Narratorial Commentary in the Novels of George Eliot

University dissertation from English Studies

Abstract: The aim of this dissertation is to study how narratorial commentary is implemented in six of George Eliot's novels ? Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Felix Holt, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda ? as a process for shaping the reader's responses to these texts. Focusing on the ways in which narratorial commentary steers the dynamic relationship between narrator and reader, this investigation introduces the concepts story-time now and narration now to demarcate commentary from other modes of narrative. Story-time now is defined as the present in the narrative in which the reader is engrossed. Narration now constitutes a second temporal level in Eliot's novels and appears as the reader is pulled away from the succession of events and addressed by the narrator. In this second now the reader is still engaged in the reading process and part of the reading world but propelled onto a different ontological level with the narrator. Narratorial commentary occurs when the reader is invited into a narration-now sphere where he or she is encouraged to participate in communication with the narrator. By means of a set of implements derived from the field of narratology, this dissertation classifies different ways through which narratorial commentary operates to shape reader response. The most fundamental operational mode identified here is the generalisation of particular diegetic phenomena. Other essential modes involve references and addresses to the reader, metalepses and meta-narrative statements. In its review of each novel, this study shows how the use of commentary develops and changes from Eliot's first novel to her last, complementing previous research by examining the essential components of commentary and presenting an inclusive survey of how it functions in George Eliot's texts. The study proceeds from a review of the theoretical concepts employed in the investigation. Subsequent chapters deal with the novels in chronological order. Each chapter follows a bipartite structure in which the first line of inquiry is technically orientated, analysing commentary in Eliot's novels from a narratological perspective. The second section of each chapter is thematically orientated. Identifying and investigating the most prominent thematic concerns addressed in narratorial commentary, this section situates narratological analyses in the thematic context of each novel.

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