Rachel Hollander responds to Sam Tett
Sam Tett helpfully reframes Albrecht’s analysis of Eliot’s ethics in the urgent contemporary terms of racial justice. Highlighting the many contexts in which the recognition of difference and otherness drives current thinking about cultural politics, she points to ways in which Eliot’s novels, perhaps Deronda in particular, can speak to our current moment (and our current students, as I am sure many of us have experienced in teaching). For me, the space of the classroom is where “presentism” comes most alive, and I think this response raises an intriguing question of whether and how to translate those connections into our more specialized research projects. While Albrecht’s study does not draw explicit parallels between Eliot’s time and our own, I think his methodology, which allows him to acknowledge contradictions and ambivalence within Eliot’s moral thinking, is itself a valuable model for recognizing ethical complexity is a variety of settings. Similarly, even as students are drawn into literature for the “relatability” of its content, and the way it may speak to our own moment, I would suggest that it is the methodologies of reading and analysis that are almost certainly the most lasting lessons we hope to teach.
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