George Eliot’s Final Novel, “Daniel Deronda”

Instructor:  Juliet Baker

  • Thursday Morning
  • 9:30 – 11:30 AM
  • Required Text

In 1876, four years before her death, Mary Ann Evans, a brilliant mid-nineteenth century British scholar, translator, journalist, poet, and celebrated novelist (under the pseudonym of George Eliot), completed “Daniel Deronda” her seventh and final novel. The protagonist, Daniel, serves as the novel’s moral beacon, although he does suffer as the ward, not the heir, of an aristocrat. He anxiously wonders about his real parentage. Gwendolyn, a beautiful, witty, and quite selfish young woman, while attracted to Daniel, marries a wealthy aristocrat, even when she knows that to do so is morally wrong. One expects a rich narrative, a dramatic survey of wealth, family embarrassment, romance, social malfeasance, perhaps even adultery, who knows?

But there is so much more. Eliot launches a second plot through which she explores Judaism and its faithful, a peoples who too often had been caricatured, degraded, and sentimentalized by British Christians and writers. Mordecai, a kind of Jewish prophet, befriends Daniel, familiarizing him with the Diaspora, the longing for a Jewish homeland, and the very beginnings of Zionism. Eliot’s research is theologically and historically solid. With an eye toward realism and toward a finer, more universal morality, Eliot resolves her novel in an initially unexpected manner. In this four week course we will review the novel while discussing George Eliot’s (Mary Ann Evans’, Marian Lewes’, Mary Ann Cross’) troubled and impressive life.

No class limit. Required Text: George Eliot ”Daniel Deronda.” Ed. Graham Handley. Oxford University Press. New Edition 2014. 978-0-19-968286-7: Amazon Kindle $7.55 with same pagination as paperback, $6.50 -$11.11.

Juliet Baker has enjoyed teaching at Senior College for the past ten years. Her emphasis has been on literature, on looking closely at the novel as well as at ancient and medieval texts. Her passion lies in literature and teaching, especially here where she learns so much from her students and colleagues.