George Eliot U.S.: Transatlantic Literary and Cultural Perspectives
Monika Mueller

About the Author:
Monika Mueller teaches American and English literature at the University of Cologne, Germany. She received her PhD from the University of Alabama and her habilitation from the University of Cologne. Among her publications are “This Infinite Fraternity of Feeling”: Gender, Genre and Homoerotic Crisis in Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance and Melville’s Pierre (FDUP, 1996) and Sleuthing Ethnicity: The Detective in Multiethnic Crime Fiction (FDUP, 2003), coedited with Dorothea Fischer-Hornung.

George Eliot U.S. demonstrates the complex and reciprocal relationship between George Eliot’s fiction and the writings of her major American contemporaries, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Margaret Fuller, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It also traces Eliot’s influence on subsequent American fiction.

The introductory section raises methodological questions concerning influence and intertextuality, and addresses the mutual reception of European and American social and cultural discourses in order to illuminate culturally motivated divergences and convergences in the authors’ presentation of gender, raced, and national and ethnic alterity. Eliot and the American authors do not always fulfill their readers’ expectations of national proclivities regarding a variety of issues concerning race, gender, and literary genre. They sometimes even contort and reverse our anticipations of what is typical of British and American literature; a comparison of Eliot’s works with those of her American contemporaries suggests that the democratic American spirit is not always more inclusive of alterity than Eliot’s “conservative” monarchical British Victorianism.

The final chapter delineates Eliot’s influence on the conception of gender and social life in the works of succeeding generations of American authors. The appropriation of Eliot’s fictional topics and plots by these authors produced results that, at times, seem atypical of American literature and culture. Thus, by presenting a U.S. that has emulated British class stratification to the point of not being able to counteract “European corruption,” Henry James and Edith Wharton demonstrate that American society at the turn of the century is far from classless. Late twentieth –century American writers, however, surprise with anachronistic appropriations of Eliot’s life humorously suggests that Eliot’s solutions do not work in our own postmodern age, Gail Godwin and John Irving’s works suggest that they still should.

ISBN 8386-4055-9

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Review by Choice
Reviews by The Midwest Book Review and Amerikastudien/American Studies

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