Friday, August 10, 2012

Silly novels by Lady novelists

An essay is a brief composition, usually subjective, containing much of the author’s personal view about a subject. Nonetheless, even comprehending the author’s viewpoint, essays usually provide the readership with logical arguments to ground their statements. This is especially true for some of the Victorian prose writers, but on the contrary, other Victorian essayists aimed at stirring the reader’s feelings along with convincing them of their views, this way approaching Romantic traits.

Most of the subjects in the Victorian non-fiction prose dealt with polemic topics in the scope of religion, politics, moral issues, and aesthetic philosophies. The main ambition of the Victorian non-fiction prose was to instruct and inform people. There is where the importance of the essays in this period rests on. On essays, writers exposed their ideas and concerns about social and moral issues, sometimes denouncing inhuman situations, thus calling attention to the matter. They also claimed room for literature in a world where science and materialism ruled. Important authors of the period who wrote essays include Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, William Morris, Matthew Arnold, and George Eliot.

In one of the most famous essays by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans’s pseudonym), “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists”, she discusses the novels written by her contemporary female writers in a tone of irony, humor, and sometimes, even aggressiveness. She satirizes the trivial topics broached by women novelists in her days as well as the inaccuracy of other topics and realities they addressed due to their unfamiliarity to them. To do so, George Eliot mentions many issues she notices in these novels and brings examples to ground her statements. Some of the most important critiques made by Eliot will be broached below.

She begins by affirming that the children depicted in those novels are not realistic because they do not speak like actual children do, but on the contrary, much more eloquently. Then, the “oracular species-novels”, as she entitles them, are criticized. They would consist of novels that expose the writers’ religious, philosophical or moral ideas- which in Eliot’s opinion are quite uninformed. Another important matter she calls the readers’ attention to, is the excessively refined language used in such novels. She writes a sentence using an objective language and then another very flowery to indicate the difference to the reader. She makes herself clear.

Finally, another question criticized is that of women wanting to boast about their scholarliness and talk about environments and situations that, it seems to Eliot the writers are ignorant about. As a last remark, it is interesting to wonder about the author’s intentions with the essay. It is difficult to affirm just by reading the essay that Eliot is implying a critique about women’s education beneath the criticism about the works written by the women in her days. However, it seems reasonable to argue that had women had the proper education they lacked, they would be able to write novels that were truly intellectual and meaningful. 


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  2. Very Unique blog...i love the Lady novelists...Thank you for this very useful information.

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