Thomas Albrecht Responds to Katherine Voyles

In her discussion of the concluding Daniel Deronda chapter in Good Form, Katherine makes the point that Eliot’s novel does not disprove Rosenthal’s overall argument about the social and ethical work that Victorian narratives do. This is even though the individual story of its co-protagonist Gwendolen Grandcourt does not follow the prescribed arc “from what is to what ought to be,” and does not culminate in some final state of equilibrium, fusion, or integration, as more conventional Bildungsromane allegedly do for their protagonists. Katherine suggests that while Daniel Deronda temporally defers any developmental arc for Gwendolen individually, it also upholds the general structure Rosenthal posits, the distinction between what is and what ought to be, and the potential of our moving from one to the other.

What Rosenthal adds to this point, I think, is the idea that Daniel Deronda reimagines such a progressive movement at the collective rather than individual level, at the level of “the larger group” rather than of any one protagonist (189). To me, this idea potentially resonates with Katherine’s work, as she describes it, on scale in realist fiction, “on the interplay between the large and the small, the distant and the intimate, and the global and the local.” She might take Daniel Deronda, as Rosenthal reads it, as one example of such interplay, as Eliot pointedly expanding our focus from intimate to distant. For Rosenthal, this expansion indicates Eliot’s ultimate skepticism of moral intuitionism. I wonder how Katherine for her part might interpret it.

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