Otello, “Do you belong to the theatre?” (p. 232). Not surprisingly, he responds, “in a decided tone,” “No; I have nothing to do with the theatre” (p. 232). As David Marshall notes, “This denial is rich in irony,” since, “in many senses,” both Daniel and Mirah, as well as the novel that contains them, “belong…to the theater and ha[ve] everything to do with the theater.”[49] But, unlike the previous chapter, in which Daniel’s equally “decided” denial of theatrical implication (“No; I should hate it!”) is reinforced by a merely insinuated poetic defense, this chapter comes ironclad, outfitted with an elaborate countertheatrical, and therefore counterironic, armature. For though Daniel’s singing, and Mirah’s echoing of his words, would seem to insert them both inside a theatrical frame, what begins in this chapter is a long process whereby these two decidedly antitheatrical characters in fact escape from that frame, with the help of an increasingly decided effort of alienation and reconnection on the part of the narrative itself.

Though primarily apotropaic, the fantasmatic projection, in the previous chapter, of Daniel’s career as a singer at the same time thrusts him both backward and forward to an unfitting, if merely hypothetical, theatrical fate; the representation, in this chapter, of Daniel’s grown-up singing at once predicts and produces the saving effects of his intervening, if as yet incomplete, poetic education. The most obvious proof that Daniel himself is becoming proof against the theater is the chapter’s insistence on associating music and song with (an always implicitly and essentially lyric) poetry, rather than with performance. Mirah may wonder if Daniel belongs to the theater, but his emphatic denial is seconded by the narrative’s own emphatic attempt to disengage singing from the theatrical context it might have been thought to inhabit, and to relocate it in its proper poetic context, where it thus finally seems fitting. If Daniel’s song comes from an opera by Rossini, and if that opera’s Shakespearean source seems to underscore the threat of theatricality, what deflects that threat is Eliot’s reminder that the song in question is actually one in which Rossini has “set to music the immortal words of Dante” (p. 227), and—in a footnote, no less—that “Dante’s words are best rendered by our own poet in the lines at the head of the chapter” (p. 227). And indeed, at the head of the chapter are Tennyson’s lines from “Locksley Hall.”

This ostentatious flurry of more-than-allusive erudition suggests T. S. Eliot rather than the more stately intellectuality of George Eliot. But while this citational display seems a little showy, whatever inadvertent theatricality it might imply is overborne by Eliot’s authoritative way of doing the poetic police in different voices.[50] Perhaps it would be more “accurate” (if less poetic) to say that, in reclaiming song for poetry, Eliot effectively poeticizes any theatricality that remains either in song itself or in her own discourse about it. The different poetic voices here are thus all really the same monological voice: whatever seems to “belong to the theater” ultimately belongs to poetry, precisely because the theater itself now belongs to poetry. As a result of this redefined, nonreciprocal linkage, even Shakespeare ends up looking more like a poet than like a playwright.

Yet it is on Daniel, of course, that the novel’s poetic discipline has its most important and most striking rehabilitative effect. Admittedly, he is still “angry” to find that even his assumption of the male “gaze” can seem less “dreadful” (p. 226) than feminizing: “His own face in the glass had during many years been associated for him with thoughts of some one whom he must be like—one about whose character and lot he continually wondered, and never dared to ask” (p. 226). But if this speculation anxiously anticipates a specular relationship between Daniel and his mother, the virilizing changes in his voice and body testify to the promise of phallogocentric “firmness” with which, like the novel itself, he will eventually dispose of her:

The voice, sometimes audible in subdued snatches of song, had turned out merely a high baritone; indeed, only to look at his lithe powerful frame and the firm gravity of his face would have been enough for an experienced guess that he had no rare and ravishing tenor such as nature reluctantly makes at some sacrifice. Look at his hands: they are not small and dimpled, with tapering fingers that seem to have only a deprecating touch: they are long, flexible, firmly-grasping hands, such as Titian has painted in a picture where he wanted to show the combination of refinement with force. And there is something of a likeness, too, between the faces belonging to the hands—in both the uniform pale-brown skin, the perpendicular brow, the calmly penetrating eyes. Not seraphic any longer: thoroughly terrestrial and manly; but still of a kind to raise belief in a human dignity which can afford to acknowledge poor relations.

Though the pictorial analogy indicates that Daniel remains susceptible to the operations of framing, this passage records, less ambiguously, his development away from the role of boy prodigy—a role in which there is apparently no real development but only degeneration into a rather phobically anatomized, equivocally sexed prodigiousness. The frame that necessarily objectifies Daniel also houses the portrait of one who, in accordance with the novel’s normative scenario of male Bildung, promises to end up as a family man. While still something of a beau ténébreux, Daniel is no longer in any danger of becoming an operatic tenor: though high, his baritone sounds a reassuringly “subdued” note. Needless to say, the “dignity” thus secured for him hardly compromises his “manliness”: for in “acknowledging poor relations,” Daniel would merely offer further evidence of his capacity for patriarchal beneficence.

In a sense, that is just what he is doing in this chapter. Although Mirah will not in fact become his “relation” until the end of the book, when he marries her, they are already “related” not only by their shared Jewishness but also, less happily, by their echoing theatrical histories. However, by “acknowledging” Mirah as an “impersonation” of his own “misery” (p. 227), and by being “acknowledged” by her even before she repeats the words from his song, Daniel participates in a large-scale narrative movement that shifts the ground of their sympathetic performance from one of illicit publicity—thanks to her father, Mirah has almost literalized the metaphor of the actress as prostitute—to one of respectable intersubjectivity, ending in the institutionalization of interiority that is marriage. Indeed, in a sort of preview of that domestic bliss, the sympathy enacted in their scene of mutual recognition seems almost magically to transcend its own overdetermined theatricality, affirming, as in a Brontë novel, the preemptive claims of “the inward instruction of our own privacy”:

Her hands were hanging down clasped before her, and her eyes were fixed on the river with a look of immovable, statue-like despair. This strong arrest of his attention made him cease singing: apparently his voice had entered her inner world without her having taken any note of whence it came, for when it suddenly ceased she changed her attitude slightly, and, looking round with a frightened glance, met Deronda’s face. It was but a couple of moments, but that seems a long while for two people to look straight at each other.

Where David Marshall would elicit the inescapable ambivalence of such moments, underscoring their inherent theatricality, I want to stress the overarching developmental trajectory that would master that ambivalence by preparing Daniel to become the master of the house. Tending to minimize the gender politics of the narrative, Marshall thereby downplays its vigorously domesticating poetics as well.[51] Though, as I have argued, Daniel and Mirah indeed reinforce each other in their antitheatricality, this mutual poeticizing ultimately subserves what Eliot is quite willing to exhibit as the asymmetrical structure of patriarchal marriage, a structure that obtains not just in obviously unhappy families like the Grandcourts but in the novel’s normative Jewish household as well.[52] The novel makes clear that, one way or another, in a male-regulated economy of gender roles, it is women who are bound to be the “poor relations,” for it is they who are traditionally meant to be “framed”: “framed,” as Mirah’s brother Mordecai says approvingly, “for the love which feels possession in renouncing” (p. 803); “framed,” in Alcharisi’s words, as “instruments” (p. 726) of solidarity between grandfathers and grandsons; or framed, as Rose has shown, by a “scientific” tradition that demands their spectacularization. Just as the narrative inserts the theater inside poetry, so Daniel sets up a domestic frame to contain Mirah’s theatrical frame. Arranging for her to give private singing lessons (a kind of “inward instruction” in its own right) and private performances—conveniently, the appropriate authorities have pronounced her a mediocre actress, and have concluded that her voice “will never do for the public” (p. 256)—Daniel advances the process that will culminate in his accession to the traditional male role of the framer.[53]

For that final triumph to take place, however, Daniel’s poetic character must undergo considerable disciplinary reconstruction. Although he demonstrates admirable sensitivity to “the presence of poetry in everyday events,” and although that sensitivity already permits him to “raise” certain “faint” and “obscure” facts of Jewish history into the “region of poetry” (p. 414), in the middle of the novel Eliot still finds him wanting in “the chief poetic energy:—in the force of imagination that pierces or exalts the solid fact, instead of floating among cloud-pictures” (p. 431). Where the latter state suggests a vaguely effete lingering among stage sets, real or imagined, the more energetic alternatives of piercing or exalting the solid fact would characterize the figure Daniel has yet to become—the youth as virile poet. That is, to prove himself the worthy heir to his grandfather’s proto-Zionist “vocation,” Daniel must learn how to enforce his grandfather’s “notion of separateness with communication” (p. 792), in which to “communicate” is precisely to apply the “force of imagination” to solid facts, thereby achieving a kind of Aufhebung of the realism, as well as of the reality, to which Eliot’s earlier novels are monuments.

If it is Daniel’s grandfather who symbolizes most forcefully and articulates most succinctly the novel’s poetic imperative, there are two other characters who also help to define it. One of these is the brilliant Jewish composer and musician Herr Klesmer, whose trenchant critical powers—Mary Wilson Carpenter points out that the Yiddish word klesmer, which means “musical instrument,” can also evoke instruments such as knives[54]—establish his credentials as a virtuoso of piercing. The other is the poet Mordecai, in whose “soul” “new psalms of exile live again” (p. 555), and whose resolutely prophetic discourse identifies him as a veritable professor of exaltation. Yet, as we will see, Daniel’s accession to the chief poetic energy represents less an alternation between two discrete and specialized techniques—as though the “or” of “pierces or exalts” designated mutual exclusiveness—than their more impressive synthesis, whereby “or” betokens the apposition of near-synonymy. Furthermore, while this synthesis might be viewed as a form of “androgyny,” in which the “masculinity” of piercing merges with the “femininity” of exalting, both techniques serve the purposes of a poetics directed by men against women and womanish men: Daniel’s Titianesque “combination of refinement with force” (p. 226) eventually becomes a refinement of force, a new and improved tactic of domination. To exalt, here, is as phallocentric an act as to pierce. Through Klesmer and Mordecai alike, the novel shows how to enforce a piercing exaltation of a distressingly feminized culture.

For the world of solid fact that Daniel is trained to confront turns out not to be so solid after all—otherwise, it would not need confronting. Daniel practices his skills on the relatively tractable Mirah, yet it is Gwendolen in whom the effects of his energy must be most visible, since it is she, more saliently than even Grandcourt, who embodies the alarmingly unstable condition of English culture, a culture already infected by bad Jewishness. In the first scene of the novel, we see Gwendolen engrossed in the very activity of gambling that marks Lapidoth as such an embarrassingly inadequate Jewish father. Moreover, as the novel’s central instance of woman-as-spectacle, and as a woman who at one point even thinks of taking to the stage, Gwendolen resembles the novel’s other bad Jewish parent, Daniel’s mother. Gwendolen’s “problem,” as it were, is that she wants to be what Daniel’s mother is—namely, a Princess. And though not exactly a Jewish princess, Gwendolen is tellingly (if somewhat bemusedly) described, on two occasions, as a “princess in exile” (pp. 53, 71). In Gwendolen, one might say, a certain parodic, because too-worldly, version of Jewish exile is itself in exile. From the very beginning of the novel, and well into the penultimate Book 7, we are repeatedly reminded of how Gwendolen tries to transform the “narrow theatre” (p. 94) of her female experience into what Alcharisi calls “the wide world, and all that I could represent in it” (p. 693). In widening the theater of her performance, Gwendolen would paradoxically effect the dedifferentiation or narrowing of the distance between the world and representation that marks the sensationalism against which Eliot writes.

Thus, where critics like Henry James and F. R. Leavis admire the “good [Gentile] part” of the novel for its “deep rich English tone,” viewing the “bad [Jewish] part” as a lapse from the “solid” into the “liquid,”[55] I am arguing that, especially as personified by Gwendolen (Leavis was of course prepared to delete the “bad part” and to name what was left of the novel after her), the “good part” is already tainted by bad Jewishness, and can be saved only by the good Jewishness of the “bad part.” When Daniel first sees the “Austenian,” or, indeed, “Jamesian” heroine in the casino, where the “atmosphere [is] well-brewed to a visible haze” (p. 35), he finds himself faced with an unwelcome reflection of his own floating existence in a world of “cloud-pictures.” The vast remainder of the novel, much of which takes place back in England, might well be read as Daniel’s attempt to save himself and the Jews by saving Gwendolen and the contaminated—that is, already bad-Jewish—English culture that that heroine represents. Or rather, since Eliot devotes so much space and time to the relationship between Daniel and Gwendolen, saving the Jews is merely a pretext for (and an unwritten sequel to) the more urgent business of saving the English novel and the culture that it represents. The goal of Daniel’s vocational training is the founding of a separate Jewish state; but, as I have suggested, that apprenticeship involves, more immediately and maybe more crucially, extensive practical experience in the theoretical technique of separating good (virilizing) Jewish communication with the English from bad (feminizing) Jewish communication with the English. Before he can leave England to set up poetic house and homeland with Mirah, Daniel must acquire and exercise the chief poetic energy that will allow him to put in order an already dangerously theatricalized English house of fiction.

Daniel’s major assignment in the novel, then, is to make sure that this actress manquée stays manquée: that Gwendolen’s performance, like the much more cooperatively antitheatrical Mirah’s, shrinks to fit the contours of an interiority (if not of a marital domesticity) whose only “width”—in a reversal of the first paradox—comes from the spiritualizing impact of humiliation. That Daniel finally succeeds in this project of shrinking Gwendolen explains why critics have characterized his role in relation to her as that of a psychotherapist in relation to a patient.[56] (Indeed, Eliot’s poetic “science” might be adduced as one example of how, as Freud acknowledged, the poets had anticipated him.) But it is the great “professor” (p. 79) and musician Klesmer, who, in subjecting Gwendolen to the discipline of a certain “Jewish” science, first exemplifies the therapeutic technique Daniel will employ. Eventually, Gwendolen will in fact recognize that Daniel’s “possible judgment of her actions was telling on her as importunately as Klesmer’s judgment of her powers” (p. 381). But first, let us consider Klesmer’s lesson in the techniques of piercing and exalting.

Significantly, Klesmer’s penetrative effect—it is said that his genius “pierces the whole future of a life” (p. 282)—extends beyond, or through, Gwendolen to the larger English culture for whom “he has a deuced foreign look” (p. 290). Early in the novel, Klesmer’s pupil and wife-to-be, Catherine Arrowpoint (whose name, Carpenter suggests, is itself fairly pointed)[57] says to Gwendolen: “Imagine what I have to go through with this professor! He can hardly tolerate anything we English do in music. We can only put up with his severity, and make use of it to find out the worst that can be said of us” (p. 79). The “severity” with which Klesmer pierces and deflates Gwendolen’s fantasy of a career as a singer and actress therefore emblematizes an almost surgical intervention in both the English novel and the culture for which it stands, an operation in which a life-saving foreignness is implanted as a cure for the malignant one—the theater is presented here as an almost exclusively Jewish profession[58]—that has already spread too far. As Klesmer punctures Gwendolen’s plan “to become the most approved Juliet of the time” (p. 307), her unhealthy desire for representation in the wide world indeed contracts to a more humble theatrical scale. Putting her theatrical project in its place, he tells her, “I must clear your mind of these notions, which have no more resemblance to reality than a pantomime” (p. 301). Having restored a certain realism, however, Klesmer must supplement poetic piercing with poetic exalting, lest Gwendolen’s hopes remain “no better than the packed-up shows of a departing fair” (p. 306). That he possesses the energy or force of imagination necessary for such complex work is signaled, of course, by his musical genius, which in effect excuses his flamboyance. And if, in calling himself “the Wandering Jew,” and in being called “cosmopolitan” (p. 284) by Miss Arrowpoint, Klesmer seems implicated in the floating tendencies of those with lesser poetic energy, the Shelleyan defense that he offers immediately afterward marks the decisive difference between his powerful poetics of exile and Daniel’s less efficacious mode of errancy: “We [artists] are not ingenious puppets, sir, who live in a box and look out on the world only when it is gaping for amusement. We help to rule the nations and make the age as much as any other public men. We count ourselves on level benches with legislators” (p. 284). Marshaling the force of the mature Shelley’s definition of poets as the “unacknowledged legislators of the world,” Klesmer draws a vigorously discrediting frame around the philistine notion of artists as so many stage properties.

But Klesmer’s most commanding assertion of his poetic, and poeticizing, power occurs in his painful interview with Gwendolen, when he says, rather indignantly:

I am not decrying the life of the true artist. I am exalting it. I say, it is out of the reach of any but choice organisations—natures framed to love perfection and to labour for it; ready, like all true lovers, to endure, to wait, to say, I am not yet worthy, but She—Art, my mistress—is worthy, and I will live to merit her. An honourable life? Yes. But the honour comes from the inward vocation and the hard-won achievement: there is no honour in donning the life as a livery.

By “exalting” the “frame” of “the true artist,” Klesmer not only establishes his own good-Jewish credentials: as he communicates to Gwendolen the terms of his “inward vocation,” he also provides her with a model for achieving an exaltation of sorts within the far more constricted frame to which his piercing words have just consigned her. Spelling out this prescription for a homeopathic cure of her false artistry, Daniel himself will advise Gwendolen that “a little private imitation of what is good is a sort of private devotion to it, and most of us ought to practise art only in the light of private study—preparation to understand and enjoy what the few can do for us” (p. 491).

What Klesmer does for Gwendolen, early in the novel, is precisely to give her forceful, if indirect, inward instruction, instruction in the inwardness to be secured through “a little private imitation” of good-Jewish “art.” For in the famous scene of the tableau vivant from The Winter’s Tale, this princess in exile, posing as a “Rachelesque heroine” (p. 90), begins by imitating the statue-like queen Hermione, but ends up resembling the “statue-like” (p. 227) Mirah, inadvertently transcending her own rather bad or embarrassing “imitation of acting” (p. 90), thanks to Klesmer’s improvised yet timely musical intervention:

“Music, awake her, strike!” said Paulina (Mrs. Davilow, who by special entreaty had consented to take the part in a white burnous and hood).

Herr Klesmer, who had been good-natured enough to seat himself at the piano, struck a thunderous chord—but in the same instant, and before Hermione had put forth her foot, the movable panel, which was on a line with the piano, flew open on the right opposite the stage and disclosed the picture of the dead face and the fleeing figure, brought out in pale definiteness by the position of the wax-lights. Everyone was startled, but all eyes in the act of turning towards the opened panel were recalled by a piercing cry from Gwendolen, who stood without change of attitude, but with a change of expression that was terrifying in its terror. She looked like a statue into which a soul of fear had entered: her pallid lips were parted; her eyes, usually narrowed under their long lashes, were dilated and fixed.

Like the private theatricals in Mansfield Park and Jane Eyre, this tableau vivant constitutes a densely significant scene of instruction. Though it precedes the interview with Gwendolen, in which Klesmer performs his brutally deflationary poetic piercing, the final image that his “good nature” produces here is one in which Gwendolen’s pretensions have already been pierced—“struck” is the operative term—but have thereby been readied for the compensatory, “devotional” sublimation that Daniel, following Klesmer’s lead, will be called upon to teach her both during and after the “long Satanic masquerade” (p. 831) of her marriage to Grandcourt. “Oh, the door was not locked; it was probably the sudden vibration from the piano that sent it open” (p. 92), reasons Gwendolen’s uncle, Mr. Gascoigne. In terms of symbolic action, that vibration has far-reaching effects, since Klesmer’s “thunderous chord” communicates to Gwendolen “a little privat[izing]” poetic energy, which she echoes in her “piercing cry.” But that cry also betrays “a little” poetic receptivity to something like exaltation, however “terrifying”: not, as Gwendolen will fantasize, through worldwide renown as an actress—no Vashti or Alcharisi is this would-be “Rachelesque heroine”—but rather, as the “fixed” yet “soulful” “dilation” of her “usually narrowed” eyes suggests, through an almost Jane Eyre–like expansion into inwardness, notwithstanding her revulsion from the prospect of life as a governess.

But while, in Jane Eyre, this inward expansion seems virtually definitive of “the novel” as against theatricality, Eliot’s staging of this process depends upon the intermediation of a strikingly alien artist who is much more like a poet—and a highly theoretical one at that[59]—than he is like a novelist. Gwendolen’s theatrical tableau becomes vivant only when Klesmer “fixes” her by forcing her to give life to the poetry of Shakespeare’s script. And where the private theatricals threatened at first to be merely embarrassing—or, worse, to inflict the kind of “paralyzing depression” that is Eliot’s response to bad art—this fixing of Gwendolen’s bad theatricality implies, far more resonantly, her “mortification” (p. 93). Klesmer strikes the chord that both places and repairs the spectacle she embodies: he forces that spectacle to resonate with the humiliating but therefore redemptive note of a presumably authentic privacy, before which what starts out as the spectator’s “unrest” gives way to gratifying intimations of Gwendolen’s capacity for “spiritual dread” (p. 94). For although Gwendolen has “always disliked whatever was presented to her under the name of religion” (p. 94), when she is struck by music, or pierced by poetry, she indeed has an almost “Jewish” experience of “the vastness in which she seemed an exile” (p. 95). In the necessarily “little” world of her “narrow theater,” that is, this English princess exchanges bad Jewish exile for good Jewish exile.

In the process, moreover, the narrative that contains this scene is saved from the embarrassment of seeming to have lapsed into the sensationalism of a novel like Lady Audley’s Secret. Where Gwendolen’s literally melodramatic seizure might recall the histrionic humiliation of that novel’s equally histrionic heroine, Eliot takes great care to frame her heroine’s self-betrayal as an instance of lyricizing melos rather than of hystericizing drama. Granted, Klesmer is tactful enough to recuperate what he “divines” is Gwendolen’s “betrayal into a passion of fear” (p. 93) by praising it as “a magnificent bit of plastik” (p. 92) and as “good acting” (p. 93). Yet this divination hints that the true source of goodness lies in his own divine poetic antidote to the theatrical infection of reality by artifice: poetic force invades, spiritualizes, and thereby redeems both theatrical artifice and the reality it has infected. It is just such an antidote that Daniel will administer to Gwendolen when, after the “absorbing show” (p. 405) of her marriage has become a “Satanic masquerade” (p. 831)—whose end is prefigured quasi-sensationally in the frightening picture disclosed in the tableau vivanthe attempts to recuperate that bad spectacle by prescribing “private devotion” to “art” through “a little private imitation of what is good” in it.

But if Gwendolen finally accepts this painful treatment, there is one female character in the novel who persists in rejecting what’s good for her. Daniel’s mother, Alcharisi, the Princess Halm-Eberstein, the princess in exile par excellence, articulates the novel’s strongest feminist refusal of the poetic therapy of patriarchal Jewishness. In the famous description of her “double consciousness,” we see the last, extravagant revival of the spectacle (already unwittingly revived by Lydgate) in which the duplicitous Madame Laure once starred,[60] and which has haunted Eliot’s writing ever since:

The varied transitions of tone with which this speech was delivered were as perfect as the most accomplished actress could have made them. The speech was in fact a piece of what may be called sincere acting: this woman’s nature was one in which all feeling—and all the more when it was tragic as well as real—immediately became matter of conscious representation: experience immediately passed into drama, and she acted her own emotions. In a minor degree this is nothing uncommon, but in the Princess the acting had a rare perfection of physiognomy, voice, and gesture. It would not be true to say that she felt less because of this double consciousness: she felt—that is, her mind went through—all the more, but with a difference: each nucleus of pain or pleasure had a deep atmosphere of the excitement of spiritual intoxication which at once exalts and deadens. (pp. 691–92)

The repressed that returns as Alcharisi is the disturbing catachrestic conflation of “sincerity” (or the real) and “acting” (or the fictive) that Eliot has been trying to rewrite poetically all through Daniel Deronda. Though Alcharisi’s “double consciousness” suggests a kind of transcendence, her “excitement” is too reminiscent of the gambler’s state of mind; though her “intoxication” may be “spiritual,” it can hardly be “inspiriting,” as Eliot calls great art. If the chief poetic energy pierces and exalts, the Princess’s theatrical “nature” merely “exalts and deadens”; and while to deaden is not exactly to kill, we still sense that we are in the treacherous vicinity of a “panther of the stage” (as Lewes called Rachel), of an “animal with fierce eyes and retractile claws,” whose piercing would be even more violent—and much less salutary—than, say, Klesmer’s. Like Lydgate’s “excited narrow consciousness” at the billiard table, or like the “narrow monotony of action” in the casino at Leubronn, Alcharisi’s feverish private performance signifies the most spurious and insidious kind of “width,” whereby the differences between “nature” and “representation,” between “experience” and “drama,” and between “consciousness” and delirium are all collapsed in an unhealthy “atmosphere” of coercion. Whereas Lucy Snowe, and Charlotte Brontë as well, take the uncanny doubleness of the imperiously suffering Vashti as an example or model for their own activities as writers, Daniel Deronda, and George Eliot, make an example of this later “Rachelesque heroine,” punishing her for her deconstructive artistry.[61]

Neil Hertz has shown how this exemplary punishment of the “bad” surrogate author works to defend both the author herself and the “ ‘good’ surrogate” who is Daniel: “the casting out of the princess, her abjection, is intended not to collapse the distance between author and surrogate, but to stabilize it as a chosen separation and thus to ground the multiple gestures of mimesis that make up the novel.”[62] My own discussion suggests that the good surrogate and the bad surrogate embody a larger narrative power struggle between the good Jewishness of poetry and the bad Jewishness of theatricality. Rejecting her father’s prescriptive definition of her as “the Jewish woman” (p. 692)—that is, as a good or nice Jewish girl—Alcharisi nonetheless assumes a certain poetic identification: she becomes, after all, “the greatest lyric actress of Europe” (p. 703). Yet, unless properly regulated, opera can be dangerous, as we know from both Eliot and Lewes. The Princess’s particular operatic conjunction of poetry and theatricality inverts what the novel deems the proper hierarchical relationship between the two forms, and threatens to undo the realignment of singing with the former: here, instead of giving itself up to the inspiriting sovereignty of the lyric, a deadening theatrical exaltation—more spirituous than authentically spiritual—parodies and exceeds it, as when, adding insult to injury, Daniel’s mother mocks Mirah’s “attach[ment] to the Judaism she knows nothing of,” sneering, “That is poetry—fit to last through an opera night” (p. 729).

If Grandcourt’s odd resemblance to an actress seals his doom, that wisecrack is enough to get the Princess, for her part, expelled from the novel. As Marshall notes, Deronda’s interviews with his mother teach him “the limits…of sympathy,”[63] and his sympathy certainly seems limited when he points out to her: “You renounced me—you still banish me—as a son.…But that stronger Something has determined that I shall be all the more the grandson whom also you willed to annihilate” (p. 727). The Princess herself recognizes all too well that her glamorous cameo appearance serves merely to “frame” her retroactively as an “instrument” (p. 726) for relations between men.[64] Functioning, to be sure, as the matrilineal proof of Jewishness, but therefore, in a more overtly thematized way, as a conduit in spite of herself for the transmission of “that stronger Something” that is the Name-of-the-(Grand)Father, the actress who “banishes” her son enters the narrative only to be banished from it.

But where Daniel’s mother resents to the end the instrumentality imposed upon her, his wife accepts with the requisite docility her own supporting role in the homosocial transaction between Daniel and Mordecai. The marriage of Daniel and Mirah merely consolidates the “marriage of…souls” (p. 820) between Daniel and Mirah’s brother. And the absorption of Mirah into this male bond signals the triumph of poetry over a by-now domesticated theatricality. Mirah’s childish tendency to interpret her life in theatrical terms (“What I have read about and sung about and seen acted, is happening to me,” [pp. 800–801]) is not only checked by Mordecai’s fraternal disapprobation (“My sister, thou hast read too many plays,” [p. 803]): it is overruled and supplanted by Mordecai’s “poet’s yearning” (p. 537) for the realization of his visions. His most remarkable visionary success occurs when, “straining to embody” his “ideal self,” he virtually wills the arrival, against a “golden background” (p. 550), of the “figure representative of [his] longing” (p. 531). “Visions,” Mordecai tells Daniel, “are the creators and feeders of the world” (p. 555). “Darkened by the excess of light” (p. 531), the Miltonic Daniel rows along the Thames from fantasy into reality, thus conjoining those realms under Mordecai’s powerful creative and nutritive—in a word, poetic—influence.[65] “Embodying” in Daniel the “ideal”—that is, figurative and literal—functions of both the father and the mother, Mordecai invests the hero with a good catachrestic power whose ultimate effect—notwithstanding that this process is called a “maternal transference of self” (p. 553)—would be to render real or living mothers and wives somewhat superfluous.

Having put its actresses in their place, having replaced contaminating (female) theatricality with visionary (male) poetry, the novel can finally separate its good Jewish characters from the English world with which they have been communicating. If the novel begins with poetry—the epigraph to the novel as a whole is a verse motto by Eliot herself—it, like Eliot’s career as a novelist, also end with poetry, as Mordecai dies in Daniel’s and Mirah’s arms. Appropriately, the lines are from Milton’s closet drama, Samson Agonistes. Reaching back before Shelley, to one of his own great precursors, Eliot invokes an earlier British poetic impersonation of Jewish identity, a canonical text signifying precisely that residue of “Jewishness” in English culture that she has been attempting to revitalize and to reactivate—not only against her culture’s ambient philistinism, but also against another “Jewishness” that floats or wanders too indiscriminately throughout that culture. Now that theatricality has been safely contained—has, as it were, been given a home—Eliot can reward the Jewish hero who has helped her administer that domestication, envisioning an end to his exile as well: Daniel may travel to the East (with Mirah at his side), to create and feed a new and separate poetico-political reality.

Although this chapter is in large part about how a certain kind of literary theory defines itself against the sensationalism to which it nonetheless remains crucially attached, it was not until I had written most of it that I became aware of some of its own more significant performative implications and affiliations. To be specific, many of the themes identified here as central to Eliot’s text—literary autonomy, the fate of the novel, cultural “decadence,” and, most sensationally, “the Jewish question”—turned out (to my surprise, at any rate) to resemble the themes of the most sensational or sensation-causing text on the contemporary literary-theoretical scene, Paul de Man’s recently discovered 1941 newspaper article, “Les juifs dans la littérature actuelle,” accounts of which I read before beginning to write this chapter. For a number of reasons, this is not the place in which to analyze that article, much less to consider its role either within the extensive body of de Man’s wartime journalism as a whole or, even more broadly, in relation to his later, more recognizably “theoretical” work. Not only am I inhibited by the sheer fact of not yet having read the wartime writings in their entirety: I am also sufficiently mindful of this chapter’s warnings against the possible dangers of metacriticism to resist the temptation to begin constructing yet another interpretative frame, especially this late in the chapter.[66]

But I append these brief remarks in the hope that they may be usefully self-historicizing rather than “totalizing and (potentially totalitarian),” as de Man himself characterized the version of literary theory of which he was the acknowledged master.[67] The relevant information about my own history is that I first wrote about Daniel Deronda in the late 1970s in a dissertation under de Man’s direction, and that, as one might have expected of a dissertation produced at that time and under that influence, I there subjected the novel’s Jewish content to the same process of sublimation and exclusion—of sublimation as exclusion—that I have here been tracing in the novel itself. Generally speaking, the force of my reading consisted in its relentlessly formalizing subsumption of both “good” and “bad” Jews under the privileged rubric of “poetry,” a move that effectively forestalled any consideration of the resistance offered to this process not only by the “bad” Jews but by the “bad” Jewishness that virtually pervades the novel’s dramatis personae.

Now I suspect that most readers of this book are familiar, at least from all of the attendant and often gleefully vindictive publicity, with the outlines of de Man’s disturbing Le Soir article. I would merely point out that, in its own obviously more spectacular way, that article performs similar gestures of sublimation and exclusion, and upon similar objects. After affirming that, “en gardant, malgré l’ingérance sémite dans tous les aspects de la vie européenne, une originalité et un caractère intacts, [notre civilisation] a montré que sa nature profonde était saine,” de Man concludes that “la création d’une colonie juive isolée d’Europe” would in fact have negligible consequences for la vie littéraire de l’Occident: “Celle-ci perdrait, en tout et pour tout, quelques personnalités de médiocre valeur et continuerait, comme par le passé, à se développer selon ses grandes lois évolutives.”[68] Unlike Eliot—whose final novel would also isolate the Jews from Europe, though for more attractive reasons—de Man implies no distinction between good and bad Jewishness; for him, there is only “mediocre” Jewishness, which can be safely excluded precisely because its putatively polluting influence has always already been sublimated to the point of mere ingérance, or meddling.[69] And what guarantees the health of notre civilisation is nothing other than the aesthetic autonomy that de Man locates in the grandes lois évolutives of Western literary life.

To do no more than adduce this article as yet another candidate for some hypothetical anthology of theoretical sensationalism would be to repeat the formalizing move that this chapter has attempted at least to slow down, if not to reverse. Nor, after having problematized the distinction between “good” Jews and “bad” Jews, am I about to propose a distinction between the “good” Paul de Man and the “bad” Paul de Man. My aim is rather to situate this chapter more explicitly than I was able to do as I was writing the bulk of it. Imagining a separation of the Jews from la littérature actuelle, de Man ends up celebrating its “great evolutive laws.” Critics will be arguing for some time to come about whether or not those “laws” were reenacted decades later as the canonical principles of deconstruction. For my part, rereading Daniel Deronda has meant not only uncovering a certain system of “great art” as a set of laws in its own right—laws that I myself enforced in an earlier reading—but also according a certain space and a certain play to some of the figures in the novel on whose performing bodies those laws get enforced. As Foucault and others have shown, if laws require enforcers, they also require violators. And if, as previous chapters of this book have indicated, it is thus not a simple question of “authority” versus “subversion,” the present chapter has nonetheless been written in the name of the “bad” Jewishness that Eliot’s novel, among other more or less well-intentioned agents of Western ideology, punishes so grandly.


1. John Blackwood’s letter is quoted in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, 9 vols., (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954–78), 6:227. Henry James’s comment is reprinted in Haight, ed., A Century of George Eliot Criticism (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), p. 102; also reprinted as an appendix to F. R. Leavis, The Great Tradition (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972), p. 291.

2. Haight, ed., Letters 6:418. In A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), Elaine Showalter, pointing out Braddon’s influence on Eliot, refers to Madame Laure as “a character right out of sensation fiction” (p. 171).

3. George Eliot, Middlemarch, ed. W. J. Harvey (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), p. 183.

4. Ibid., p. 182.

5. For a discussion that relates the instabilities staged in this scene to the nineteenth-century discourse on “monomania,” see Simon During, “The Strange Case of Monomania: Patriarchy in Literature, Murder in Middlemarch, Drowning in Daniel Deronda,Representations 23 (Summer 1988): 92–93.

6. Middlemarch, p. 181.

7. Jacqueline Rose, “George Eliot and the Spectacle of the Woman,” in Rose, Sexuality in the Field of Vision (London: Verso, 1986), pp. 105–22. Rose offers a deft analysis of this episode, as well as of related issues in Daniel Deronda. Like During and others, she develops the connection between Laure and Gwendolen.

8. In The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979), p. 500, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar make the comparison between the story of Laure in Middlemarch and the story of Céline in Jane Eyre.

9. Middlemarch, p. 724.

10. See, for example, Eliot’s comparison of Laure to an “untamed ruminating animal” (p. 182), or Lydgate’s view of Rosamond as an “animal of another and feebler species” (p. 719). Another Eliot novel replete with women-as-animals metaphors is The Mill on the Floss.

11. George Henry Lewes, On Actors and the Art of Acting (Westport, Ct.: Greenwood, 1968), p. 31.

12. Nina Auerbach, “Secret Performances: George Eliot and the Art of Acting,” in Auerbach, Romantic Imprisonment: Women and Other Glorified Outcasts (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), p. 264.

13. Middlemarch, p. 122.

14. Alexander Welsh, George Eliot and Blackmail (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985).

15. See, for example, Lewes’s “Farewell Causerie,” Fortnightly (December 1, 1866): “Sensation novels of course depend on ‘exciting’ situations, and breathless rapidity of movement; whether the movement be absurd or not matters little, the essential thing is to keep moving” (894).

16. Cynthia Chase, “The Decomposition of the Elephants: Double-Reading Daniel Deronda,PMLA (March 1978): 215–27. Catherine Gallagher, “George Eliot and Daniel Deronda: The Prostitute and the Jewish Question,” in Sex, Politics, and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Novel: Selected Papers from the English Institute, 1983–84, ed. Ruth Bernard Yeazell (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 39–62.

17. Gallagher, ibid., pp. 43, 46.

18. I am echoing here Gallagher’s statement that Eliot “replac[es] the mystifications of genealogy with the realities of economics” (ibid., p. 46).

19. Chase, “The Decomposition of the Elephants”: 224. The phrase, “the scandal of the referent,” appears on p. 223.

20. George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, ed. Barbara Hardy (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982), p. 792. Subsequent references to the novel will be to this edition, and will be included parenthetically in the text.

21. Haight, ed., Letters 6:147.

22. From Lewes’s Diary, May 17, 1875; cited in Haight, ed., Letters 6:142.

23. See John Stokes, “Rachel’s ‘Terrible Beauty’: An Actress Among the Novelists,” ELH 51 (Winter 1984): 771–93.

24. Lewes, On Actors and the Art of Acting, p. 229.

25. Ibid., pp. 229–30.

26. Ibid., pp. 232, 230. On the sexual implications of Italian politico-cultural “immaturity,” see D. A. Miller, “Cage aux folles: Sensation and Gender in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White,” in The Novel and the Police (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 186–90.

27. “Excess” and “melodrama” are closely related, as suggested by the subtitle of Peter Brooks’s The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama, and the Mode of Excess (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976).

28. Rose, “George Eliot and the Spectacle of the Woman,” in Sexuality in the Field of Vision, p. 108.

29. See Gordon S. Haight, George Eliot: A Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), p. 471.

30. David Marshall, The Figure of Theater: Shaftesbury, Defoe, Adam Smith, and George Eliot (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), pp. 193–94.

31. See, for example, “Notes on Form in Art,” in Essays of George Eliot, ed. Thomas Pinney (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), pp. 431–36. On Eliot’s longstanding interest in “the poetry of experience,” see Suzanne Graver, George Eliot and Community: A Study in Social Theory and Fictional Form (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), pp. 80–149.

32. On the difference between earlier and later nineteenth-century novels, see Catherine Gallagher, The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction: Social Discourse and Narrative Form, 1832–1867 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), pp. 265–67.

33. Gallagher, “George Eliot and Daniel Deronda,” in Sex, Politics, and Science, p. 53.

34. Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” in Women and the Cinema: A Critical Anthology, ed., Karen Kay and Gerald Peary (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1977), pp. 412–28. In addition to Rose, see Catherine Belsey, “Re-reading the Great Tradition,” in Re-reading English, ed. Peter Widdowson (London: Methuen, 1982), pp. 121–35; Mary Wilson Carpenter “ ‘A Bit of Her Flesh’: Circumcision and ‘The Signification of the Phallus’ in Daniel Deronda,Genders 1 (Spring 1988): 1–23. The phrase, “woman as spectacle,” occurs in Belsey, p. 131.

35. Under the combined influence of Nachträglichkeit and Mulvey’s striking formulations, one even begins to wonder if much in the modern cinema does not derive from certain theatrical moments in certain late nineteenth-century novels. On the relationship between films and nineteenth-century theatrical conventions, see William Rothman, “Virtue and Villainy in the Face of the Camera,” in The “I” of the Camera: Essays in Film Criticism, History, and Aesthetics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 69–84.

36. The phrase, “structures of fascination,” comes from Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure,” in Women and the Cinema, p. 417. On projection, introjection, and exhibitionism, see ibid., pp. 416–22.

37. For a perceptive discussion of theatricality in Wordsworth, see Geraldine Friedman, “History in the Background of Wordsworth’s ‘Blind Beggar,’ ” ELH 56 (Spring 1989): 125–48.

38. In this regard, see Eliot’s letter of April 18, 1876, to John Blackwood, in which she discusses charges from the critic of the Spectator that “the scenes between Lush and Grandcourt were not ‘vraisemblable’—were of the imperious feminine, not the masculine character” (Haight, ed., Letters 6:240).

39. Compare Daniel not only with female performers in Eliot’s earlier works (Caterina in “Mr. Gilfil’s Love Story,” Armgart in Armgart, etc.), but also with the musically inclined, feminized, and deformed Philip Wakem in The Mill on the Floss, with whom Eliot herself seems implicitly to be comparing him in this chapter (pp. 209, 215).

40. See Gallagher, “George Eliot and Daniel Deronda,” in Sex, Politics, and Science, pp. 52–58, on the interchangeability of apparently shameful “sexual exchange” and apparently admirable “artistic exchange.”

41. See, for example, Avrom Fleishman, “ ‘Daniel Charisi’: An Assessment of Daniel Deronda in the History of Ideas,” in Fleishman, Fiction and the Ways of Knowing (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1978), pp. 86–109. See also Eliot’s letter to Harriet Beecher Stowe, in which, discussing responses to Deronda, she denounces the “intellectual narrowness—in plain English, the stupidity, which is still the average mark of our culture” (Haight, ed., Letters 6:302).

42. For a provocative discussion (albeit with reference to a rather different historical, political, and textual configuration) of the way in which defense can be implicated in disease, see Lee Edelman, “The Plague of Discourse: Politics, Literary Theory, and AIDS,” South Atlantic Quarterly 88 (Winter 1989): 301–17.

43. Gallagher, “George Eliot and Daniel Deronda,” in Sex, Politics, and Science, pp. 56–58.


His name is Israel,
And a witch’s spell has changed him
To the likeness of a dog.
But on every Friday evening,
On a sudden, in the twilight,
The enchantment weakens, ceases,
And the dog once more is human.

The Works of Heinrich Heine, trans. Margaret Armour (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1906) 12:4.

45. On narrative and causality in the novel, see Chase, “The Decomposition of the Elephants”: esp. 216–20.

46. Middlemarch, p. 170.

47. Haight, ed., Letters 6:301–02.

48. Gallagher (“George Eliot and Daniel Deronda,” in Sex, Politics, and Science) points out that, since Mordecai transmits his poetry cabbalistically, it can be seen in some sense to bypass the problematics of both authorship and textuality (p. 58).

49. Marshall, The Figure of Theater, p. 196.

50. In “Discipline in Different Voices: Bureaucracy, Police, Family, and Bleak House,” in The Novel and the Police, pp. 58–106, D. A. Miller alludes to this phrase to evoke the recontainment of “subversive” difference.

51. For example, of Alcharisi’s statement, “You can never imagine what it is to have a man’s force of genius in you, and yet to suffer the slavery of being a girl” (p. 694), Marshall writes: “I want to suggest that the issue of sexual difference here is a specific manifestation of the more general question of difference that Eliot is insisting on in this chapter” (The Figure of Theater, p. 217).

52. For a reading of Deronda as a subversive critique of the traditional marriage plot, see Joseph Allen Boone, Tradition Counter Tradition: Love and the Form of Fiction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), pp. 172–87.

53. See Carpenter, “ ‘A Bit of Her Flesh’ ”: 4–5, for a sophisticated account of Mirah’s (and her mother’s) singing as evocations of “women’s freer access to the Imaginary.”

54. Ibid., 8.

55. The terms “good part” and “bad part” come from Leavis, The Great Tradition, pp. 97–146 passim; the other quotations are from James’s “Daniel Deronda: A Conversation,” (reprinted in Leavis, p. 290).

56. See, for example, Welsh, George Eliot and Blackmail, pp. 264–369, and Gillian Beer, George Eliot (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), p. 217.

57. Carpenter, “ ‘A Bit of Her Flesh’ ”: 6.

58. On Jews and actors, see the paragraphs entitled, “On the Problem of the Actor,” in Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufman (New York: Random House, 1974), pp. 316–17. For a comparison of antisemitism and antitheatricalism, see Jonas Barish, The Antitheatrical Prejudice (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981), pp. 464–69.

59. See the description of Klesmer’s composition, Freudvoll, Leidvoll, Gedankenvoll, as “an extensive commentary on some melodic ideas not too grossly evident” (pp. 79–80).

60. It was in a talk by Neil Hertz at Yale University that I first encountered the idea that Lydgate’s scenes with Laure might be read alongside Daniel’s scenes with Alcharisi.

61. For a discussion of how Brontë and Eliot differ in their representations of Rachel, see Stokes, “Rachel’s ‘Terrible Beauty.’ ”

62. Neil Hertz, The End of the Line: Essays on Psychoanalysis and the Sublime (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), p. 232. The terms “good” surrogate and “ ‘bad’ surrogate” appear on p. 224. For a less theoretically sophisticated but still useful discussion of the difficulty of distinguishing between good and bad actors in Eliot’s novels, see Karen B. Mann, The Language That Makes George Eliot’s Fiction (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), pp. 156–65.

63. Marshall, The Figure of Theater, p. 215.

64. See Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985).

65. See pp. 571–73 for a meditation on the scientific versus the visionary (Mordecai), which elaborates upon the discussion of Poetry and Science in the epigraph to chapter 1.

66. See Paul de Man, Wartime Journalism, 1939–1943, ed. Werner Hamacher, Neil Hertz, and Thomas Keenan (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988); and Hamacher, Hertz, and Keenan, eds., Responses: On Paul de Man’s Wartime Journalism (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989).

67. Paul de Man, The Resistance to Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p. 19.

68. Paul de Man, “Les juifs dans la littérature actuelle,” in Hamacher, Hertz, and Keenan, eds., Wartime Journalism, p. 45. I borrow Geoffrey Hartman’s translation of this passage: “By preserving, despite the semitic intrusion into all aspects of European life, an originality and a character that have remained intact, our civilization has shown that it is healthy in its deep nature.…The latter [the literary life of the West] would lose, all in all, some people of mediocre value and would continue as in the past to develop according to its own great laws of evolution.” Hartman, “Blindness and Insight,” The New Republic (March 7, 1988), p. 26.

69. De Man begins the article by ascribing to “vulgar anti-Semitism” the view that, as a result of Jewish influence, all of contemporary literature must be considered polluée et néfaste. A few paragraphs later, he writes: “A examen quelque peu proche, cette influence apparait même comme extraordinairment peu importante” (ibid., p. 45).

Poetry and Theatricality in Daniel Deronda

Preferred Citation: Litvak, Joseph. Caught in the Act: Theatricality in the Nineteenth-Century English Novel. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1992.