George Eliot by Kristin Brady (auth.)

By Kristin Brady (auth.)

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And more or GEORGE ELIOT AS ICON 23 less rivalrous appropriations' between men. Hom(m)osexuality, according to Irigaray, 'is played out through the bodies of women', and heterosexuality is 'just an alibi for the smooth workings of man's relation with himself, of relations among men'. In such a culture, homosexuality is taboo, and heterosexual relations merely reinforce the bonds of power between men; woman has three possible functions - virgin, mother, or whore - and in all of these roles she is the object of masculine desire, not a desiring subject.

22 GEORGE ELIOT What most weakens Haight's and other biographies of Eliot, therefore, is not that they are biased, but that they exhibit no awareness of their own biases and limitations: these writers present interpretations as if they were objective and indisputable facts, and many of their readers have accepted this equation. The result is that Eliot's character and life have often been interpreted according to essentialist assumptions about feminine weakness and dependence. What would the result be, however, if an account of Eliot's biography began with the premise that gender differences are merely constructions of patriarchal culture?

For Eliot to live with a married man was, in this sense, to defy Isaac's own masculine power. Eliot's response to the letter from Isaac's lawyer, though she expressed privately that she had been greatly hurt by it, was as confident as her reply to her father after she had stopped going to church. Cleverly, she put the lawyer in his place by reminding him first of his position as a Trustee of her inheritance (GEL 2: 349-50). The price that Eliot had to pay for her offences against her brother was, none the less, severe.

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