I’ve done a bit of research on George Eliot as an undergrad, and back then I thought she was really smart. I’ve done a bit more last year, but it was more focused on Leighton than her. Now, I have to go back to Eliot herself, and whenever I read something I am constantly wowed by her ability to make all her knowledge (somewhat) accessible through her novels.
I can’t help but wonder what kind of life she would have led had she been born 100 years later. Would she have been a first-wave feminist? Probably. A post-structuralist intellectual? Likely. And what a modern intellectual would she have made… her erudition is impressive for a Victorian (men and women included). How would 20th-century advancements in knowledge have affected her, I wonder?
I was just reading Neil McCaw’s George Eliot and Victorian Historiography and he mentions that she consulted 300 works on the topic of history in one year. 300. In one year. That’s almost one every day. Not counting all the other stuff she read. And she wrote letters, 800-page novels, kept an intellectual circle, maintained a healthy sex life with Lewes, traveled, ALL AT THE SAME FRIGGIN TIME.
Then I am struck with the thought, why would anyone even attempt to analyze her work? I mean, its depth is what makes it so fascinating and so endlessly analyzable. But really, who am I to pretend that I might have even a small insight of her mind? I thought this was going to be the fun part of my thesis, but now I feel her challenge is insurmountable. I could never read enough to make sense of everything I think I need to make sense of.
At least the first chapter is done, even if I am afraid it’ll need much work. 700 words every day, 5 days a week. 5 weeks to go. My level of pain of writing has happily gone to down from “throwing myself in front of a bus” to “break my leg with a hammer”. Hopefully next week it’ll be down another notch, at “falling down from a tree branch and accidentally break my arm” level.