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This interdisciplinary approach to Eliot’s writings places her within the wider context of debates on racial and cultural differences, furnishing an altered context for scholars to return to her fiction and poetry. It brings together a discussion of her fiction with an account of the activities of Victorian members of groups such as the Anthropological Society, scrutinizing Eliot’s dislike of colonialism and her responses to the Indian Mutiny and the Jamaica rebellion. It also examines Victorian attitudes to Gypsies, Black slaves, Indians, Jews and Turks. The novels are discussed within the context of contemporary theories about race, with reference to Robert Knox, Darwin, Huxley, and the work of social philosophers Comte and Herbert Spencer. It also discusses a range of other writers in relation to Eliot, including J. G. Herder, Harriet Beecher Stowe, the ethnologists J. C. Prichard and Gobineau, and Jewish writers Halevi, Maimonides, and Luria.


“Dr. McKay's most important study of George Eliot and Victorian perceptions of race is all too pertinent to the early twenty first century. The thought displayed, range of reading and absorption in complex ideas, places McKay's monograph at the forefront of George Eliot and Victorian criticism. Hers is a seminal work.” - Dr. William Baker, Editor, George Eliot-George Henry Lewes Studies and Presidential Research Professor, Northern Illinois University

“In this painstakingly researched and broadly focused study, McKay takes pains to depict George Eliot as a believer in what is now called “multiculturalism”….useful readings of major works, including Felix Holt and Middlemarch; her extended discussion and analysis of Daniel Deronda is excellent. Extensive notes and bibliography…..Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.” - CHOICE

“…a truly original contribution to our understanding of George Eliot’s attitudes to race and colonialism, provides exceptional insight into her engagement with Jewish thought and the birth of Zionism, and is a very topical and timely work. It combines excellent analyses of Eliot’s works with fascinating cultural and historical analysis. The book is deeply researched and scholarly, and I believe it will make a very important contribution to George Eliot studies, to Victorian studies more generally, and to work in colonial and postcolonial theory and Jewish studies….a very valuable teaching and research resource.” – Dr. Laura Marcus, University of Sussex

“…a significant addition to existing scholarship on George Eliot. It synthesizes and extends recent work on Eliot and Judaism…. the thought and expression of this manuscript are lucid throughout. It deals with often complex philosophical, theological and cultural ideas and always renders them clear and accessible.” – Rod Edmond, Director of Graduate Studies, University of Kent at Canterbury

Table of Contents

Preface; Prologue
Part One: Racial Theory
1. Introduction: The Dynamics of Personal Predilections and Experiences
2. Victorian Theories of Race in England
3. The Monogenist Hypothesis: The Gypsies
4. Racial Mixing: Negro Slavery and Polygenism, Africa and Primeval Matriarchy
5. Darwinian Perspectives: Victorian Science
Part Two: Colonialism and its Analogies with Class and Gender Subjugation
6. The Lure of Polygenism: Displacements of Race and Class
7. Colonialism
8. Race, Class and Gender
9. The Negroes of Jamaica
10. The Colonial Englishman’s “Nature”: The Jamaica Rebellion, Women, and the Gendering of Race
Part Three: Jewish Culture: Cabbala and Prophecy, Zionism and Art
11. Jewish Philosophy and Mysticism
12. Empirical Boundaries and Metaphysical Union: Music, Jehuda Halevi and Isaac Luria
13. Apocalyptic Prophecy of the Old Testament and Cabbala in “The Lifted Veil”
14. Zionist Aspirations and their Consequences
15. The Diaspora: The “Hybridised” Jewish Artist and the Prophet
Conclusion; Bibliographies; Index

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