For the past three years, I have been studying creative writing and nineteenth-century British literature at the University of Tennessee where I am a Ph.D. candidate. In my first semester, I began writing about kabbalistic astronomy and astrology in George Eliot’s final novel, Daniel Deronda. I later expanded my study of Eliot’s mystical astral symbolism to include not only her last novel but her earlier epic poem, The Spanish Gypsy. In both works, Eliot offers Jewish mystics as characters: in Spanish Gypsy, she creates a Jewish astrologer who gives the hero advice; in Daniel Deronda, she has a kabbalistic visionary who emerges as an important figure in the novel’s middle and later chapters.
My completed article has just come out in George Eliot-George Henry Lewes Studies. In the essay, I explore how, in Daniel Deronda, Eliot moved the character of the mystic from the periphery to the center of the narrative. This change, symbolically equated within the novel to a shift from geocentricism to heliocentricism, affects time in Daniel Deronda both in terms of plot and historical focus. Not only does time slow as the mystic, Mordecai, assumes a central role, the astral imagery begins to draw upon a medieval past when Jewish thinkers explored interdisciplinary concepts of the heavens inspired by both poetry and the science of their time. I argue for the centrality of the astronomical imagery in relation to the Jewish themes of Daniel Deronda and show through my analysis of The Spanish Gypsy how Eliot employed kabbalistic ideas of the skies in an attempt to create a new vision of star-crossed love for literature.
To view the article, click here.
To read my earlier review of Anna Henchman’s book, The Starry Sky Within: Astronomy and the Reach of the Mind in Victorian Literature, which also appeared in George Eliot-George Henry Lewes Studies, go here.