george eliot.pdf - The Mill on the Floss the Critics and the Bildungsroman Author(s Susan Fraiman Source PMLA Vol 108 No 1(Jan 1993 pp 136-150 Published

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The Mill on the Floss, the Critics, and the Bildungsroman Author(s): Susan Fraiman Source: PMLA, Vol. 108, No. 1 (Jan., 1993), pp. 136-150 Published by: Modern Language Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 07/10/2013 02:53 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected] . Modern Language Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to PMLA. This content downloaded from 180.149.50.56 on Mon, 7 Oct 2013 02:53:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Susan Fraiman The Mill on the Floss, the Critics, and the Bildungsroman SUSAN FRAIMAN is assis- tant professor of English at the University of Virginia. This essay is part of a forthcoming book, Unbecoming Women: British Women Writers and the Novel of Development (Gender and CultureSeries, ColumbiaUP, 1993). She is working on a study offeminism in contemporary culture, ten- tatively entitled Blonde Am- bition. I C RITICS OF The Mill on the Floss, no less than Maggie herself, have been troubled by the questionable appeal of Stephen Guest. Alongside the more famous debate between those who favor the pictorial charms of Adam Bede and those who prefer the philosophical challenges of Middlemarch, readers of Eliot have continued to ask, Is the handsome heir to Guest and Co. really, as Leslie Stephen would have it, "a mere hair-dresser's block" (104)? F. R. Leavis's contribution in The Great Tradition (1948) was ar- guably not only to rehabilitate the later novels and Eliot's reputation generally but also to raise the stakes in discussions of Maggie's lover by claiming that Eliot herself, identifying with her heroine, "shares to the full the sense of Stephen's irresistibleness" (44). Eliot's blind weakness for Stephen constitutes, according to Leavis, a lapse from "the impersonality of genius" into an embarrassing mode of "personal need" (32). Gordon Haight, by contrast, in his 1961 introduction to the Riverside Edition, spent several pages defending Stephen. Noting Eliot's interest in the theory of evolution, Haight characterized Philip and Stephen as rivals in a Darwinian process of sexual selection and observed that "in simple biological terms Stephen is a better mate" (xiii). As Haight's formulation implies, the continual question of Ste- phen is in many ways the question of finding a mate for Maggie.' A similar phrasing of Maggie's dilemma-and the dilemma of The Mill-as a matter of heterosexual options was implicit, I think, in John Hagan's careful 1972 overview of Eliot criticism. Hagan sorted Eliot critics into two opposing camps: those who value Maggie's self- denial, associated with her

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