Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Keywords

English literature, George Eliot, Middlemarch, Saint Theresa, analysis

Department

English

Major

Economics

Abstract

Dorothea Brooke is a passionate, capable woman in George Eliot’s Middlemarch, but she is tragically portrayed as an updated version of Saint Theresa of Avila from Catholic Mythology. The novel opens, “Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heartbeats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centering in some long-recognizable deed” (Eliot 2). There is nothing dishonorable in being a woman of loving heartbeats who sobs for unattained goodness; however, the inconvenient reality is that sobbing will not achieve any practical good, and passionate, able women such as Dorothea can easily be stuck in a social structure that prohibits women’s freedom to act. But Dorothea refuses to be passively female. Eliot’s use of Gian Bologna Bernini’s marble statue The Ecstasy of St. Theresa as a motif within the novel suggests that many Victorian women are “frozen” like marble in a world controlled by patriarchal institutions. But by acting outside of the bounds of Victorian England’s expectations of women, Dorothea breaks out of these statuesque molds of domesticity and femininity and becomes a new, self- reliant heroine.

Faculty Mentor

Constance Fulmer

Funding Source or Research Program

Summer Undergraduate Research Program

Presentation Session

Session D

Location

Rockwell Academic Center 175

Start Date

21-3-2014 5:15 PM

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Mar 21st, 5:15 PM

A New Heroine: Renovation of the Saint Theresa Archetype in George Eliot’s Middlemarch

Rockwell Academic Center 175

Dorothea Brooke is a passionate, capable woman in George Eliot’s Middlemarch, but she is tragically portrayed as an updated version of Saint Theresa of Avila from Catholic Mythology. The novel opens, “Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heartbeats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centering in some long-recognizable deed” (Eliot 2). There is nothing dishonorable in being a woman of loving heartbeats who sobs for unattained goodness; however, the inconvenient reality is that sobbing will not achieve any practical good, and passionate, able women such as Dorothea can easily be stuck in a social structure that prohibits women’s freedom to act. But Dorothea refuses to be passively female. Eliot’s use of Gian Bologna Bernini’s marble statue The Ecstasy of St. Theresa as a motif within the novel suggests that many Victorian women are “frozen” like marble in a world controlled by patriarchal institutions. But by acting outside of the bounds of Victorian England’s expectations of women, Dorothea breaks out of these statuesque molds of domesticity and femininity and becomes a new, self- reliant heroine.