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‘[S]he acted her own emotions’: George Eliot's ambivalence towards the professional female artist in Daniel Deronda

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  • Jennifer Diann Jones
Almost all of George Eliot's true musicians are orphans in one way or another, as opposed to accomplished women who merely mimic their teachers to please their parents or dilettantish men who play to please themselves. Only one of these musicians, however, exults in her orphanhood and the freedom it gives her to pursue her career: the Alcharisi, who is born Leonora Charisi and is the Princess Halm-Eberstein by the time her adult son, Daniel Deronda, meets her. Unlike Eliot's other musicians, not even a memory of one of the Alcharisi's performances is narrated; also unlike the others, there is no sense in which she uses her art to connect sympathetically with those around her. I argue that though Eliot begins her career with a strong belief that art can change society for the better, in the Alcharisi she explicitly expresses her deep ambivalence about the role of art in society. The trajectory of the Alcharisi's career and life suggest that though an artist can inspire love in others, she cannot necessarily learn to feel it herself, which calls Eliot's art and the feeling it inspires in others into question.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-128
Number of pages17
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

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