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Table of contents :
Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction: Novel Ethics
1 “The Ardent Eighties”: Hospitality and Realism at the End of the Century
2 George Eliot Leaves Home: The Mill on the Floss and Daniel Deronda
3 “This house from this moment is yours and not mine”: Unconditional Hospitality in Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders
4 Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy in Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm
5 Homeless Modernity in Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room
Afterword: Hospitality of the “Post-”
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Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

Bringing together poststructuralist ethical theory with late Victorian debates about the morality of literature, this book reconsiders the ways in which novels engender an ethical orientation or response in their readers, explaining how the intersections of nation, family, and form in the late realist English novel produce a new ethics of hospitality. Hollander reads texts that both portray and enact a unique ethical orientation of welcoming the other, a narrative hospitality that combines the Victorians’ commitment to engaging with the real world with a more modern awareness of difference and the limits of knowledge. While classic nineteenth-century realism rests on a sympathy-based model of moral relations, novels by authors such as George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Olive Schreiner present instead an ethical recognition of the distance between self and other. Opening themselves to the other in their very structure and narrative form, the visited texts both represent and theorize the ethics of hospitality, anticipating twentiethcentury philosophy’s recognition of the limits of sympathy. As colonial conflicts, nationalist anxiety, and the intensification of the “woman question” became dominant cultural concerns in the 1870s and 80s, the problem of self and other, known and unknown, began to saturate and defi ne the representation of home in the English novel. This book argues that in the wake of an erosion of confidence in the ability to understand that which is unlike the self, a moral code founded on sympathy gave way to an ethics of hospitality, in which the concept of home shifts to acknowledge the permeability and vulnerability of not only domestic but also national spaces. Concluding with Virginia Woolf’s reexamination of the novel’s potential to educate the reader in negotiating relations of alterity in a more fully modernist moment, Hollander suggests that the late Victorian novel embodies a unique and previously unrecognized ethical mode between Victorian realism and a post-World-War-I ethics of modernist form.

Rachel Hollander is Assistant Professor of English and director of the Honors Program at St. John’s University in Staten Island, New York. She teaches classes in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British literature and theory. She has previously published articles on ethics in George Eliot and Virginia Woolf.

Routledge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature

1 Nineteenth-Century Narratives of Contagion ‘Our Feverish Contact’ Allan Conrad Christensen 2 Victorian Servants, Class, and the Politics of Literacy Jean Fernandez 3 Christian and Lyric Tradition in Victorian Women’s Poetry F. Elizabeth Gray 4 Class, Culture and Suburban Anxieties in the Victorian Era Lara Baker Whelan 5 Antebellum American Women Writers and the Road American Mobilities Susan L. Roberson 6 Domesticity and Design in American Women’s Lives and Literature Stowe, Alcott, Cather, and Wharton Writing Home Caroline Hellman 7 The Textual Condition of Nineteenth-Century Literature Josephine Guy and Ian Small 8 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction Novel Ethics Rachel Hollander

Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction Novel Ethics Rachel Hollander

i~l~ Routledge

Taylor & Francis Group



First published 2013 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Simultaneously published in the UK by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2013 Taylor & Francis The right of Rachel Hollander to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Hollander, Rachel, 1969– Narrative hospitality in late Victorian fiction : novel ethics / Rachel Hollander. p. cm. — (Routledge studies in nineteenth century literature) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. English fiction—19th century—History and criticism. 2. Ethics in literature. 3. Hospitality in literature. 4. Literature and society—Great Britain—History—19th century. 5. Poststructuralism. I. Title. PR878.E67H65 2012 823'.809—dc23 2012023918 ISBN13: 978-0-415-62824-2 (hbk) ISBN13: 978-0-203-07869-3 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by IBT Global.

To Sebastian Hollander Holst


Acknowledgments Introduction 1





ix 1

“The Ardent Eighties”: Hospitality and Realism at the End of the Century


George Eliot Leaves Home: The Mill on the Floss and Daniel Deronda


“This house from this moment is yours and not mine”: Unconditional Hospitality in Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders


Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy in Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm


Homeless Modernity in Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room


Afterword: Hospitality of the “Post-”


Notes Bibliography Index

185 199 211


The seeds for this book about hospitality were sown while I was still an undergraduate at Swarthmore College, an institution that welcomed and nurtured my interest in literature, theory, feminism, and ethics, especially under the guidance of Philip Weinstein, Laurie Langbauer, Hans Oberdiek, and Abbe Blum. My experience in the honors program there set a gold standard for academic engagement at its most rigorous and collegial. At Rutgers University, I was surrounded by a deep and productive community of scholars and teachers. George Levine has been an invaluable mentor from the very beginnings of this project; I cannot thank him enough for his support, receptivity, and investment in the quality of ideas. Derek Attridge, Marianne DeKoven, Elaine Chang, John McClure, Elin Diamond, and Michael McKeon all played crucial roles in my development as a thinker, creating a stimulating balance of critique and encouragement. My years in graduate school were also enriched and enlivened by Jonathan Bass, Alex Bain, Timothy Strode, Julian Koslow, John Scanlon, and Kate Stanton. I am indebted to my colleagues in the English department at the University of Texas at El Paso, especially David Ruiter, Robert Gunn, Beth BrunkChavez, Brian Yothers, Maryse Jayasuriya, and Ezra Cappell. In my west Texas border life, Rosa Alcala, Stacey Sowards, and Richard Pineda were much more than colleagues; they were the heart of an exceptional group of friends, whose unflagging emotional and intellectual support made me feel at home even far away from home, and who have continued to sustain me long after I have left El Paso. The students at UTEP also inspired, surprised, and challenged me as both a teacher and a scholar, and I am extremely grateful to have experienced this unique place and institution. My wonderful colleagues at St. John’s have played a huge role in making this book a reality. Amy King has read more of its pages than anyone, and has unfailingly given rigorous, constructive, and enabling feedback. She is both a mentor and a friend. In addition, Stephen Sicari, Kathleen Lubey, Scott Combs, John Lowney, Robert Fanuzzi, Brian Lockey, Melissa Mowry, Dohra Ahmad, Harry Denny, Bill Byrne, Alejandro Quintana, and Robert Delfi no have supported me in countless ways, and I wish to thank



them all. I have also benefitted from the assistance of three truly exceptional graduate research assistants at St. John’s, Johanna Roed, Nevena Georgieva, and Alexa Vieni. Their enthusiasm, incisive questions, attention to detail, and extremely dedicated work made this book better, and also created rich intellectual partnerships. Both the Queens graduate students and the Staten Island undergraduates have helped to keep me grounded, humble, and engaged, continually reminding me why I do what I do. I have the good fortune to make my actual home in the vibrant and welcoming communities of Brooklyn. It is here that much of this book has been written and rewritten, in libraries, bookstores, and cafés. I hope that the baristas who know me too well will be as excited to fi nally see it in print as I am. Laura Liu and Lauren Walsh are two fellow academic Brooklyn moms, and our writing group was incredibly helpful in the final stages of this project, both for warm and insightful feedback, and for learning how to juggle it all. The anonymous readers for Routledge provided rigorous and highly constructive comments, for which I am extremely appreciative. This book benefitted greatly from their thoughtful responses. In some ways, of course, this book really began with my parents, and I feel very lucky to have had such constant encouragement and support, both emotional and material, for pursuing the life of an academic. If Sidney Hollander has given me the patience to delve deeply into the big questions, Elizabeth Hollander has contributed the equally invaluable ability to place those questions in the context of the real world. Thanks too to my brother, Daniel Hollander, whose family provides much needed hospitality in the city. York Chan has known me almost as long as my family. His faith in my abilities—automotive, parental, and educational—has helped see me through, and he has supported this project in countless ways over many years, including the technological. I thank him for listening, and for rooting for me. From the moment I met her, Erin Murphy has given me faith in the original decision to be a professor rather than a lawyer, and the confidence and support to pursue this goal through thick and thin. She has read large parts of this work with generosity, good humor, and always constructive and enabling feedback, and many of its best moments have emerged from our infi nite and sustaining conversations. Our intellectual partnership has been and continues to be among the most rewarding aspects of my adult life, and I cannot imagine any of this without her love and friendship. With Timothy Holst, I have a truly equal partnership that has allowed this book and much much more to happen. From Philadelphia to Brooklyn, graduate school to careers in teaching, we have created homes whose wholes are far greater than the sum (and square footage) of their parts. He has helped to make me who I am, and his intellectual companionship, love, and support saturate these pages.



Finally, our own greatest act of hospitality has been the reception of Sebastian Hollander Holst, who will be excited to see his name in this book that is dedicated to him, and to his future.

PERMISSIONS An earlier version of Chapter 2 originally appeared as “Daniel Deronda and the Ethics of Alterity” by Rachel Hollander, LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory (Vol. 16, No. 1: 75–99, 2005). Reprinted by permission of Taylor & Francis ( An earlier version of Chapter 5 originally appeared as “Novel Ethics: Alterity and Form in Jacob’s Room” in Twentieth-Century Literature (Vol. 52, No. 1, 2007). Reprinted with permission.

Introduction It is justly considered as the greatest excellency of art, to imitate nature; but it is necessary to distinguish those parts of nature, which are most proper for imitation: greater care is still required in representing life, which is so often discoloured by passion, or deformed by wickedness. If the world be promiscuously described, I cannot see of what use it can be to read the account; or why it may not be as safe to turn the eye immediately upon mankind as upon a mirrour which shews all that presents itself without discrimination. (Johnson 21)

Writing in 1750, Samuel Johnson already associates the new genre of literature, novels, with realist representation and moral responsibility, suggesting that the former has a dangerous potential to confl ict with the latter. “Promiscuous description,” he implies, may lead to promiscuous behavior, and the author must exercise “discrimination” in order to temper the insidious effects of simply “mirrour[ing]” mankind. Almost a hundred years later, in his early “Essay on Literature” (1836), John Ruskin poses the question: “Does the perusal of works of fiction work favourably or unfavourably on the moral character?” (3). Here he anticipates the persistent anxiety the Victorians will display regarding the morality of the novel. In the following study, I suggest that this ever-present question takes on new urgency at the end of the nineteenth century, as changes in the understanding of morality in England are reflected in and generated by shifts in the content and form of the novel. Specifically, I argue that an ethics based on sympathy and the ability of the self to identify with others gives way to an ethics of hospitality, in which respecting the limits of knowledge and welcoming the stranger defi ne fiction’s relationship to both reader and world. In the works of George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Olive Schreiner, this ethical shift is established in both subject and form, as the late Victorian novel retains and resists earlier conventions of realist representation. The twentieth-century rethinking of moral philosophy initiated by Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida allows us to appreciate how these novels embody the ethics of hospitality.

I. VICTORIAN SYMPATHY AND LATE VICTORIAN HOSPITALITY While many Victorianists have recently defi ned a “long nineteenth century” that stretches from the beginnings of Romanticism in the 1790s to the start of World War I in 1914, critics who specialize in early twentieth-century


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

literature and culture have countered by locating the origins of AngloAmerican Modernism in the 1880s or earlier. Although there are certainly valid arguments for rethinking too narrowly conceived literary periods in these ways, the expansion of established categories runs the risk of obscuring the particularities of specific historical moments. Resisting the pressures of both of these chronologies, a body of scholarship is currently flourishing that refocuses attention on the ways in which the late Victorian era, or “fi nde-siècle,” embraces a distinctive set of issues and concerns.1 The features of this “transitional” period include unprecedented imperialist expansion, profound shifts in women’s roles, increasing economic insecurity, the effects of educational and political reforms, and a growing sense of religious and philosophical skepticism.2 This study participates in the renewed interest in this moment between high Victorian optimism and modernist disillusionment, especially as late-century concerns are both generated by and reflected within the English novel. In particular, I focus on the moral and epistemological problem of the relationship between self and other, suggesting that the end of the century is marked by ethical alternatives to the ideal of sympathy. A range of Victorianist scholars have recently turned their attention to the question of nineteenthcentury conceptions of other minds, producing nuanced accounts of thinking, sympathy, ethics, and intersubjectivity. Although addressing different aspects of Victorian psychology and philosophy, the recent works of Andrew Miller, Amanda Anderson, Adela Pinch, Suzy Anger, and Rae Greiner share an interest in recognizing the complexity and vitality of nineteenth-century understandings of the relation between self and other. Engaging with several of these studies, the readings that follow work to trace a late-century shift away from an investment in overcoming difference and towards the risks and rewards of acknowledging the limits of knowledge. Drawing on the eighteenth-century philosophy of Adam Smith and David Hume, early and mid-nineteenth-century conceptions of morality largely assume the centrality of sympathy, or the ability to understand and care for another’s feelings. According to Anger, “Most Victorian discussions of sympathy focused on its workings and its origins: few doubted that it existed” (113). The “workings and origins” of sympathy are, of course, complex and widely debated, both during the nineteenth century and in our own critical moment. Smith himself acknowledges the impossibility of experiencing what another person feels, and stresses the role of imagination in the sympathetic encounter.3 Contemporary scholarship on Victorian sympathy falls into several camps. Building on David Marshall’s work on sympathy, visuality, and theatricality, Audrey Jaffe contests the link between sympathy and ethics, suggesting that sympathy may ultimately work to consolidate the narcissistic self rather than to acknowledge the suffering of the other. Other critics, including Suzanne Keen and Sophie Ratcliffe, have argued that recent developments in neuropsychology and cognitive science may help to clarify the processes through which individuals sympathize



with each other, and to illuminate how sympathy figures in the reading of texts. Particularly relevant to my own study are those scholars who have worked to recognize the Victorians’ complexity of thought about sympathy and the other. Anger, Greiner, and Rachel Ablow have helped to highlight the diversity and nuance of nineteenth-century understandings of sympathy, especially in relation to ethics and literature, and all resist recasting sympathy as narcissism or simple identification. These historically subtle analyses of sympathy lay the groundwork for my focus on hospitality at the end of the century, as I emphasize both the recognition of a resistant otherness that necessitates a new ethical orientation and the profound risks and rewards of such a shift. For this project, I stress that Victorian sympathy is based on the value of understanding others. Even if complete comprehension of another person’s mind is seen as unattainable, it still functions as an ideal, and moral behavior depends upon the attempt to minimize difference and emphasize commonality. My own critique of sympathy is thus not that it is necessarily outright selfishness in disguise, but rather that it requires translating the experience of the other in terms of the self. While this orientation has the potential for tangible moral good (I am thinking of the abolition of slavery and labor reform laws in the nineteenth century, both of which arguably depend on the ability of those in power to feel for those without it), it also carries the risk of failing to recognize the full human complexity of others.4 Aware of the potential pitfalls of a sympathy-based moral system, authors, critics, and philosophers alike take up the implications of the limits of knowledge in the late Victorian period. As colonial confl icts, nationalist anxiety, and the intensification of the woman question become dominant cultural concerns in the 1870s and ’80s, the problem of self and other, known and unknown, begins to saturate the representation of home in the English novel. In the wake of an erosion of confidence in the ability to understand that which is unlike the self, I argue, a moral code founded on sympathy gives way to an ethics of hospitality, in which the concept of home shifts to acknowledge the permeability of domestic and national spaces. Hospitality concerns the arrival of the stranger, and the necessity of an ethical response to an unpredictable and not fully knowable demand. The term “narrative hospitality” refers to this shift in both the plot and form of the late Victorian novel, as characters and authors open themselves to that which is other, and suggest the value of recognizing rather than overcoming the limits of knowledge. Seen in the novels themselves and in the intense debates about realism, obscenity, and the art of fiction in the 1880s, this altered conception of self and home marks a distinctive ethical orientation that calls into question both mid-Victorian sympathy and modernist alienation, even as it touches on elements of each. Incorporating both a realist engagement with the social landscape and a deep skepticism about the possibility of fully comprehending that world,


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

these late Victorian texts address the limits of sympathy without losing a commitment to the self’s relationship to others. Resisting accounts of the transition from realism to modernism as either politically libratory or regressive, I propose that the novels of this study must be seen as an ethical intervention in late Victorian culture and politics in their own right. The shift to the modernist novel thus entails a trade-off, as a more complete recognition of the inaccessibility of the other supplants some of the productive tensions sustained in the earlier fictions between connection and distance, narrative drive and formal suspension. I do not mean to suggest that one period of literature is more ethical than another, merely that all ethical systems embody both progressive potential and political risks of different kinds, and that the particular constellation enacted by the late Victorian novel, in which the attempt to balance competing modalities becomes especially perceptible, has not been sufficiently appreciated. The following chapters thus join recent attempts to complicate Foucauldian and historicist readings of the nineteenth-century novel as a primarily conservative, normalizing cultural form. Bringing together post-structuralist ethical theory with late Victorian debates about the morality of literature, this book reconsiders the ways in which novels may be said to engender an ethical response in their readers. Given her investment in the relationship between realism and sympathy, Eliot’s works are a logical starting point for this study. While most of her novels promote the ideal of sympathetic understanding among characters and between reader and text, Daniel Deronda (1876) confronts the limits of both realism and sympathy, as its divided structure reflects the need for an alternate model of narrative ethics. Its exploration of radical hospitality seems to usher in a shift in English fiction, as naturalism, new woman novels, colonial adventure stories, aestheticism, and a much darker version of realism succeed the confident mid-Victorian triple decker. From this dense literary landscape of new subgenres and formal experimentation, my study focuses on works by Hardy and Schreiner. Allowing an exploration of hospitality as it functions both within England and in a colonial setting, and presenting both male and female perspectives on gender debates and the new woman, The Woodlanders (1887) and The Story of an African Farm (1883) exemplify and complicate the phenomenon of narrative hospitality introduced by Eliot’s last novel. Jumping ahead to Jacob’s Room (1922), Virginia Woolf’s fi rst experimental novel serves to conclude this study as a marker of the shift to a modernist conception of narrative ethics, in which the form of the text is defi ned by a pervasive sense of post-war homelessness. Any limited selection of novels of this period must be at least somewhat incomplete and idiosyncratic, and it is certainly true that the works of many other authors, including George Meredith, D. H. Lawrence, George Moore, Oscar Wilde, and E. M. Forster, could be analyzed in terms of narrative hospitality. Two particular omissions, however, perhaps deserve special mention. The fiction of Joseph Conrad often deals explicitly with



questions of home and the relation between self and other, and Heart of Darkness has been seen as a crucial link between realism and modernism, especially as it calls into question moral certainty and the reliability of narrative. In addition, like Schreiner, Conrad takes the English novel abroad, raising complex issues of exile and the status of the colonial stranger. Publishing his fi rst novel in 1895, however, he is in some ways the inheritor of the tendencies explored in this study, rather than the inventor. And unlike Schreiner’s, his fiction belongs to a tradition of masculine adventure stories that tends to marginalize female characters and concerns. While important readings exist of Conrad and gender, the new woman is not as central to his representations of home and nation as it is for Eliot, Hardy, and Schreiner.5 It is certainly both possible and productive to explore the role of Levinasian hospitality in Conrad’s works, but he is not engaged in the same interrogation of late Victorian home as the other authors I examine.6 Henry James is another turn-of-the-century author whose works clearly embrace the tension between sympathy and a deep skepticism about the possibility of knowing the other. Although he is American, his novels are often considered in relation to developments in late Victorian fiction, and unlike Conrad he is self-consciously concerned with questions of gender, sexuality, and the shifting roles of women. For these reasons, my fi rst chapter includes an analysis of James’s seminal 1884 essay on the form of the novel, “The Art of Fiction.” As this essay makes clear, however, James explicitly distances himself from Victorian understandings of morality and literature, and as a result, his fiction is already frequently analyzed in terms of aesthetic and ethical shifts from realism to modernism.7 Thus, rather than offer another account of James’s oeuvre here, I have chosen to focus instead on authors whose ethical interventions are more often overlooked, and whose novels appear exclusively in the second half of the nineteenth century.

II. HOME, MARRIAGE, AND THE NEW WOMAN IN THE LATE VICTORIAN NOVEL Classic nineteenth-century realist fiction is most often structured by a marriage plot that consolidates the value of family, with the coming together of husband and wife marking a larger reconciliation between individual and society.8 Marriage defi nes the content and form of these novels, as it provides a sense of closure for both characters and readers, and emphasizes a hopeful future of stability and reproduction. This conventional structure accounts for some of the conservative aspects of the domestic novel, especially in relation to women’s roles. There have thus been important feminist studies of the domestic novel in relation to the development of nation and class, drawing on Foucault and exploring the effect of “separate spheres” ideology on women’s power.9 Building on Ablow’s focus on the relationship between marriage and morality, however, I explore the disturbance of the


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

marriage plot and the associated disruption of the domestic sphere in the late Victorian novel. Originally seen as a crucial link between personal and public ethics, the value of sympathy moves inward in the wake of the French Revolution, according to Ablow, and in the nineteenth century is linked primarily to the morality of the domestic sphere.10 The marriage plot thus serves to reinforce a moral code based on sympathy, as the home represents a private space of mutual understanding between husband and wife, as well as a respite from the corruption of the public sphere.11 It is not a focus on domesticity that differentiates the hospitality of the late Victorian novel from its predecessors, but rather the troubling or outright refusal of marriage as a solution to the problem of fi nding a home. Featuring female characters that can all be seen as some version of the “new woman” of the period, the novels of this study begin and end on a note of openness and uncertainty, as they call into question the possibility and stability of domestic life. Rather than building towards marriage as the resolution that creates a self-contained home, in which morality can be perpetuated through sympathetic identification, these novels consciously undermine the viability of the marriages they portray, and are thus marked by an ethics of hospitality, the value of ongoing openness to the other. Ablow suggests that sympathy is central to nineteenth-century understandings of the value of both novels and marriage. Arguing that the Victorians locate the virtue of sympathy specifically in the private or domestic sphere, in contrast to the public ideology of individual competition, she highlights the tendency of nineteenth-century critics to compare novels and wives: “[ . . . ] they also frequently identified the domestic novel, in particular, with the reproduction of values associated with the home, and hence as a way to supplement the wife’s efforts in countering the effects of the marketplace” (4). She locates the “beginning of the end” of the strong understanding of marriage in terms of sympathy in 1870 with the passage of the fi rst Married Woman’s Property Act, as this law formalized the developing shift away from viewing husbands and wives as a single male-dominated identity. This is the moment at which my study begins, as I suggest that the primacy of sympathy as the defi ning dynamic of the moral home and as the central relation between reader and novel is gradually supplanted by an ethics of hospitality. With the formation of the National Society of Women’s Suffrage in 1867, the publication of John Stewart Mill’s “On the Subjection of Women” in 1869, and large increases in women’s employment and educational opportunities, the last third of the nineteenth century marks a time of intense focus on and changes in the status of women in England.12 Just as the activists and writers known as new women engage in a flurry of debates about women’s rights and roles, especially as wives and mothers, so the unconventional female protagonists of Eliot, Hardy, and Schreiner disrupt the unfolding of the marriage plots of the late Victorian novels within which they appear. Choosing the wrong husband, or none at all,



these characters call into question the very possibility of sympathy as the basis for home and morality in the novel. At the same time, the failure of marriage in the novel also implies a significant disruption in the form of the novel, as the coming together of husband and wife no longer functions to provide closure. Instead, both characters and readers are forced to look beyond sympathy, to confront the undefi ned possibilities of opening self, home, and novel to that which is other. In Daniel Deronda, Gwendolen is left widowed and alone, reconstructing her life from within an all-female household, while Daniel’s Jewish marriage ushers in not a stable English home but rather a journey to the Middle East and the consequent abandonment of England as homeland. Contemporary readers were outraged by Eliot’s refusal to bring together Daniel and Gwendolen, and thus to reconcile both the dueling cultures and the dueling plotlines of the text, and the wedding that does end the novel is still rarely seen as a resolution of the problems of sympathy and otherness explored within it. The Woodlanders is even more explicitly concerned with the problem of marriage, as Grace is unable to exercise her newfound sense of self by divorcing Fitzpiers and reuniting with Giles. Instead, the novel ends with her return to her philandering husband, thus highlighting the loss of faith in domestic sympathy through a deliberately empty mimicry of marriage as reconciliation. Finally, as an active participant in the early feminist movement, Schreiner creates a new woman character who refuses the option of marriage outright, and instead pleads for a wider range of possibilities for women. Lyndall’s rebellion as she bears a child out of wedlock, and the novel’s colonial setting, insure that conventional understandings of home and sympathy have no place for either the characters within or the readers of The Story of an African Farm. In each case, I argue, an ethics of hospitality best describes both the moral landscape within and the narrative structure of these late Victorian rewritings of the domestic novel.



In the wake of the dominance of theory and then cultural studies, as well as the controversy over Paul de Man’s wartime writings, the 1990s witnessed a return to ethics in literary studies. Ethical approaches to literature range from the moral philosophers’ use of novels as illustrations of the kind of human dilemmas that philosophy can only abstractly theorize, to a phenomenological focus on the ethics of reading, to studies that proclaim or denounce the ethical stance of literary theory itself.13 With the works of Geoffrey Galt Harpham and Adam Zachary Newton, literary critics began drawing on Levinas’s rethinking of ethics in terms of responsibility for the other to theorize the dynamics of narration and the encounter between reader and text. Following these early attempts to establish the value of bringing post-structuralist ethics into dialogue with fiction and


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

poetry (despite Levinas’s own skepticism regarding the possibility of ethical literature), several studies appeared that focus specifically on Levinas and single authors or periods, with the majority taking up twentieth-century and Holocaust writings.14 This study, however, participates in an even more recent turn to the topic of hospitality. These critics usually address Derrida’s later writings on Levinas and ethics, and tend to engage politics more explicitly than some earlier ethical criticism, as they consider issues of immigration and feminism.15 One notable gap in this still-expanding field is sustained attention to the ethics of hospitality in earlier historical periods, including the nineteenth century.16 Recent studies by Valerie Wainwright and Andrew Miller have traced the development of an ethics of self-cultivation throughout the nineteenth century in Britain (emphasizing character and value in Wainwright, moral perfectionism in Miller), as they argue for the recognition of the openness and modernity of the Victorian novel as opposed to more ideologically deterministic Foucauldian and historicist readings.17 Miller’s unconventional and wide-ranging discussion is particularly relevant to my concerns. The tradition of skepticism and the role of the other in moral development he traces in Victorian thought are consistent with the more particular focus on hospitality I locate at the end of the century. By taking seriously the philosophical sophistication and moral commitments of the realist novel, these comprehensive works provide a fertile foundation for this study.18 The central claims of this book are further supported by Ablow’s perceptive analysis of sympathy and marriage in the Victorian novel; ending with Anthony Trollope and the Married Women’s Property Act in 1870, she lends credence to my suggestion that the sympathy-based morality of the mid-Victorian era gives way to a late Victorian ethics of hospitality. Quite recently, two literary critics have addressed the issue of otherness and the Victorian novel explicitly. Greiner’s work on sympathy and realism returns to the writing of Adam Smith to productively stress the difficulty of knowing the other. She suggests that nineteenth-century realist novels enact sympathy not as an immediate experience of identification, but rather as a gradual and dynamic narrative process. Rebecca Mitchell’s book goes even further, arguing that what has been read as sympathy in the novels of Charles Dickens, Eliot, and Hardy is actually a version of Levinasian ethics, in which the unknowability of the other is demonstrated within the plots of nineteenth-century fiction and even painting. While Mitchell’s assertion is provocative and pushes the complication of Victorian sympathy to an extreme, I would argue that important distinctions are obscured when all manifestations of literary sympathy are associated with Levinas’s insistence on absolute alterity. The existing works that have addressed the specific question of late nineteenth-century literature and morality largely omit Levinasian ethical theories. In a full-length study of William Morris, Marcus Waithe emphasizes his representations of a return to medieval hospitality. While Waithe

Introduction 9 focuses on conventional understandings of the practice of hospitality— which differ significantly from those elaborated in the writings of Levinas and Derrida—he usefully explores Morris’s vacillation between skepticism and idealism as a typical element of late Victorian culture. Jil Larson’s Ethics and Narrative in the English Novel, 1880–1914 surveys a wide range of ethical theories, including the moral philosophy of Martha Nussbaum, Bernard Williams, Carol Gilligan, and others, employing it along with some writings of Levinas and Paul Ricoeur. Bringing quite different modes of moral thought to bear on various literary works, Larson sidesteps the debates among traditional, feminist, anti-foundationalist, and post-structuralist theories of ethics to argue that each illuminates different aspects of literature at the turn of the century. Thus while she shares my interest in the late Victorian novel, the specific readings bear little relation to mine, as she never addresses hospitality, and discusses Levinas only in relation to Oscar Wilde. By contrast, in Affective Communities, Leela Gandhi draws on Derrida’s late writings on politics and friendship to explore overlooked resistance to imperialism in fi n-de-siècle Britain. While she reads mostly nonfiction texts, this innovative approach to questions of ethics and politics in late Victorian culture bolsters my own investigation of hospitality in the novels of the period. This book draws on and extends this important new work, bringing together the writings of Levinas and Derrida, along with Luce Irigaray and Homi Bhabha, to theorize the shift from an ethics of sympathy to an ethics of hospitality at a crucial moment in the development of the English novel.



Hospitality and Infinity

Although Levinas does not use the term frequently, the idea of hospitality as the self’s welcome of the absolutely other grows directly out of his seminal work on the ethics of alterity. From the opening pages of Totality and Infinity, Levinas associates ethics with infi nity, in opposition to totality and war, concepts that imply mastery and the assimilation of the other to the same. He declares his intention to rethink subjectivity in terms of the self’s encounter with and responsibility for the other, with infi nity referring to the way in which the other exceeds all familiar forms: [infi nity] is produced in the improbable feat whereby a separated being fi xed in its identity, the same, the I, nonetheless contains in itself what it can neither contain nor receive solely by virtue of its own identity. Subjectivity realizes these impossible exigencies—the astonishing feat


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction of containing more than it is possible to contain. This book will present subjectivity as welcoming the Other, as hospitality; in it the idea of infi nity is consummated. (27)

Rather than beginning with a consolidated self, as in Immanuel Kant’s still deeply influential account of morality, Levinas posits subjectivity as called into being by the other. The self therefore must welcome that which is inherently inassimilable—the absolutely other—and it is this encounter that lies at the heart of Levinasian ethics. Totality and Infinity goes on to associate the ethical encounter with the philosophy of metaphysics, in opposition to ontology: “Ontology, which reduces the other to the same, promotes freedom—the freedom that is the identification of the same, not allowing itself to be alienated by the other” (42). Levinas argues that ontology privileges complete freedom of the autonomous self at the expense of that self’s responsibility for the other, and that it therefore excludes the possibility of ethics. But theory understood as a respect for exteriority delineates another structure essential for metaphysics. In its comprehension of being (or ontology) it is concerned with critique. [ . . . ] Its critical intention then leads it beyond theory and ontology: critique does not reduce the other to the same as does ontology, but calls into question the exercise of the same. A calling into question of the same—which cannot occur within the egoist spontaneity of the same—is brought about by the other. We name this calling into question of my spontaneity by the presence of the Other ethics. (43) Whereas ontology understands the self as that which assimilates the outside world to its own terms, the realm of the “same,” ethics entails the self’s responsibility for the other, as “exterior” and absolutely other—as that which cannot be conceived of in terms of the same: “The strangeness of the Other, his irreducibility to the I, to my thoughts and possessions, is precisely accomplished as a calling into question of my spontaneity, as ethics” (43). Beginning with the other, rather than the self, Levinas emphasizes the ways in which the other limits the freedom or “spontaneity” of the individual, as the ethical encounter takes priority over being and knowing. Importantly, the self’s responsibility for the other does not assume the self’s ability to know the other. Recognition of the otherness of the other is thus associated with the limits of knowledge, the resistance to mastery that is necessarily presented by that which is outside the self.


Ethics and Politics

Although Levinas’s focus on the absolutely other is often seen as abstract and therefore apolitical, he repeatedly insists on the relationship between

Introduction 11 philosophy and power. His critique of enlightenment conceptions of knowledge lays the foundation for the connection between ontology and tyranny: Thematization and conceptualization, which moreover are inseparable, are not peace with the other but suppression or possession of the other. For possession affirms the other, but within a negation of its independence. “I think” comes down to “I can”—to an appropriation of what is, to an exploitation of reality. Ontology as first philosophy is a philosophy of power. It issues in the State and in the non-violence of the totality, without securing itself against the violence from which this non-violence lives, and which appears in the tyranny of the State. (T and I 46) The association of ontology with superficial peace and the abuse of state power suggests both the origins of Levinas’s work in the aftermath of World War II, and also, importantly, the nature of the relationship between ethics and politics in this work. Because Levinas insists that the ethical encounter occurs exclusively between one self and the other, and because of the fleeting nature of that encounter, his ethics does not clearly serve as the basis for political action. Instead, the ethics of infi nity can be seen as an interruption of the political realm, as an orientation that calls into question the legitimacy of existing systems of thought. The ethical gesture of welcoming the other, or hospitality, thus exerts an influence on both individuals and larger communities: The face in which the other—the absolutely other—presents himself does not negate the same, does not do violence to it as do opinion or authority or the thaumaturgic supernatural. It remains commensurate with him who welcomes; it remains terrestrial. This presentation is preeminently nonviolence, for instead of offending my freedom it calls it to responsibility and founds it. As nonviolence it nonetheless maintains the plurality of the same and the other. It is peace. (T and I 203) In contrast to the “nonviolence” of totality, which is artificially imposed by a controlling central authority, the face-to-face encounter between self and other is associated with a deeper understanding of peace, as an event that calls into being the ethical responsibility of the self. Similarly, I will argue that narrative hospitality as enacted in and by the novels of this study intervenes in the dominant late nineteenth-century political debates about colonialism, nationalism, and women’s rights, as literary texts may function as singular experiences that inspire an ethical response.


Ethics as Teaching

Levinas describes the ethical encounter as “face-to-face,” but clarifies that the face of the other does not contain its essence or transmit truth. Instead,


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

he proposes several terms, including conversation and teaching, to characterize the dynamics of the encounter between self and other. And like the term “face” itself, these concepts have a complex relationship to their everyday meanings, as Levinas suggests both that ethics happens in the familiar world and that the ethics of infi nity requires a radically different understanding of communication in that world, one which takes into account the self’s responsibility for the otherness of the other: To approach the Other in conversation is to welcome his expression, in which at each instant he overflows the idea a thought would carry away from it. It is therefore to receive from the Other beyond the capacity of the I, which means exactly: to have the idea of infi nity. But this also means: to be taught. The relation with the Other, or Conversation, is a non-allergic relation, an ethical relation; but inasmuch as it is welcomed this conversation is a teaching [enseignement]. (T and I 51) Emphasizing both communication and asymmetry between self and other in the ethical relation, Levinas suggests that the self’s experience of infi nity entails a kind of teaching, as it overwhelms conventional modes of understanding. The other does not teach the self how to be ethical; rather the ethical relation is in some ways analogous to that between teacher and student, and demands that the self recognize the ways in which the other challenges the self’s capacity for comprehension. Ethics is thus generated through the process of teaching itself: “Teaching signifies the whole infi nity of exteriority. And the whole infi nity of exteriority is not fi rst produced, to then teach: teaching is its very production. The fi rst teaching teaches this very height, tantamount to its exteriority, the ethical” (T and I 171). The exteriority of the other is infi nitely distant from the self, but also teaches the self (is even “produced” through teaching), thus creating an ethical relation within that distance, or “height.” The term “teaching” allows Levinas to emphasize that the asymmetry of the ethical relation differs from the power and totality of ontology: “The Other is not another freedom as arbitrary as my own, in which case it would traverse the infi nity that separates me from him and enter under the same concept. His alterity is manifested in a mastery that does not conquer, but teaches. Teaching is not a species of a genus called domination, a hegemony at work within a totality, but is the presence of infi nity breaking the closed circle of totality” (T and I 171). Ethics as teaching allows the otherness of the other to disrupt the political structure of totality, to re-orient the self’s relation to the world. The association between teaching and ethics also characterizes many discussions of the role of literature, especially the novel, in late nineteenth-century England. Classic realism is often accused of engaging in a heavy-handed didacticism, as its characters are rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad. At the other extreme, late-century commentators worried that the new novels would influence readers to

Introduction 13 behave immorally. In the readings that follow, I attempt to complicate this distinction, in part by suggesting that the shift from sympathy to hospitality entails not the death of novelistic influence, but rather a new mode of ethically engaging, and thereby teaching, the reader.


Ethics versus Representation

Any attempt to analyze literary texts in Levinasian terms must acknowledge his deep skepticism about the compatibility between art and ethics. In Totality and Infinity, Levinas suggests that the act of representation necessarily entails a reduction of the other to the same: “The metaphysical relation can not be properly speaking a representation, for the other would therein dissolve into the same [ . . . ]” (38). While he does not refer specifically to literature, Levinas defines representation as a kind of “intelligibility” that violates the alterity of the other by translating it into the terms of the same: “Intelligibility, the very occurrence of representation, is the possibility for the other to be determined by the same without determining the same, without introducing alterity into it; it is a free exercise of the same” (124). When Levinas does touch on the literary terms of “poetics” and “prose,” he employs them a bit idiosyncratically, and it would be a mistake to presume that his distinction is meant to be applied to verse and the novel. It is clear, however, that he is highly suspicious of aesthetic forms of language that might work to mitigate the distance and radical asymmetry between self and other: The ethical relation, the face to face, also cuts across every relation one could call mystical, where events other than that of the presentation of the original being come to overwhelm or sublimate the pure sincerity of this presentation, [ . . . ] Here resides the rational character of the ethical relation and of language. No fear, no trembling could alter the straightforwardness of this relationship, which preserves the discontinuity of relationship, resists fusion, and where the response does not evade the question. To poetic activity—where influences arise unbeknown to us out of this nonetheless conscious activity, to envelop it and beguile it as a rhythm, and where action is borne along by the very work it has given rise to, where in a dionysiac mode the artist (according to Nietzsche’s expression) becomes a work of art—is opposed to language that at each instant dispels the charm of rhythm and prevents the initiative from becoming a role. (T and I 202–03) Art is associated with mysticism, and thus with an unethical obscuring of the “straightforwardness” of the face-to-face relation; specifically, “poetic activity” casts communication in terms of role playing, as opposed to the more direct “language” of ethics. Despite these provocative moments, however, Levinas has written admiringly of some literary texts, including Paul Celan’s poetry and Marcel


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

Proust’s fiction, and in the early essay “Reality and Its Shadow,” he seems to suggest that analysis of a work of art may produce an ethical relation even within the act of representation.19 Following these hints, many critics have analyzed literary texts in relation to Levinasian ethics, and the seeming contradiction between the literary quality of and examples within Levinas’s writing and his hostility to art has been addressed extensively in several full-length studies, including Robert Eaglestone’s Ethical Criticism and Jill Robbins’s Altered Reading. Eaglestone points to the dialogue between Levinas and Derrida in order to argue that an ethical mode of literary criticism consistent with Levinas may indeed be possible, and I would similarly look to Derrida’s writings on ethics and hospitality to help bridge this potential gap between literature and Levinasian ethics. Eaglestone and others read Levinas’s later full-length work, Otherwise than Being, as, in part, a response to Derrida’s reading of Totality and Infinity, and in its discussion of the “saying” and the “said” it seems to address more fully than the earlier work the role of language in the ethical encounter, and thereby to create a space for bringing Levinasian thought into dialogue with literature.20


Derrida, Levinas, and Hospitality

Derrida’s reading of Levinas, as well as his own late work on ethics, politics, and hospitality, plays an important role in this project. In an essay written a year after Levinas’s death, Derrida analyzes Totality and Infinity in terms of hospitality, declaring: “Although the word is neither frequently used nor emphasized within it, Totality and Infinity bequeaths to us an immense treatise of hospitality” (Adieu 21). He goes on to argue that the relation between self and other in Levinas’s writing is essentially one of welcome, and that hospitality thereby names what is unique in Levinasian philosophy: “Because it opens itself to—so as to welcome—the irruption of the idea of infi nity in the fi nite, this metaphysics is an experience of hospitality. Levinas thereby justifies the arrival of the word hospitality; he prepares the threshold for it” (Adieu 46). Derrida makes it clear that hospitality should not be seen merely as a subset of ethics, but rather that it defi nes every encounter between self and other from the beginning, and so constitutes the meaning of ethics itself: “[ . . . ] intentionality opens, from its own threshold, in its most general structure, as hospitality, as welcoming of the face, as an ethics of hospitality, and, thus, as ethics in general. For hospitality is not simply some region of ethics, let alone, and we will return to this, the name of a problem in law or politics: it is ethicity itself, the whole and the principle of ethics” (Adieu 50). The sense of Levinasian ethics as hospitality informs the idea of narrative hospitality in this project; rather than being limited to scenes of home or particular instances of welcoming the stranger, hospitality figures in any ethical relation between self and other.



Derrida’s work is both deeply influenced by and in frequent dialogue with Levinas’s. His important early analysis of Totality and Infinity, the 1964 essay entitled “Violence and Metaphysics,” is often read as itself an early example of Derrida’s mode of deconstructive reading, as it simultaneously summarizes, expands, praises, and calls into question Levinas’s ethical project. 21 In Adieu, Derrida elaborates on Levinas’s references to the other as a disturbance of self, pointing out that this understanding of the subject deepens the very meaning of hospitality: “One will understand nothing about hospitality if one does not understand what ‘interrupting oneself’ might mean, the interruption of the self by the self as other” (52). This helps to explain the centrality of hospitality to any ethics since, according to Derrida, the self’s own existence already entails a welcome of otherness, an acknowledgement that the consolidation of identity is called into question even before the appearance of the stranger: “Is not hospitality an interruption of the self?” (Adieu 51). Derrida’s emphasis on the self’s otherness to itself implies that the act of “hosting” occurs within the individual prior to or along with the host’s welcome of the guest. Recognition of otherness already residing within the self universalizes the splitting of the self that is implied by discrete acts of hospitality, in which the host must simultaneously assert and relinquish mastery of the home. In the readings of the novels that follow, I will draw on both these scenes of hospitality (within the individual and between self and other), as well as explore the complex relationship between them. If Levinas’s ethics of infi nity is defi ned as itself hospitality, the question arises of the relationship between this understanding of the term and the more familiar sense of hospitality as a particular ethical duty, that of literally welcoming a stranger into one’s home. Traditional characterizations of hospitality can be traced through the disciplines of anthropology, classics, philosophy, and theology, as the origins are located variously in ancient cultures, the Greek epic, medieval Europe, and the Bible. For the purposes of this study, the crucial distinction between a post-structuralist ethics of hospitality and conventional definitions is the emphasis on the guest as fundamentally unknown and perhaps unknowable; rather than bringing the other into the realm of the home, and thus transforming the stranger into the familiar, an ethics of alterity insists on the importance of the initial moment of welcome, in which the other remains absolutely other. Anthropologist Julian Pitt-Rivers elaborates on rituals of hospitality as a means of managing the encounter between the familiar and the unknown in a 1968 article. He notes that in both ancient Greek and Biblical stories, the stranger who demands hospitality is associated with gods or God, and that this is consistent with the general opposition between the unknown realm of the sacred and the more familiar secular: The mortal world is confi ned by an inversion of that which preceded it and that which lies beyond it. [ . . . ] In the light of this general principle


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction the association between the God and the stranger appears generic, and the sacredness of hospitality and the honour which it confers derive not from any functional consequence of the belief but from the fact that the meeting with the stranger is a confrontation between the known world and the realms of mystery. (20)

He goes on to discuss the means through which societies accommodate the stranger by converting the unknowable into the known: “The inversion implies a transformation from hostile stranger, hostis, into guest, hospes (or hostis) [ . . . ] from one whose hostile intentions are assumed to one whose hostility is laid in abeyance” (20–21). Thus Pitt-Rivers anticipates Derrida’s acknowledgement of the proximity between hospitality and hostility, but turns his attention to the practices that manage this tension, and that allow the stranger to be integrated into the community. In the introductory chapter of his study of hospitality in the work of William Morris, Waithe usefully places Victorian understandings of hospitality in a larger context. He suggests that Pitt-Rivers typifies a skeptical interpretation of hospitality, one that emphasizes the potential dangers, including adultery and violence, of bringing the stranger into one’s home. The skeptical version of hospitality is fi rst found in narratives of the Trojan War and Sophocles’s dramas, continues in Chaucer and Shakespeare, and culminates in Derrida’s writings. Waithe contrasts this tradition with an idealized representation of welcoming the stranger that is found in Homer, the Bible, and much nineteenth-century poetry and prose. The Victorians— including Ruskin and Dickens—often romanticize the past as an alternative to the present, suggesting that the medieval traditions of hospitality in “Merry England” have been lost in the corrupt practices of an increasingly industrialized society. While these writers do not believe that this generosity exists in the present, they hold it up as the ideal to which England should return. Waithe goes on to argue that the works of Morris and others at the end of the century represent an attempt to balance the skeptical and the ideal understandings of hospitality. I do not agree with Waithe’s characterization of Derrida; I would argue that post-structuralist ethics represents a break with the skeptical and the idealized traditions of hospitality, as it takes into account both the absolute risk and the possibility of absolute peace implied by the unconditional welcome of the other. Nonetheless, I fi nd his account of Victorian hospitality helpful for contextualizing the shift at the end of the nineteenth century that is the focus of my study. Since the idealization of hospitality emphasizes the benefits of welcoming the stranger into the home, and the ensuing sense of harmony, it is clearly related to the Victorian ethics of sympathy, in which others are presumed to be essentially similar to oneself. This connection between hospitality as a positive moral duty and the ability to sympathize with others can be traced all the way back to the Bible, where the Old Testament understanding of hospitality is explicitly linked to empathy:



“thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21, in Waithe 10). 22 By the 1870s and ’80s, I claim, faith in the possibility of understanding others has eroded, and a new kind of openness to the stranger, one that acknowledges and even embraces the unknowability of the other, emerges in the novels of this period. The writings of Levinas and Derrida redefi ne the ethics of hospitality in terms that are opposed to the earlier Victorian reliance on sympathy as the basis for morality, including the more limited duty of hospitality.


Late Nineteenth-Century Hospitality: Nation and Gender

While there are no doubt many reasons for this late-century rethinking of sympathy and morality, two developments are clearly linked to questions of hospitality. As Britain’s colonial entanglements become simultaneously more extensive and more problematic, questions of home and the status of the stranger develop a new urgency in regard to nations, languages, and ethnicities. 23 This “macro” understanding of hospitality continues into the twentyfirst century in debates about immigration and globalization. At the same time, in the “micro” realm of actual late Victorian households, women’s roles are undergoing a wholesale transformation—spurred largely by greater access to education and a significant increase in the number of women working outside the home—one which raises deep anxieties about the morality of the family and the distinction between public and private space. Hospitality highlights the relationship between public and private spheres, as it concerns the decision to welcome the stranger from outside to inside, and thus the negotiation of the boundaries of home. These two issues saturate the literary debates and the novels of this study, as literature both reflects and contributes to changing attitudes towards nation and gender. Although Levinas does not address questions of nationality and colonialism explicitly in Totality and Infinity, they are implied both by the critique of totality and war, and by the centrality of issues of self, other, and welcome in his work. Derrida goes back to Kant’s 1795 treatise “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch” to elaborate on the history of the term “hospitality” to characterize relationships between political states. Already at the close of the eighteenth century, Kant characterizes European imperialism in terms of inhospitable behavior: “But to this perfection [hospitality which leads to peace] compare the inhospitable actions of the civilized and especially of the commercial states in our part of the world. The injustice which they show to lands and peoples they visit (which is equivalent to conquering them) is carried by them to terrifying lengths” (103). In his reading of this text, Derrida highlights the tension between Kant’s references to the defi nite laws of hospitality that may work to maintain peace between nations (which would otherwise exist in a natural state of war) and Levinas’s insistence on the unconditional welcome of the other: “A Nation-State, indeed a community of Nation-States, can only condition

18 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction peace, just as it can only limit hospitality, refuge, or asylum. And the fi rst— indeed the only—concern of Kant is to defi ne limitations and conditions” (Adieu 89–90). By contrast, Levinas begins with the concept of infi nite peace: “‘Peace therefore cannot be identified with the end of combats that cease for want of combatants, by the defeat of some and the victory of the others, that is, with cemeteries or future universal empires. Peace must be my peace, in a relation that starts from an I and goes to the other, in desire and goodness, where the I both maintains itself and exists without egoism’” (T and I 306 quoted in Adieu 96–97). This distinction returns us to the question of the relationship between politics and ethics, as the everyday compromises that determine treaties, trade, and immigration are haunted by the ideal of a pure state of unconditional hospitality. Derrida refuses to choose one or the other, insisting instead on the need to maintain the impossible oscillation between the two in the face of our increasingly global society: Our task here is simply—between Kant and Levinas—to sharpen a difference that matters today more than ever with regard to this right of refuge and all the most urgent matters of our time, everywhere that [ . . . ] millions of “undocumented immigrants” [sans papiers], of “homeless” [sans domicile fi xe], call out for another international law, another border politics, another humanitarian politics, indeed a humanitarian commitment that effectively operates beyond the interests of Nation-States. (Adieu 101) Levinas’s ethics of infi nity serves as a persistent reminder of the need to remain open to the possibility of unconditional hospitality, to continue to call into question the laws and limitations that defi ne the status quo. I would like to suggest that this same dynamic allows us to theorize the ways in which late nineteenth-century literary culture engages in debates about colonialism, the nation, and the stranger. At the end of the Victorian era, the question of England’s relationship to others takes on a renewed importance, as colonial involvement intensifies, and as novelists themselves confront issues of foreignness and belonging. While the scramble for Africa reflects the escalation of Europe’s colonial ambitions at the end of the nineteenth century, the 1857 Indian rebellion, the Boer War, and the increasing urgency of the “Irish question” lead some in England to begin to question the worth of the still-expanding imperialist project. The work of Edward Said and others has helped to show how assumptions about the moral legitimacy of England’s national identity underlie both the imperialist project and the Victorian novel, and has demonstrated that an increasing anxiety about ethnic identification emerges to trouble the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century novel. 24 Bhabha is one contemporary theorist who has taken on the challenge of bringing questions of absolute otherness into dialogue with the historical



complexities of colonial encounters in European literature. As this study turns to the work of Schreiner, a writer born to a British mother and a German father whose fictions are set in her native South Africa, Bhabha’s “unhomeliness” becomes an indispensable term for recognizing the complexity of national identification in this turbulent historical moment. Like his better known terms hybridity and ambivalence, “unhomely” tries to capture the ways in which identity is distorted and redefi ned in cross-cultural encounters. It refers fi rst and foremost to literary representations of the instability of home and hospitality in a colonial setting, as the categories of host and guest become hopelessly corrupted. As a disruption of both space (geography) and time (history), the unhomely moment in a literary narrative challenges the boundaries between private and public spheres, as well as between past, present, and future, since imperialist power struggles call into question control of identity, territory, and national history. While Schreiner’s works are particularly focused on these issues, all of the novelists I will discuss raise crucial questions about the role of hospitality in relation to nationalism and England’s global entanglements at the end of the century. Within England itself, a different kind of tension characterizes issues of hospitality in the late nineteenth century, as the emergence of the suffragist movement and the new woman sparks renewed debate about women’s domestic roles.25 The obligation to offer hospitality always calls into question the status of the home, as it entails both the opening of the private space to outside others and, simultaneously, the host’s ownership and control of that space. In conventional understandings of hospitality, wives and daughters are sometimes treated as possessions of the host, to be offered to the (male) guest along with food and shelter, while at other times their special talents as hostesses are emphasized. At the end of the nineteenth century—amid ongoing concerns about women’s reading habits and the representation of sexuality within literature—the novel’s relationship to gender and home becomes an issue in calls for both censorship and greater freedom for writers. The larger question of the role of women in post-structuralist ethical theory has been a topic of much critical debate, as Levinas sometimes refers to a feminine “beloved” in opposition to the masculine self, and suggests that the ethical relation is not fully available to her. While he seems to value the particular feminine role, he also relies on stereotypical defi nitions of feminine and masculine qualities. Derrida addresses this issue head-on, acknowledging that it is possible to read Levinas’s association between hospitality and femininity as sexist, since it relies on the traditional understanding of home as a female space, and locates that space outside of the ethical realm: “ [ . . . ] as if there could be a welcoming, indeed a welcoming ‘par excellence,’ ‘in itself,’ before ethics. And as if the ‘feminine being’ as such did not as yet have access to the ethical” (Adieu 39). He also proposes an alternative reading of Levinas, however, in which “the feminine” is

20 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction understood to refer not to actual women but rather to a set of positive ideas of home and welcome, and in which sexual difference is seen as underlying the relation between self and other, or ethics itself: “That gesture reaches a depth of essential or meta-empirical radicality that takes sexual difference into account in an ethics emancipated from ontology. It confers the opening of the welcome upon ‘the feminine being’ and not upon the fact of empirical women” (Adieu 44). This is a reading of Totality and Infinity that moves quite far beyond the original text, and may reflect Derrida’s attempt to rethink gender radically in relation to ethics more than Levinas’s. Regardless of which reading one accepts, this discussion highlights the extent to which an ethics of hospitality must grapple with questions of gender, as the realm of the home may be seen as feminine, but is also traditionally presided over by a male head of house. Recent feminist criticism has addressed this tension, embodied by the role of woman as hostess, suggesting various ways to read Levinasian ethics in dialogue with feminist theory. Claire Elise Katz looks to Levinas’s writings on the Old Testament alongside his philosophical works, suggesting that the role of women in the Biblical stories of Ruth and others may serve to revise our understanding of Levinas’s analysis of gender and ethics. Tracy McNulty’s full-length study of ethics and gender draws on anthropological and psychoanalytic theory to interrogate the status of the feminine in Levinas’s and Derrida’s understanding of hospitality. In contrast to Katz, she looks to Lacan to support a feminist alternative to the religious understanding of identity she attributes to Levinas’s ethical relation. As both Katz and McNulty are quick to acknowledge, however, Irigaray was the first theorist to offer an in-depth consideration of gender in Levinas’s philosophical writings. Focusing particularly on Levinas’s discussion of eros in Totality and Infinity, Irigaray takes Levinas to task for his reliance on stereotypes of the feminine, and goes on to offer her own vision of an intimate and equal relation between lovers that would nevertheless maintain an ethical distance between self and other. I will return to Irigaray’s reading of Levinas in Chapters 4 and 5, but each of the novels of this study raises questions of gender and hospitality. Just as these works imply the possibility of unconventional relations between cultures and states, so their incorporation of narrative hospitality enables an alternative understanding of the dynamics of gender and sexuality. As a term that refers to the ethics of alterity in general—as well as to more specific issues of nationality, colonialism, and gender roles—hospitality thus provides an exceptional lens through which to consider late nineteenth-century developments in the English novel. In this study, the phrase “narrative hospitality” highlights the complexity of these shifts in the literature, as it encompasses not only the question of what stories are being told, but also how those stories unfold in literary form. In contrast to more general studies of the ethics of reading or narrative ethics, I bring together a historical focus on the limits of sympathy and the public debates about the morality of the novel of the 1880s with a close examination of

Introduction 21 how the novel’s formal structures enact an ethical acknowledgement of the unknown. Thus the transition of the English novel from Victorian realism to high modernism is recast in terms of narrative hospitality, as disjointed formal elements are understood as literary manifestations—or even theorizations—of shifting ethical values. The limit of sympathy as an effective ethical response is expressed in the mismatched halves of Eliot’s fi nal novel and the decidedly artificial closure of Hardy’s text, just as Schreiner tests out myriad narrative modes to represent the complex dynamics of home and guest in colonial South Africa. Reading these “flaws” as evocative symptoms of social transformation suggests a new way of understanding literature’s ethical commitments.


“The Ardent Eighties” Hospitality and Realism at the End of the Century Realism, according to latter-day French lights, means nothing short of sheer beastliness; it means going out of the way to dig up foul expressions to embody fi lthy ideas; it means not only the old insinuation of petty intrigue, but the laying bare of social sores in their most loathsome forms; it means the alteration of the brutal directness of the drunken operative of today with the fl abby sensuality of Corinth in the past. In a word, it is dirt and horror pure and simple; and the good-humoured Englishman, who might smilingly characterize the French novel as “rather thick,” will be disgusted and tired with the inartistic garbage which is to be found in Zola’s La Terre. (Society 12)

At fi rst glance, English commentary on the realist novel in the 1880s appears to be anything but hospitable. And the anonymous writer for the weekly newspaper Society (a self-described “journal of fact, fiction, and fashion”) is not alone when he characterizes the works of Emile Zola and other realists as sub-human, filthy, and dangerously sensual in both content and expression. The excess of this rhetoric, however, is itself a symptom of the level of anxiety and passion about fundamental changes in both the literature and the culture of this period, as alarm about the invasion of England by the French novel crystallizes debates around the renegotiation of many boundaries, including those that defi ne literary subjects, gender roles, and national identity. If the fiction of Zola, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, and others suggests an openness of the novel to unfamiliar subjects, or some version of narrative hospitality, the attempt to censor those works represents the most extreme form of argument in opposition to this trend, a complete silencing of the foreign and the new. A close examination of the rhetoric on both sides of this late Victorian debate, as commentators and even politicians condemn contemporary literature from a variety of perspectives, and as the authors themselves write impassioned pleas in their own defense, exposes the extent to which it is also a conversation about the form and value of the novel itself. New content, and especially new ways of understanding that content, demands new modes of representation. Thus James’s 1884 essay, “The Art of Fiction,” can be seen not simply as a specific response to Walter Besant, but also as the productive outcome of a series of contentious debates during the eighties, in which the need for a new theory of the novel becomes increasingly clear.

“The Ardent Eighties”


Highlighted by the translation of Zola’s novels into English, the subsequent prosecution of his British publisher, and a famous series of lectures and articles on the art of fiction, the 1880s saw an exceptional flurry of attempts to redefi ne the role of the novel in English society. Both authors and critics responded to many historical shifts, including the intensification of colonial entanglements, the emergence of feminism, and a sharp increase in literacy and readership, to pose new questions about the value—both aesthetic and moral—of literature, questions that took on a remarkable tone of urgency and seriousness. These debates about obscenity, censorship, genre, and the art of the novel reflect and to some extent even inform parallel shifts in the novels themselves, as the Victorian triple decker begins to give way to a variety of new forms of fiction. These shifts in the literature and more specifically the ardent and often contradictory debates about morality and the novel vividly illustrate the emergence of narrative hospitality. The Victorian insistence on the importance of social relations persists, but confidence in the self’s ability to understand the other is newly threatened by changes both domestic and global. While the rhetoric of the eighties does not include the term “hospitality” specifically, the debates are steeped in questions of literature’s relationship to home, understood both as a literal domestic space dominated by women and children, and as a national identity. At a more abstract level, the question of the appropriate subject matter of the novel can be read in terms of the form’s relationship to the world it represents, as the literature of the period is judged both for what aspects of life it includes and the manner in which this material is portrayed. Issues of hospitality—that is, of welcome and openness to the other—thus extend to both the content and form of the novel itself. If theories of the morality of literature in the mid-nineteenth century are dominated by claims for the novel as presenting a familiar example with which the reader is expected to sympathize, the debates of the eighties are marked by anxiety about how the novel itself engages with the society from which it emerges. On both sides of the questions of censorship and form, commentators make new claims about fiction’s relationship to gender, nation, and ethics. Although mid-Victorian novel theory presents a range of views on fiction and morality, there is little doubt that the debate about the role of literature becomes more varied and contentious as the century ends.1 After establishing some common understandings of the relationship between literature and morality in nineteenth-century England, and exploring George Eliot’s contribution to and revision of this tradition, the chapter will go on to examine two central debates of the 1880s. The fi rst, spurred by the publication of Zola’s novels and his novel theory, concerns questions of obscenity and censorship, while the second, focused primarily on the issue of literary form, is the occasion for James’s most famous essay, “The Art of Fiction.” While calls for censorship are often triggered by the subject matter of the novel, and James’s essay is perhaps best known for its exclusive focus on


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the aesthetics of fiction, I will also trace the ways in which the categories of content and form bleed into and even constitute each other. A careful analysis of these public ruminations on the significance of the novel allows us to understand the profound shifts in literature at the turn of the century in terms of the parallel shift in ethical perspectives from sympathy to hospitality. As the commentary is written by both critics and authors themselves, and is conceived both in response to and as an attempt to influence contemporary fiction, it provides invaluable evidence of the ways in which literary subjects and forms interact with questions of ethics and politics.



Since its emergence as a new genre in eighteenth-century England, commentators have debated the morality of the novel. From a contemporary perspective, most writings both against and in defense of the Victorian novel prior to the 1880s are similarly conservative, since almost all agree that literature should reinforce moral values collectively held by the community. The disagreement is about whether and how particular works achieve this goal. Writing in 1836, John Ruskin defends Walter Scott against the “young slenders” who accuse his historical fiction of perpetrating falsehoods and immorality. Ruskin argues that readers are, on the contrary improved by exposure to Scott’s novels, largely because of their tendency to identify with his characters: We become, for the time, spirits altogether benevolent, altogether just, hating vice, loving virtue, weeping over the crime, exulting in the just conduct, lamenting the misfortune, rejoicing in the welfare of others. Is this no advance in morality? Have we not for the time overcome, or, rather, driven away our great enemy, Self? Have we not become more like the angels? Are not our emotions sweeter, our hopes purer, our tears holier, when they are felt for others, nourished for others, wept for others? Every one must acknowledge that a continuance of such utterly unselfish feelings of love and universal benevolence must be beneficial, must be humanizing, to the mind by which they are experienced. (23) Idealizing the temporary loss of self through sympathy with the lives of fictional characters, Ruskin suggests that the reader’s mind is elevated by exposure to Scott’s superior intellect and sense of morality, insisting of his works that: “[ . . . ] their tendency is always moral: guilt is always punished and virtue always rewarded [ . . . ]” (26–27). This is a fairly extreme set of claims for both literature and sympathy; rather than casting emotions felt on behalf of others as watered-down representations of one’s own more genuine feelings, Ruskin suggests that literary sympathy produces a purer and more moral emotional response, one that actually has the potential

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to improve or “humanize” the reader. Underlying—though not identical with—this faith in the beneficial effects of sympathy is the assumption that author and readers share a similar moral outlook, that there is widespread agreement about what constitutes virtue and vice (“Every one must acknowledge [ . . . ]”). While Ruskin writes this essay early in his career, and thus before the flourishing of classic Victorian realism, similar defenses of some novels (and parallel attacks on others) will be mounted throughout the nineteenth century. Much of this debate takes place within reviews of particular works, and even novels now considered restrained in their moral outlook are subject to censure. Writing anonymously in the prominent and conservative Quarterly Review in 1848, Elizabeth Rigby takes Charlotte Bronte to task for her assertion of the “rights of man” in her recent novel: “We do not hesitate to say that the tone of mind and thought which has overthrown authority and violated every code human and divine abroad, and fostered Chartism and Rebellion at home, is the same which has also written Jane Eyre” (174). Rigby (Lady Eastlake), a prolific translator and critic who wrote about women’s issues and art in addition to literature, anticipates some writers of the end of the century who will associate immorality in the novel with revolutionary continental politics. Whereas she hints at a common moral and political “authority” in England (violated by Chartists and others), some religious reviewers were even more explicit in their demand that literature represent and thus perpetuate a specifically Christian morality. In an 1856 review in the prestigious though short-lived National Review, Richard Holt Hutton articulates this strong religious view of the ethics of the novel. Hutton, a theologian and critic, was also one of the journal’s editors along with Walter Bagehot: [ . . . ] it is the tendency of literature without theology to lose all trace of unity, and break up into numberless accidental forms of discoloured humanity. [ . . . ] Indeed, it is the natural tendency of mere literary pursuits to weaken the belief in any unchangeable moral standard of character; and, except in cases of the highest conceivable imaginative inspiration [ . . . ] it is almost inevitable that the habit of taking up all moral and immoral attitudes in turn must dizzy the brain and confound the steadiness of personal convictions, unless there be a real inward hold on that spiritual image, which is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (132) Equating the “unity” of the literary work with the unity of a Christian worldview, Hutton suggests that any depiction of immoral behavior—even one in which the character is duly punished—has the potential to confuse and corrupt the reader. Ironically, Hutton seems to recognize in the novel what modern critics might call its heterogeneity or dialogism as a form, and his insistence on the necessity of an eternal “steadiness” of moral and


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religious outlook reads a bit like an acknowledgement of the genre’s inherent resistance to such a single-minded message. His anxiety seems, in retrospect, a clear indication of the already shifting terrain of religion, literature, and ethics in the nineteenth century. 2 As a prolific and respected novelist, as well as an occasional commenter on the literature of the day, Anthony Trollope’s voice in these conversations represents a range of positions, and his general attitude towards morality and fiction is subject to debate.3 Although his novels arguably engage in subtle ethical investigations, Trollope’s commentary on literature extends Ruskin’s emphasis on improving the reader through sympathy with virtuous characters, and he usefully articulates this position in general terms, rather than simply in response to a particular text. According to John Charles Olmstead, Trollope’s “Novel-Reading,” an essay published in 1879 in James Knowles’s intellectual monthly literary magazine, Nineteenth Century, “[ . . . ] represents a synthesis of the moral aesthetic that was implicit in the work of novelists and critics alike at mid-century” (xv). In the essay, Trollope acknowledges the recent growth in readership, pointing out that: “The number of those who read novels have [sic] become millions in England during the last twenty-five years. In our factories, with our artisans, behind our counters, in third-class railway carriages, in our kitchens and stables, novels are now read unceasingly” (32). While this explosion in the reach of the novel can be seen as one of the primary causes for the emergence of new fictional forms at the end of the century, Trollope responds by defending the role of fiction as primarily didactic: “But the novelist, if he have a conscience, must preach his sermons with the same purpose as the clergyman, and must have his own system of ethics. If he can do this efficiently, if he can make virtue alluring and vice ugly, while he charms his reader instead of wearying him, then we think that he should not be spoken of generally as being among those workers of iniquity who do evil in their generation” (40). On the one hand, the analogy between novelist and clergyman reflects Victorian claims for the growing seriousness and ethical relevance of the realist novel to larger social concerns, as a counter to the opposing view of narrative literature as mere entertainment or even as morally suspect. At the same time, however, the demand that the novel “preach” a single, socially sanctioned moral message implies a quite limited sense of how the text may affect the reader and the larger society. Although the specific rhetoric varies, most of the mid-Victorian commentaries on the morality of fiction seem to test the values of particular novels against a common sense of English standards. Even if such agreement about social morality is itself largely a fiction, there is a pervasive sense that literature plays a central role in perpetuating this outlook. According to Kenneth Graham, “The moral ideal, or a specifically Christian ideal, or, most frequently, a belief in the absolute nature of the social code, continues to dominate most accounts of the relationship of fiction to values right to the end of the century. The national sense of outrage at French naturalism

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came from this belief in the novel’s attachment to certain indisputable ethical truths” (77). And while this confidence in the force of a common moral code does not necessarily require a belief in an ethics of sympathy, in fact the language of most of this criticism presumes that novels influence readers through a sympathetic response. Because readers and novelists share a moral outlook, these critics imply, fiction should invite the reader to reinforce and extend this stance by identifying with its characters and plots. Stressing similarity and consistency over difference and unpredictability, this commentary looks to literature to affi rm a pre-existing social order. It is important to elaborate on the underlying ethical assumptions of this mainstream Victorian view in order to better appreciate the intensity and significance of the debates in the eighties. Before turning to those debates, however, I’d like to suggest that Eliot’s writings on the moral and social significance of the novel represent a crucial bridge or turning point between the self-assured faith of Trollope and the groundbreaking theory of James and others. Just as Daniel Deronda can be seen as a moment at which Victorian realism gives way to a radical new understanding of otherness and hospitality, so Eliot’s reflections on sympathy and literature simultaneously recall and expose the limits of the earlier conflation of morality and the novel. And as the debate develops over realism, censorship, and the art of fiction, Eliot will be invoked by all sides, alternately seen as overly didactic or invasively psychological, but, as an only recently deceased and still dominant novelist of the time, rarely absent from the discussion.



In part due to a focus on the inner lives of ordinary characters and their relationships in her novels, and in part as a result of her elaboration of her own techniques and values in multiple essays, Eliot has always been associated with the ethics of sympathy in fiction. Most readers and critics have simply assumed that characters learn to sympathize with each other, just as the reader learns the value of sympathy through investment in those characters. Recently, however, renewed attention to the richness and complexity of Eliot’s understanding of literature and sympathy has resulted in something of a critical split. Some favor a strong reading “against the grain,” in which Eliot’s essays or novels are seen as exposing the very impossibility of the sympathy she claims to value.4 An opposing strand of research works to re-contextualize Eliot in relation to nineteenth-century thought, and stresses that, although more sophisticated than many others, Eliot’s theory of sympathy is just that, and represents a crucial contribution to Victorian moral philosophy.5 This study attempts to split the difference, as I suggest that Eliot establishes a theory of sympathy that acknowledges difficulty but still counts as sympathy, only to finally move to an alternate model of ethics as hospitality in her final novel. Building on this productive critical debate, and revisiting

28 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction some of her central texts on sympathy and literature, I show that Eliot is steeped in the commentary of her own moment and that she simultaneously responds to a need for a subtle but profound shift in ethical orientation. One of Eliot’s best-known and most sophisticated statements of the novel’s relationship to morality is the 1856 essay, “The Natural History of German Life.” Written for the Westminster Review, the journal of radical philosophy she edited from 1851 to 1854, this essay is a review of two new editions of books by Wilhelm Heinrich von Riehl (Pinney 266–67). It stands out in part because she does not merely assert the novel’s ability to influence its readers, but rather spells out exactly the process through which literature generally, and the realist novel in particular, has the power to enrich the reader’s moral understanding of the world. Beginning with the question of veracity in representation, Eliot claims for the novel a special ability to represent people, especially the lower classes, more truthfully than other artistic forms, such as painting or opera: “[ . . . ] our social novels profess to represent the people as they are, and the unreality of their representations is a grave evil” (30). From the outset, then, Eliot associates realism with the categories of good and evil, and shifts the locus of the morality of the novel away from examples of moral behavior to the level of the author’s responsibility for truthful representation. She does not endorse a doctrine of moral example at the expense of truth, an artificially happy ending that would seamlessly and despite all logic associate good behavior with reward and bad with punishment. Instead, the morality of the novel resides in its engagement with the world in all its complexity, the ability to represent the unjust as well as the just, the ordinary along with the exemplary.6 And for Eliot, the value of the realist novel’s unwavering examination of a wide range of subjects is its ability to awaken a sympathetic emotional response in the reader: “The greatest benefit we owe to the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies [ . . . ] a picture of human life such as a great artist can give, surprises even the trivial and the selfish into that attention to what is apart from themselves, which may be called the raw material of moral sentiment” (30). In contrast to Trollope’s analogy between priest and novelist, Eliot argues that fiction is actually better suited to awaken moral feeling in the reader than “sermons” or “philosophical dissertations,” because “Art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot” (30). Eliot attempts to balance the familiar concern for the effect of fiction on the moral sensibility of the reader with a new insistence on the close correspondence between the novel and the reality it represents, a proximity that anticipates late-century developments in the understanding of ethics and aesthetics, and that hints at the possibility of narrative hospitality.7 In the famous digression in Chapter 17 of Adam Bede, “In Which the Story Pauses a Little,” Eliot defends her practice of writing truthfully about the ordinary world, rather than inventing an ideal one:

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And I would not, even if I had the choice, be the clever novelist who could create a world so much better than this, in which we get up in the morning to do our daily work, that you would be likely to turn a harder, colder eye on the dusty streets and the common green fields—on the real breathing men and women, who can be chilled by your indifference or injured by your prejudice; who can be cheered and helped onward by your fellow-feeling, your forbearance, your outspoken, brave justice. (194) Blending the description of the subject of the novel with the description of “this” world in which we live, Eliot suggests a direct connection between reading and regarding one’s fellow humans. The idea that literature may “amplify” and “extend” our encounters with other people challenges the more conventional characterization of novels as imparting a moral lesson, and instead suggests that reading has the potential to expose the self to that which demands a particular and immediate ethical response. Eliot’s characterization of the relationship between reader and text is not reducible to identification, and in fact begins to hint at a Levinasian openness to others. The point of rehearsing her famous arguments here is to emphasize that, in opposition to Trollope’s more straightforward confidence in the ability of the novel to embody and impart a particular moral code, Eliot’s model of the influence of literature does not assume the existence of a universal set of rules that the reader must be taught. Instead, the role of the novel is to awaken (or “surprise”) the reader’s latent capacity for sympathy, to enable each individual’s potential to behave ethically. According to Anger, Eliot’s model of ethics depends on both this fellow feeling and the individual’s own judgment: “Two general ideas are pervasive in her view: first, the stress on sympathy, and second, an emphasis on intuition as the method of making moral judgments” (111). In some ways, this gives literature a more limited role in influencing morality than Trollope does; Eliot credits the novel only with inspiring the “raw material of moral sentiment,” and it is up to each reader to transform that material (the ability to sympathize, to pay attention to “what is apart from themselves”) into the reality of responsible moral action. At the same time, however, she grants the reading of novels the ability to engender and expand the individual’s capacity for sympathy with others in the larger world. Eliot’s strong sense of the relationship between the novel’s moral and epistemological ends, the possibility of enabling moral behavior via true representation, suggests a more complex relationship between novel, reader, and world than that advocated by the earlier Victorian commentators. Recognizing the limits of universal codes, the role of affect, and the difficulty of complete knowledge of the other, Eliot’s sympathy has a radical edge, one that invites modern theories of ethics. This emphasis on a specific response to others applies not only to interpersonal relationships but to larger moral and social contexts as well. In contrast to her predecessors, Eliot expresses a deep distrust in the capacity of


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general laws to adjudicate fairly the particularities of concrete ethical dilemmas. Indeed, she suggests that one of the strengths of the novel as a form is its ability to examine closely specific situations and to avoid rigidly applying the same abstract rule to all cases. Thus she refuses to endorse an ethical system that presumes a universal consensus on the question of how particular actions must be judged. She famously articulates this position in a discussion of responses to Maggie’s aborted elopement in The Mill on the Floss: All people of broad, strong sense have an instinctive repugnance to the men of maxims; because such people early discern that the mysterious complexity of our life is not to be embraced by maxims, and that to lace ourselves up in formulas of that sort is to repress all the divine promptings and inspirations that spring from growing insight and sympathy. And the man of maxims is the popular representative of the minds that are guided in their moral judgment solely by general rules, thinking that these will lead them to justice by a ready-made patent method, without the trouble of exerting patience, discrimination, impartiality [ . . . ]. (628) This passage raises the larger question of Eliot’s views of knowledge, truth, and relativism. Anger provides a nuanced reading of where she stands in relation to her contemporaries, suggesting that Eliot draws from her translations of Feuerbach a weak relativism that does not preclude truth: “We cannot obtain absolute knowledge, Eliot believes, but that does not disqualify truth: ‘Approximate truth is the only truth attainable, but at least one must strive for that, and not wade off into arbitrary falsehood’” (105).8 Eliot acknowledges the “mysterious complexity of our life,” but her model of a morality grounded in the self’s sympathy for others depends on a deep commitment to the attempt to understand others as fully as possible, and this is what distinguishes Eliot’s novel theory from later expressions of narrative hospitality. The inherent value of the pursuit of truth (here signaled by the language of “insight,” “discrimination,” and “impartiality”) dictates relationships between characters, who model the act of sympathy, and those between reader and novel, since readers are expected to sympathize with the characters and events portrayed in the novel. In The Country and the City, Raymond Williams characterizes this element of Eliot’s fiction as her determination to represent a “knowable community,” and points out that her commitment to the value of sympathizing with other individuals exists in tension with her attempts to represent a wider range of social classes than earlier English writers. This tension can be seen in all of Eliot’s novels, created not only by the challenge of representing other classes, but more broadly by her constant awareness of the impossibility of the full knowledge that would be required for ideal sympathetic understanding. Rae Greiner suggests that, contrary to most readings of him, Adam Smith’s own formulation of sympathy stresses the role of

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imagination in lieu of knowledge, and that Eliot adopts and extends this model in her fiction: Eliot continually tests the validity of Smith’s insight that it is only by abstracting human feeling from actual bodies and felt emotions—by imagining, not knowing, what others think and feel—that sympathy can enable an ethical economy of exchange. Critiquing the notion that sympathy requires identification, Eliot sought to test the capacity of realist principle to prompt sympathy in her readers [ . . . ]. ( 307) In the reading of The Mill on the Floss in Chapter 2, I suggest that the sympathy-based model of morality is stretched to its limit, only to be supplanted by the ethics of hospitality in Daniel Deronda. I argue that a different model of ethics, one that embraces rather than trying to overcome the impossibility of fully understanding the other, is implied by the transformations of the novel at the turn of the century. This shift is associated with questions of hospitality rather than sympathy, with the problem of responding ethically to the unknown rather than the known. Thus while it is important to recognize the complexity and sophistication of Eliot’s understanding of sympathy—its discontinuity with the prescriptive stances of the nineteenth-century novelists and critics discussed above—I also argue that in Daniel Deronda, her only novel set in the late Victorian present, she presents an alternative model of ethics that corresponds to new social and political conditions. By the 1880s, this drive to reassess the terms of both literature and ethics would be widespread.

III. ZOLA AND THE LATE VICTORIAN REALISM DEBATES The debates of the 1880s often center on the works of Zola, for several reasons. His novels—variously characterized as experimental, naturalist, realist, or as examples of the “new fiction”—take on subjects beyond the scope of Victorian literature, especially the lives of the poor and of sexually “loose” women and prostitutes, and represent these subjects in gritty detail from a perspective widely seen as pessimistic or even nihilistic. And since he is French, the controversy created by his fiction becomes a convenient outlet for the expression of nationalist anxiety, as questions of sexuality and morality in the novel are conflated with issues of national character, women’s rights, class, and colonialism. Although Zola most obviously challenges Victorian expectations of fictional propriety by expanding the novel’s content to new subjects, I suggest that his inclusion of this material is inextricably tied to his radical views of literary representation and form. I thus begin my analysis of these debates by examining Zola’s own theory of the novel. Written in 1880, it represents a self-conscious break with previous understandings of the relationship between fiction and society, and


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introduces in a slightly extreme form some of the crucial elements in the ensuing commentary on the morality of the novel. Zola’s “The Experimental Novel” is an ambitious attempt to explain the naturalist method of writing fiction in relation to contemporary work in experimental medicine. While this essay is not typical of other writing on the novel in the period, it raises in its very extremity and iconoclasm crucial issues that underlie the rethinking of the role of literature in relation to changes in the social landscape and modes of knowledge at the end of the nineteenth century.9 Zola begins by distancing the discussion of literature from aesthetic concerns, as he claims that just as the realm of medicine was once considered an art, and is now beginning to draw on the methods of science, so the novel must open itself to the new premises and practices of science. According to Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison’s recent study of the history of objectivity, this is an unusual move. They suggest that the latter half of the nineteenth century is a time of increased emphasis on the differences between art and science, as the former is associated with subjectivity and the latter with objectivity: “In notable contrast to earlier views held from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment about the close analogies between artistic and scientific work, the public personas of artist and scientist polarized during this period. Artists were exhorted to express, even flaunt, their subjectivity, at the same time that scientists were admonished to restrain theirs” (37). Zola’s inconsistency with contemporary understandings of art and science helps to account both for the intensity of the controversy surrounding his work and for the ways in which he fits uncomfortably in the ethical frameworks of both sympathy and hospitality. Zola supports his unconventional image of the artist as scientist by drawing numerous analogies between experimental medicine, as described in French physiologist Claude Bernard’s An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), and his own writing. He calls the novelist “both observer and experimenter,” and goes on to describe the process of composing an experimental novel: “In short, the whole operation consists of taking facts from nature, then studying the mechanism of the data by acting on them through a modification of circumstances and environment without ever departing from the laws of nature. At the end there is knowledge, scientific knowledge, of man in his individual and social action” (Zola 167). Like Eliot, Zola emphasizes the novelist’s responsibility to represent the world accurately, but he suggests that a scientist’s objectivity and meticulous observation of nature are the tools that enable this endeavor. And in a sharp departure from Eliot’s skepticism, he also implies that a strict adherence to these methods will result in a novel that reveals true facts about the nature of the individual and his or her society. Quoting Bernard, he asserts that: “‘The experimenter is the examining magistrate of nature.’ We novelists are the examining magistrates of men and their passions” (168). Employing a double set of analogies from science and law,

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Zola claims a remarkably powerful role for the novelist as both objective investigator and social interpreter. Segregating accurate representation from moral and social concerns, Zola suggests a new standard for measuring truth in fiction. He goes on to warn the author not to try to impose on or elicit from the novel an understanding of abstract human motives, claiming that the role of the experimenter, in both medicine and fiction, is to discover how things work, rather than why: “So as not to stray into philosophical speculations, so as to replace idealist hypotheses by the slow conquest of the unknown, it [the experimental novel] must refrain from searching for the why of things. That is its exact role; from that it draws, as we shall see, its raison d’etre and its morality” (175). Fully embracing the language of science rather than art, he makes the strongest case yet for the ability of the novel to comprehend and thus influence the world it represents, as its “slow conquest of the unknown” will enable enlightened reform. For Zola, the morality of the novel ultimately lies outside it, in the tangible effect it may have on society, as he claims that understanding the workings of human action will lead to the mastery of life and thereby the means of moral improvement: This is where the utility and the high morality of our naturalist works lie; they experiment on man, take apart and put together the human machine piece by piece in order to make it function under the influence of environment. When time shall have passed, when we shall have the laws, we shall have only to act on individuals and milieux if we wish to reach better social conditions. This is how we carry on practical sociology, how our labors aid the political and economic sciences. [ . . . ] To be master of good and evil, to regulate life, to regulate society, in the long run to resolve all the problems of socialism, above all to bring a solid foundation to justice by experimentally resolving questions of criminality, is that not to do the most useful and moral human work? (177) Emphasizing the role of the environment in determining the behavior of individuals, and thus reflecting the writings of both Karl Marx and Charles Darwin, Zola defines the novel as a laboratory within which the “human machine” is dissected and manipulated. In other words, employing a method equivalent to scientific experiment, the fiction writer can stage and ultimately fully explain the complex motives that underlie human behavior, thus allowing the author to play an integral role in creating a more ethical society. Zola suggests that the art of fiction is giving way to the science of sociology, and that the novel will thereby have a direct effect on law and government. Zola’s theory marks an extreme but particularly clear example of the shift in the way both novelists and commentators begin to view the relationship between the novel and the world. Rather than emphasizing the author’s creative responsibility to represent moral examples or to foster the conditions that inspire the reader’s latent capacity for moral feeling, Zola suggests that


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only the author’s scientific impartiality will enable the writing of novels that reveal truth and thereby contribute to the ethical improvement of society. Zola associates both the composition and the effects of the experimental novel with the emerging disciplines of sociology, physiology, and psychology, claiming that these new forms of knowledge necessitate parallel shifts in the subjects and forms of literature, that the experimental novel is “[ . . . ] the literature of our scientific age, just as classic and romantic literature corresponded to an age of scholasticism and theology” (176). Whereas later writers will respond to the growing influence of scientific discourse by defending the value of art for art’s sake, Zola instead embraces the new age of specialization and objectivity by remaking literature in its image. Zola’s analogy with experimental science also suggests a more complex relationship between fiction and the world than simple mimesis; if the novel is a kind of laboratory, within which elements of reality are isolated and subjected to various tests with the explicit purpose of discovering the natural laws that govern their behavior, it implies a high level of continuity between plot and life, character and humanity. This necessary openness of the novel to the world it portrays suggests a version of hospitality, although Zola’s faith in discovering a single truth about humans and their societies leaves little space for that which is unpredictable or unknown, and is thus directly at odds with Levinasian ethics. And while Zola insists that creativity and invention are still hallmarks of a great novelist, this is because the writer must determine what “experiment” will reveal the truth about the world, just as the scientist must choose what variables to limit and what hypothesis to test: “Thus instead of binding the novelist tightly, the experimental method leaves to him all his intelligence as thinker and all his genius as creator. He must see, understand, invent. An observed fact will bring forth the idea of the experiment to try, of the novel to write, in order to arrive at complete knowledge of the truth” (169). Here Zola seems to struggle a bit to reconcile the role of the writer as artist or “genius” with the new scientific values of objectivity and verifiability. Bringing novel theory up to date with a vengeance, Zola makes new claims for the role of the novel in relation to both morality and truth, and in the process lays the groundwork for a vigorous debate about literature in society. Bernard is an intriguing link between Zola and Eliot, and thus inspires the question of how these two writers seem to bring together late nineteenth-century science, morality, and literature in such different ways. As Richard Menke argues, Bernard’s experiments in vivisection influenced George Henry Lewes directly as a scientist, and Eliot less directly as a novelist, as they both investigated questions of human intellect and psychology. Zola adopts Bernard’s methodology literally and in toto, which results in an odd juxtaposition of idealism and restraint. Zola has complete faith that the practices of science will demystify human nature and produce a truthful account of the full range of behaviors. Therefore, he divorces the novelist from questions of morality, and refuses to invest the creation of characters

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and plots with any standards besides those of objectivity and detachment. The novel may change the world, but not by representing moral behavior or even by inspiring it in individual readers. Eliot, by contrast, weaves together the insights of scientific experimentation with a strong sense of the artist’s responsibility to the truth of her own experience of the world, along with a longstanding commitment to the values of community and sympathy.10 Out of this unique blend of established moral frameworks and receptivity to new ideas is born her initial exploration of narrative hospitality. It is Zola’s more extreme refusal of traditions in both content and form, however, that generates the most contentious debates in England. The controversy comes in response to Zola’s theory of naturalism and to the novels themselves, especially once they are published in English, an act which results in the prosecution of the publisher Henry Vizetelly.11 Thus both the “scientific” method (form) and “low” subject matter (content) of Zola’s writing are at issue. The most extreme British writings on his fiction and theory contrast French culture and politics with those of England, and help to highlight the multiple ways in which the debate about literature is also a debate about national hospitality on several levels. In 1885, an article appeared in the well-regarded and generally progressive Fortnightly Review (founded by Trollope, and initially edited by Lewes) by William Samuel Lilly, once an Indian civil servant, and then later a barrister and journalist who wrote on religion, history, and politics in addition to literature.12 Writing specifically about Zola’s integration of scientific and fictional methods, Lilly associates the “new naturalism” with the underlying philosophy of the French revolution. For him, the openness of the novel to the world it represents, and Zola’s resistance to allowing the artist to shape that world in accordance with moral principles, is akin to the unfettered rule of the masses: “Everywhere there has been a return to nature, to reality. In politics it has assumed the form of Democracy; in metaphysics of Positivism; in art of Naturalism. You may call it generally the Naturalistic Evolution” (245). Lilly contrasts Zola’s work with that of the “old naturalists,” claiming that representation must have an ethical dimension, and drawing a strong analogy between literature and civilization: “To physical science nothing is fi lthy or impure. The student in its domain takes all the facts and catalogues them in the order of their importance, reducing them to formulas. He deals with matter. Ethics is a sphere into which he does not enter. Far other is it with the writer of fiction. [ . . . ] The great ethical principles of reserve, shame, reverence, which have their endless applications in civilized life, prescribe limits to imagination as to action” (254). While Zola argues for the proximity of life and art in order to justify the role of the novel as having experimental and fi nally explanatory power, Lilly sees this same proximity as dictating the need for moral restraint in both society and fiction. For him, the new naturalism is political, and dangerous, because it is intimately linked to a larger movement away from “civilization” and towards instinct, license, and democracy.13


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While Lilly draws an analogy between literature and society, and claims that a parallel absence of ethical restraint can be seen in the French versions of both, many politicians of the period insist on a much more direct connection between novels and life. In a pamphlet entitled “Pernicious Literature” and issued in 1889, the National Vigilance Association (NVA) transcribes excerpts from a House of Commons debate on a proposed bill to ban “obscene” literature, particularly English translations of Zola’s novels.14 In this debate, novels are not evaluated on their aesthetic merit, but are spoken of as potentially causing tangible harm to individuals and society at large. And this threat is located particularly in the novel’s ability to penetrate the home. Sir Robert Fowler of London, drawing on common rhetoric of the time, invokes the vulnerability of the lower classes as justification for government oversight of literature: “Unfortunately the evil affected the class of persons who were least able to resist it. Those who were rich and had comfortable homes might keep the evil from their doors; but the poor, who had little scope for the higher enjoyments of life, naturally picked up the literature which was nearest at hand” (11). He goes on to associate the domestic threat to poor families with the national threat posed by the French form of government, arguing that if the corruption of public morality is not stopped: “[ . . . ] there [would be] no system of government which could be erected which would long stave off the threatening clouds of revolution” (11). Literature is granted remarkable power here, seen as capable of rousing the underclass masses to revolution. The argument that Lilly makes in conceptual terms is literalized in the House debate, as the French novel is cast as an invading force that threatens the very nature of English society. Mr. Samuel Smith of Flintshire, who proposed the bill at the behest of the NVA, makes this danger explicit: “Now, he asked, were they to stand still while the country was wholly corrupted by literature of this kind? Were they to wait until the moral fibre of the English race was eaten out, as that of the French was almost? Look what such literature had done for France. It overspread that country like a torrent, and its poison was destroying the whole national life” (6). Although the legislators do not, for the most part, engage in analysis of the form of the novel, I would suggest that the greater openness to the full reach of human life advocated by Zola in his theory of experimental fiction is interpreted here as a threatening opening of the nation to European others. The House demands the closing of the borders of both novels and nation, and insists on the need to contain a “pernicious” influence from outside that poses a danger to the morality of both the individual reader in the home and the nation at large. Here the connection between the scope of literature, the values of the domestic sphere, and the politics of nationalism becomes especially clear, as the proper response to the appearance of “the other” in the novel and in England dominates the debate. The specter of the French novel invading English homes brings with it a complex set of associations between nationality, literature, and gender

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at the end of the century. F. S. Powell, the member of the House from Wigan, explicitly links colonialism and gender, as he complains that a pamphlet intended to help educate Indian women has been found in homes in England: “He must protest against the action of those well-meaning people who, in their endeavours to improve the condition of the women of India, thought it right to circulate in English homes, and among English women and girls, a class of literature that was calculated to do permanent harm. He would earnestly entreat them, while thus zealous for the purity of Indian women, not to violate the sanctity of English homes” (12). This repeats the trope of foreign invasion, although in this case the distinction is not between the French and the English, but rather between Indian women, apparently in need of one kind of moral instruction, and English women, whose selves and even homes will be tainted by the presence of these texts. Unsurprisingly, different standards of morality apply to the colonies and to the mother country, and, more importantly, the focal point for morality in England is the realm of the home, primarily associated with “English women and girls.” The assumption among the House members that literature can have a direct and devastating effect on individual readers becomes particularly intense when the readers under consideration are women. Smith tells a story of booksellers in London luring young women into their shops to allow them to read indecent novels, and then goes on to shock his colleagues with the outcome: “[ . . . ] in many cases these shops were in league with houses of the worst class, to which the girls, when their minds were sufficiently polluted and depraved, were consigned” (8). Clearly this example participates in the more generalized anxiety that any woman has the potential to become a prostitute, and then goes on to suggest that novels like Zola’s Nana can be used to prepare them for exactly this purpose, to render their minds amenable to immoral sexual behavior. While the debate in the House is largely focused on the effects of literature on women readers, other commentators attack the way in which naturalist novels represent women. Andrew Lang was a Scottish historian, folklorist, critic, editor, and author of a popular series of fairy tale books. Close friends with H. Rider Haggard and Robert Louis Stevenson, he was an ardent defender of romance and adventure novels. In “Realism and Romance,” his 1887 essay in the prestigious and diverse Contemporary Review (founded in 1866 as a church-influenced counterpart to the Fortnightly Review, with which it merged in 1955), Lang suggests, like Lilly, that the scientific method associated with the new fiction (here referred to as realism) leads to an immoral mode of portraying women: And they [modern Realists] show a sort of cruelty and coldness in their dealings with their own creations. If I were to draw up an indictment, I might add that some of them have an almost unholy knowledge of the nature of women. One would as lief explore a girl’s room, and tumble about her little household treasures, as examine so curiously the poor

38 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction secrets of her heart and tremors of her frame. [ . . . ] Such analysis makes one feel uncomfortable in the reading, makes one feel intrusive and unmanly. (688) Lang’s suggestion that the reader himself is made to feel “unmanly” implies that what the scientific mode of representation lacks is not warmth or kindness but rather adequate modesty; a less “cold” portrayal would presumably exercise a greater degree of restraint, limiting itself to a more superficial description of women’s lives, and thus preserving the separation between men and women. Too much knowledge leads not to sympathy, in this analysis, but rather to an emasculating intimacy with women’s secrets. That the representation of women’s natures constitutes “unholy” knowledge suggests that women should instead be isolated in a spiritually pure realm, protected from the probing inquiry and resulting insight associated with scientific analysis.15 Lang highlights the Victorian tension between embracing the novel as a form with wide scope and detailed knowledge and a need to limit that knowledge with regard to gender, especially as women increasingly demand political and intellectual equality as the century draws to a close. The problem of breaking down established boundaries between the genders and their roles is also at the heart, I would argue, of the anxiety associated with both female readers and female characters. Just as the French novel invades the homes of English women, so the French author invades the homes of his fictional women, and in both cases the distinction between the public and private sphere is jeopardized as the morality of home itself becomes an issue. If the openness of naturalist fiction recalls the threat of open national borders, and the importation of unknown others into England, so the depth of its representation of women reflects the vulnerability of the private domestic space as the locus of moral standards, and the woman who inhabits it as “angel in the house.” To tell the story of women’s lives in too much detail is thus thought to be immoral in two distinct ways, as it may contaminate women readers by exposing them to raw sexuality, and it also functions as a kind of metaphor of how women’s privacy and moral superiority have been violated. In each case, the assumption that wives and novels are both purveyors of a sympathy-based moral antidote to the corrupt public sphere is threatened by the new openness in the realm of the home.16 These anxieties regarding gender and nation come together in Lang’s essay when he characterizes the authors and readers of realism as overevolved, effeminate men: The Coming Man may be bald, toothless, highly “cultured,” and addicted to tales of introspective analysis. I don’t envy him when he has got rid of that relic of the ape, his hair; those relics of the age of combat, his teeth and nails; that survival of barbarism, his delight in

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the last battle of Odysseus, Laertes’ son. [ . . . ] Not for nothing did Nature leave us all savages under our white skins; she has wrought thus that we might have many delights, among others “the joy of adventurous living,” and of reading about adventurous living. (689) While the French are not explicitly identified here, the stereotype of British men as more masculine than their European counterparts would have been familiar to Lang’s readers, and recognizable in this characterization of the new fiction as refi ned to the point of emasculation. The Darwinian language of evolution (and anxiety about degeneration) is significant, as Lang claims for the Englishman not a higher degree of development (a claim often made to justify British imperialism) but rather a lower one, that still accommodates a limited level of “savagery,” and that helps to determine his preference for adventure stories. Given that many of the romances Lang is defending in this statement are set in the colonies, and feature courageous British men battling or civilizing members of “savage races,” we can see the potential for hypocrisy in these discussions of genre, gender, and nation. Lang attempts to establish a delicate balance, in which the masculine ideal entails some degree of both proximity to and superiority over the colonial other, and also requires a strict limitation on the knowledge of women’s lives. The extent to which the debate about the novel became a convenient forum for working out contemporaneous questions about colonialism and women is clear, and becomes even more obvious as we turn to the writings of the defenders of naturalism, and see surprisingly similar deployments of gendered metaphors on the opposing side of the controversy. In terms of hospitality, home is invoked to represent both the private domestic sphere and the larger public entity of the nation, as literature is seen as a potential threat to English masculinity, morality, and imperial dominance.17



Among the commentators objecting to the calls for censorship and constraints on literature were, not surprisingly, many of the authors themselves. What is more surprising, however, is the tone and rhetoric of these responses. Often, the “answers” to the misogyny and nationalism of the attacks on the novel reflect the same anxiety about women’s power, colonialism, and the status of England as the initial attacks themselves. The inhospitality of much of the criticism of the novel is not countered by simple hospitality; instead, the writers adopt some of the rhetoric of their foes in order to create a safe space for their own fictions. As we will see, James is the fi rst to theorize that space convincingly. Otherwise, it is only in the novels themselves that the most radical manifestations of narrative hospitality can be appreciated.

40 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction One of the best-known replies to the censorship championed by the NVA and others is a pamphlet written by novelist George Moore called “Literature at Nurse, or Circulating Morals: A Polemic on Victorian Censorship.” Issued in 1885 by Vizetelly, the same publisher later prosecuted for his translations of Zola, Moore’s essay responds adamantly to the refusal by Mudie’s library to purchase and circulate significant numbers of his own novels.18 From the title alone, it is obvious that this text casts the issue of censorship in terms of images of women, and that Moore’s defense of “obscene” literature does not line up neatly with a progressive view of women’s roles. Indeed, he reinforces the association expressed by Lang and the NVA between British women at home and moral standards, suggesting that the figure of the “British Matron” is responsible for the limitations placed on the new fiction. The difference, of course, is that Moore is deeply opposed to these restrictions, and therefore deploys anti-feminist rhetoric not against novels and their authors, but rather against Mr. Mudie and the supposed female perspective that undergirds his censorship of literature. A large portion of Moore’s pamphlet is devoted to examples of sexual and otherwise “immoral” material from non-censored novels, as he argues convincingly that the determination of obscenity is arbitrary and contradictory. He introduces this discussion with an image of new novels as dolls, in part to suggest that they are evaluated as though they are intended for children: “Being thus grossly attacked, it has occurred to me to examine the clothing of some of the dolls passed by our virtuous librarian as being decently attired, and to see for myself if there be not an exciting bit of bosom exhibited here and a naughty view of an ankle shown there; to assure myself, in fact, if all the frocks are modestly set as straight as the title Select Library would lead us to expect” (5). The novels themselves are clearly feminized here, but this is a result of their treatment by Mudie and others; Moore suggests that readers mistakenly equate the realist representation of sexuality with the indecent exposure of scantily clad dolls. This difference leads Moore to represent the librarian as the overly invasive observer of female bodies, in contrast to Lang’s image of the author intruding on female space: Into this nursery [the library] none can enter except in baby clothes; and the task of discriminating between a divided skirt and a pair of trousers is performed by the librarian. Deftly his fi ngers lift skirt and under-skirt, and if the examination prove satisfactory the sometimes decently attired dolls are packed in tin-cornered boxes, and scattered through every drawing-room in the kingdom, to be in rocking-chairs fi ngered and fondled by the “young person” until she longs for some newer fashion in literary frills and furbelows. (18–19) Moore seems to get a bit lost in his own metaphor here, as the librarian is shown segregating the dolls by gender—and even undressing them to do

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so—rather than simply confi rming that they are fully clothed, but he maintains the strong association between safe literature, women, and children. Using images strikingly similar to those of the anti-naturalism writers, Moore again reverses the terms of the argument, implying that the pernicious influence pervading English homes is not the new fiction, but rather the infantilization of literature itself, as inferior novels are given to readers (particularly women and children) everywhere. The threat to British masculinity is still a central strand in his essay, but the source of this emasculation is not foreign but rather domestic, as the sensibility of the British Matron is cast as an infectious agent that has perverted the role and even the very gender identification of Mr. Mudie: “[ . . . ] for latterly your identities [Mudie and the British Matron] have got so curiously interwoven that it would need a critical insight that few—I may say none—possess, to separate you. [ . . . ] Some hold that being the custodian of the national virtue you have by right adopted the now well-known signature as your nom de plume, others insist that the lady in question is your better half (by that is it meant the better half of your nature or the worthy lady who bears your name?), others insist that you yourself are the veritable British Matron” (16). Moore would agree with his opponents that the British Matron, or angel in the house, represents traditional standards of morality, but he sees the application of these standards to literature as an overreaching that turns authority figures into school marms, and prevents English culture from reaching its highest potential. Moore portrays the specter of the English novel debilitated by censorship in a flurry of metaphors that invoke both gender and ethnicity: [ . . . ] the character for strength, virility, and purpose which our literature has always held, the old literary tradition coming down to us through a long line of glorious ancestors, is being gradually obliterated to suit the commercial views of a narrow-minded tradesman. Instead of being allowed to fight, with and amid, the thoughts and aspirations of men, literature is now rocked to an ignoble rest in the motherly arms of the librarian. That of which he approves is fed with gold; that from which he turns the breast dies like a vagrant’s child; while in and out of his voluminous skirts run a motley and monstrous progeny, a callow, a whining, a puking brood of bastard bantlings, a race of Aztecs that disgrace the intelligence of the English nation. (18) Like Lang, Moore sees an imminent threat to a grand tradition of virile masculine literature, but the source of the restraint on great novels is not the influence of French realism but rather the efforts of British women, the pressures of the market, and the library system, condensed in this passage into an image of the librarian in drag. By substituting the material and “narrowminded” demands of the commercial trade for the freer intellectual and cultural selection process that takes place in the “thoughts and aspirations


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of men,” the librarians promote an inferior class of English literature, and allow the next generation of great novels to die “like a vagrant’s child.” Perhaps most surprising in this colorful passage, given Moore’s clear approval of the naturalist literature translated from the French, is his association of the surviving, watered-down novels with ethnic and colonial stereotypes. He thus displays a conflicted position in terms of hospitality and nationalism; while he is opposed to shutting England’s doors to adult literature from other countries, he associates the childlike and emasculated forms of socially acceptable novels with colonial others, characterizing them in self-contradictory terms as both monstrous and weak. In contrast to the earlier image of novel as doll, here he seems to see the proliferation of tame literature in threatening terms, as a cultural force with the power to drown out and consume more challenging and daring texts. Later in the pamphlet, in terms that recall Eliot’s association between truth in representation and the moral sensibility of the reader, Moore argues that realism and sympathy are essential to the significance of fiction, and implies that the restraints of the librarians inhibit English writers from capturing the fullness of the life of their own country within the pages of their works. In terms of hospitality, this again represents a sort of uncomfortable middle ground. Moore insists that the English novel must be open to engaging with its world, but this openness is in the service of a patriotic sense of the need for a virile national literature. While the most conservative critics are generally consistent in the call to close the boundaries of literature, home, and country, Moore and other novelists are deeply ambivalent about the extent to which English literature and culture should embrace hospitality to the other, as they attempt to balance greater freedom within the novel with proof of their fidelity to nation and home outside it. This same tension—between an artistic rejection of conservative standards of decency on the one hand, and the wish to maintain a sense of the novel as a reflection of the common values of society on the other—also marks the three essays published on the subject of “Candour in English Fiction” in the short-lived but progressive New Review in 1890. Written by three practicing novelists, Besant, Eliza Lynn Linton, and Hardy, they represent a range of positions on the censorship issue, as Besant is significantly more conservative than Linton and Hardy, who are in most respects quite close to Moore’s perspective. As a historian and author, Besant wrote many popular novels, both with and without his collaborator James Rice, including several that dealt with the conditions of the poor in England. Although he claims to argue for the freedom of literature to represent a wide range of subjects, stating famously that “all belongs to the art of fiction” (6), Besant’s generosity is dependent on his belief that realistic English fiction is inherently in accordance with common moral standards. Having declared that for English women “above a certain level—there is never any closed chapter at all in their lives [ . . . ]” and that therefore “the cultured class of British women—a vast and continually increasing class—are entirely to be

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trusted,” he goes on to suggest that authors have no choice but to represent “forbidden subjects” in a negative light: “The author, however, must recognise in his work the fact that such [free and illegal] Love is outside the social pale and is destructive of the very basis of society. He must. This is not a law laid down by that great authority, Average Opinion, but by Art herself, who will not allow the creation of impossible figures moving in an unnatural atmosphere” (8–9). Denying that any conflict exists between aesthetic quality and moral goodness, Besant resolves the debate over censorship by simply asserting that the art of fiction requires morally responsible representations of the world. And when that world is England, with its infallibly pure women, the problem of “Candour in fiction” simply doesn’t exist. In contrast to Lang and Moore, each of whom invoke negative and largely metaphorical images of the feminine influence, Besant tries to insist on the exemplary behavior of the actual women of a certain class in England, and he uses this idealized characterization as the basis for his positive assessment of the values of modern fiction; realism is good because the real is good. While this is the least convincing of the three essays, I include his contribution in this discussion in part because Besant also plays an important role in initiating the earlier conversation on the art of fiction in the 1880s, and in each case he represents a kind of exaggerated position that spurs other commentators to articulate their own theories of the novel. Linton, known both for her successful career as a writer of fiction and essays and for her insistent anti-feminism, is notoriously difficult to pigeonhole ideologically. Although she might be expected to contribute a different perspective on the role of women in the question of morality and literature because of her gender, her essay is in fact remarkably similar to Moore’s, as she joins in his condemnation of the British Matron, and proposes segregating adult and children’s literature as an alternative to the general censorship of the librarians. And she shares his view that social restraints on English literature endanger its health and virility: “Thus we have the queer anomaly of a strong-headed and masculine nation cherishing a feeble, futile, milkand-water literature—of a truthful and straightforward race accepting the most transparent humbug as pictures of human life” (14). Both the imagery and the logic of this passage echo Moore strongly, as Linton argues that the problem with suppressing certain topics in literature is that the novel is prevented from telling the truth about the world it represents. And also like Moore, Linton does not suggest that indecent literature is acceptable, she simply takes issue with the sweeping and conservative defi nition of indecency perpetuated by the “British Matron.” Using Honoré de Balzac as a positive example, she clarifies that the morality of a novel is determined not by the subject it chooses to represent, but rather by the methods used to treat that subject: “Truth to human nature and faithful presentation of the realities of human life are one thing; licentiousness of description and plain speaking which is indecent are another” (13). It is telling that Linton chooses Balzac, rather than Zola, as her example of “truthful” rather than


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“licentious” representation; while she opposes the forces that would censor Zola’s works, she distances herself from his theory of impartial treatment of the subject of literature. She sounds instead like Eliot, as she invokes truth as the goal of narrative representation, rather than Zola’s experimentation or Trollope’s didacticism. Indeed, despite the vehemence of their rhetoric, Moore and Linton both argue for a sort of middle ground in the debate between the most radical forms of French naturalism and the attempts of the NVA and others to tightly control the content of English fiction. This compromise position is perhaps best articulated in Hardy’s contribution to the “Candour in English Fiction” essays. He eschews the extreme metaphors of manly novels and smothering maternal social standards of Moore and Linton, instead invoking the great works of the past (Shakespeare and the Greeks) to support his claim for the importance of a literature that faithfully reflects its age: “Anyhow, conscientious fiction alone it is which can excite a reflective and abiding interest in the minds of thoughtful readers of mature age, who are weary of puerile inventions and famishing for accuracy; who consider that, in representations of the world, the passions ought to be proportioned as in the world itself” (16). Echoing Moore’s resistance to the infantilization of the novel, although not his rhetoric, Hardy defends the inclusion of controversial material on the basis of accuracy. He goes on to suggest that the suppression of realism is driven by magazines and the circulating libraries, which tailor their selections to the needs of the “household.” The use of the term “household”—which may be a veiled reference to Charles Dickens’s Household Words, a publisher of many Victorian serials—highlights the problem of requiring that all novels be appropriate for children but avoids the overtly misogynist rhetoric of both the supporters and opponents of censorship. Hardy emphasizes the role of men in power—library heads and magazine editors—as the source of the restraints on fiction, and gender thus plays a much smaller role in his discussion. And perhaps unsurprisingly, he is most concerned not with the abstract effect of English censorship on the virility of a generalized literature, but rather with the experience of the author who feels compelled to shape his or her work in accordance with these standards.19 Taking a position directly opposed to Besant’s, Hardy insists on the need for authors to have freedom in composing their works: It is in the self-consciousness engendered by interference with spontaneity, and in aims at a compromise to square with circumstances, that the real secret lies of the charlatanry pervading so much of English fiction. It may be urged that abundance of great and profound novels might be written which should require no compromising, contain not an episode deemed questionable by prudes. This I venture to doubt. In a ramification of the profounder passions the treatment of which makes the great style, something “unsuitable” is sure to arise; and then comes the struggle with the literary conscience. (18)

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This is a subtler argument than those that have come before, as Hardy suggests that the very existence of absolute standards of decency in the novel risks inhibiting and perverting the process of composition, and will have the effect of corrupting all literary production. Ultimately, this results in the loss of the reader’s trust: “If the true artist ever weeps it probably is then, when he fi rst discovers the fearful price that he has to pay for the privilege of writing in the English language—no less a price than the complete extinction, in the mind of every mature and penetrating reader, of sympathetic belief in his personages” (19). By following Eliot’s lead in associating truth of representation with the reader’s capacity for sympathy—and by extension with the moral import of the novel—Hardy turns the argument in favor of censorship on its head, claiming that limiting an author’s range of subject will result in work of literature that is less moral than one that is free of these restraints. He goes on to suggest that the root of this misplaced restraint is confusion between the subject of the novel and its treatment of that subject, as he complains that even when a novel has a clear message condemning immoral behavior, it is still subject to a prudish limitation: “But the writer may print the not of his broken commandment in capitals of flame; it makes no difference. A question which should be wholly a question of treatment is confusedly regarded as a question of subject” (20). Like Linton, Hardy places an emphasis on treatment here that distances him from Zola’s insistence on removing questions of morality entirely from the debate. The censors are wrong to declare certain subjects off-limits to the novel, but they are not wrong to suggest that literature should take into account questions of moral judgment in their representation of those subjects. Just as Moore defends his own novels on the grounds that they are no less moral than those circulated by Mr. Mudie, so Hardy endorses the idea that the author’s freedom to discuss the full range of human behavior is accompanied by a responsibility to present these topics from a moral standpoint: “Nothing in such literature should for a moment exhibit lax views of that purity of life upon which the well-being of society depends; but the position of man and woman in nature, and the position of belief in the minds of man and woman—things which everybody is thinking but nobody is saying—might be taken up and treated frankly” (21). Despite the relative moderation of this position, Hardy’s novels of the eighties and nineties were widely condemned and censored for their “candour” and their “frank” treatment of women, marriage, and sexuality, and most nineteenth-century critics were struck by the extent to which Hardy refrained from imposing clear or conventional moral judgments on those portrayals. Hardy walks an extremely fi ne line in this commentary, as he seems to concede the need for moral restraint, yet also subtly creates a space for his novel’s own groundbreaking “treatment” of gender and sexuality. The threat of censorship may well lead Moore, Linton, and Hardy to make defensive claims for the “moral message” of literature that their own


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works do not in fact embody. The need to respond to the extreme conservatism of the anti-naturalist position seems to push these writers to seek refuge in the earlier Victorian claims that the novel is a benevolent pedagogical medium, rather than allowing them to articulate more specifically the developments of narrative hospitality emerging in their own novels and those of their contemporaries.

V. FROM OBSCENITY IN THE NOVEL TO THE ART OF FICTION Whether or not the novels are consistent with the rhetoric of either side, the intensity of the debate over naturalism and censorship seems to die down as the century comes to a close. In 1890, the same year that the “Candour in English Fiction” essays appear, Edmund Gosse declares that these questions have been supplanted by others, as literary form moves in a new direction. Son of the naturalist Philip Henry Gosse, Edmund Gosse was a writer, translator, and critic of art and literature. With William Archer, he is responsible for the earliest translations of Henrik Ibsen’s plays in England. “The Limits of Realism in Fiction” appeared in the well-regarded American monthly, Forum, and in it Gosse assesses the state of the novel since Zola’s “Experimental Novel” appeared in 1880. Claiming that the experimental novel was never taken up by English writers, with the exception of Moore, he nevertheless praises Zola’s role in consolidating an identifiable development in novelistic representation, allowing connections to be drawn between French, Russian, and American literature of the period. Gosse thus casts a positive light on the same trend that causes so much anxiety among the conservative British commentators, as he highlights the extent to which the novel is becoming a self-consciously international form, opening up new lines of communication between readers and authors of different countries. He reads Zola’s theory as a hospitable invitation to a larger literary community, rather than an attack on England’s moral certainties. While not everyone felt this way in 1890, it is certainly telling that such a view was published in a mainstream periodical by a respected literary critic. Gosse goes on to summarize the key elements of Zola’s theory, emphasizing more than the participants in the “Candour in Fiction” debate his insistence on impartiality and rejection of the sympathetic reader as ideal: “It is to be contemporary; it is to be founded on and limited by actual experience; it is to reject all empirical modes of awakening sympathy and interest; its aim is to place before its readers living beings, acting the comedy of life as naturally as possible” (394). Pointing out that Zola defines a method rather than a subject for fiction, Gosse argues that earlier writers actually practiced a similar mode of realism, naming as examples Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, and Jane Austen: “Miss Austen did not observe over a wide area, but within the circle of her experience she disguised nothing, neglected nothing, glossed over nothing” (394–95). Gosse accepts the claim of Moore,

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Hardy, and Zola himself that it is both possible and desirable to differentiate between the novel’s subject and the author’s treatment of that subject, and thus sees affinities between Zola and the earlier British authors that are lost on the anti-naturalists. For Gosse, this claim supports his argument that a longstanding tradition of literary realism is on the verge of giving way to a new mode of fiction, but it also intervenes in the censorship debate in an innovative way. To suggest that Zola’s methods are not a radical departure from an earlier, morally responsible kind of English novel allows Gosse to defend him on less defensive terms, and to approach the question of the relationship between form and content in the novel in an analytic rather than combative mode. To even mention Austen and Fielding as precursors of Zola is to shift radically the aspects of the novel under discussion. Gosse’s larger argument is that the realist method has exhausted itself, and that this is responsible for the flaws in the novels of the period. He suggests that in contrast to Austen, who strictly limited her field of observation, the naturalists try to apply a method of detailed examination to a broad range of subjects, and that the novels are thereby rendered imbalanced: [ . . . ] but perhaps it can in a measure be accounted for by the inherent disproportion which exists between the small flat surface of a book and the vast arch of life which it undertakes to mirror, those studies being least liable to distortion which reflect the smallest section of life, and those in which ambitious masters endeavor to make us feel the mighty movements of populous cities and vast bodies of men being the most inevitably misshapen. (397)20 In contrast to Lang and others, Gosse endorses the naturalist desire to engage closely with the world the novel represents, and values the insights achieved in these works; his critique of the form is only engendered by its attempt to master too great a field, to exceed its appropriate scope. The naturalist novel runs into trouble not when it delves into the young girl’s bedroom, but rather when it pulls back to try to take in the whole of the city in which she lives. Although Gosse does not describe this limitation in ethical terms, the idea of a tension between the conventions of realism and the larger and more diverse range of subjects the novel takes on in this period is, I would argue, a matter of the novel’s ethical responsibility—hospitality—to the world it represents. In light of increasing skepticism about the commonality of moral frameworks and the accessibility of universal truths, authors must reshape the form of the novel to accommodate a new acknowledgement of the presence of otherness and the limits of knowledge. In the chapters that follow, I will analyze these late-century transformations in the form of the novel in terms of narrative hospitality. Although Gosse’s examples of the harbingers of a new style to come differ from those that would be cited now—he groups James with the outdated realists, and claims that

48 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction Guy de Maupassant and Leo Tolstoy are ushering in the new literary conventions—he presciently forecasts some of the ways in which modernism will enact a self-conscious modification of realist modes to accommodate the representation of the changed landscape of the early twentieth century. Thus although Gosse was unable to know that James would himself help to forge and defi ne the next stage of the modern novel, it is in James’s contribution to a parallel debate in the eighties, about the “art of fiction,” that the outlines of this new form fi rst emerge. 21 This debate begins not with James’s own essay but rather, according to most critics, with an article about James written by his fellow American novelist William Dean Howells for the prestigious Century Illustrated Magazine (published in New York, as the successor to Scribner’s Monthly Magazine) in 1882. Howells offers a defense of James’s naturalist style, and suggests that he represents a new school of fiction, although not one based on Zola’s “Experimental Novel.” Howells claims that this new school is anticipated by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Eliot, and Alphonse Daudet but not Zola, and he seems to want to shield James from the obscenity associated with Zola’s naturalism, asserting that James’s realism: “[ . . . ] has a soul of its own which is above the business of recording the rather brutish pursuit of a woman by a man, which seems to be the chief end of the French novelist” (28). 22 Having distanced James from Zola’s representations of sexuality and associated him with Eliot’s interest in character, however, Howells also draws a sharp distinction between James and Eliot on the issue of morality and the novel, claiming that: “[ . . . ] with George Eliot an ethical purpose is dominant, and with Mr. James an artistic purpose” (26). He then uses this distinction as the basis of an extended contrast between two famous heroines, Middlemarch’s Dorothea Brooke and Portrait of a Lady’s Isabelle Archer. Howells’s aversion to Zola notwithstanding, this segregation of aesthetic and ethical concerns marks an important moment in discussions of the novel in this period, as he declares unequivocally that a strong moral perspective is not intrinsic to the novel as a literary form. The commentator Howells most resembles here is Zola himself, who also suggested that the experimental novel participates in a scientific discourse that maintains a deliberate and necessary amorality. By clearing a space for the question of treatment that is not dependent on the need to censor or manipulate the subject of the novel, and that also refuses to accept the reader’s sympathy as a measure of the novel’s value, Howells anticipates James’s radical rethinking of literary form as an art. 23 This shift in focus marks the clearest break between Victorian novel theory and James’s “Art of Fiction.”



When James writes his 1884 essay, “The Art of Fiction,” then, he is trying in large part to establish his own theory of the aesthetics of the novel,

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one that will flesh out Howells’s distinction between Eliot’s works and his own. Viewed within the context of the censorship debates, however, I argue that James’s essay provides a crucial missing piece in the decade’s reconsideration of the novel, as he steps back to address the central questions of content, form, and treatment in realism. Rereading his famous treatise in the context of these debates thus allows us to appreciate James’s intervention not simply in questions of fictional form, but crucially in the profound shift in understanding of the ethical implications of the novel. The essay is not written in direct response to Howells, but ostensibly comes as a reply to a lecture given by Besant at the Royal Institution in April of 1884, and later published in both England and America. In his ‘Art of Fiction’, Besant makes a plea for the importance of sympathy in the novel that makes him sound quite close to Eliot initially, although he goes on to link the morality of the novel to issues of national identity in ways that align him with the most conservative critics: Again, the modern English novel, whatever form it takes, almost always starts with a conscious moral purpose. When it does not, so much are we accustomed to expect it, that one feels as if there has been a debasement of the Art. It is, fortunately, not possible in this country for any man to defile and defame humanity and still be called an artist; the development of modern sympathy, the growing reverence for the individual, the ever-widening love of things beautiful and the appreciation of lives made beautiful by devotion and self-denial, the sense of personal responsibility among the English-speaking races, the deep-seated religion of our people, even in a time of doubt, are all forces which act strongly upon the artist as well as upon his readers, and lend to his work, whether he will or not, a moral purpose so clearly marked that it has become practically a law of English Fiction. (29) While critics have offered varying reasons for James’s choosing to respond to this essay, given its conservative and non-theoretical tone, I suggest that he wanted in part to address one extreme position on the relationship between morality and fiction with his own deeply opposed but equally radical treatise on the amoral aesthetics of the novel.24 He is attracted to Besant’s lecture because it highlights the questions surrounding the status of the novel as questions of art, and begins to speak in general terms about the purpose and form of literature. Although James disagrees with the specific content of much of what Besant says, he welcomes the opportunity to speak not simply about specific novels, authors, or measures of obscenity, but rather about the complexity of the process of novelistic representation. 25 My own reading of this famous text will suggest that, despite his protests to the contrary, James puts forth a new understanding of the ethics of literature, and that this position resonates provocatively with the concept of narrative hospitality.

50 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction James’s “Art of Fiction,” originally published in Longman’s Magazine, an important vehicle for new fiction, begins by limiting and clarifying the purpose of the novel: “The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does compete with life. When it ceases to compete as the canvas of the painter competes, it will have arrived at a very strange pass” (503).26 While this appears at first glance to be a fairly obvious statement, the essay goes on to demonstrate that most commentators of the period have in fact expected the novel to do a host of other things in addition to “compete with life,” and that these false expectations are responsible for much misguided literary criticism. By placing the novel in the same category as painting, James also reinforces Besant’s call to treat literature as equivalent to the other “fine arts,” and to grant the writer the same aesthetic freedom and respect that is already given to the painter. This insistence is necessary, he argues, because too many commentators are still suspicious of the novel, believing that: “Literature should be either instructive or amusing, and there is in many minds an impression that these artistic preoccupations, the search for form, contribute to neither end, interfere indeed with both” (505).27 In this single statement, James distances himself from two distinct arguments against the new realism (including his own recent fiction): that it is obscene and therefore immoral, and that it is esoteric, in contrast to the romance, and therefore boring. Refusing to engage these critics on their own terms, he instead clears the ground for his introduction of new terms for understanding fictional forms. One aspect of this distancing is James’s resistance to the creation of subgenres of novels, based on action versus character or romance versus realism. He declares that such categories are derived from the novel’s subject, rather than its execution, and are thus of no use for evaluating the artistic merits of literature, the only important criterion, according to James, of whether a novel is good or bad: “The novel and the romance, the novel of incident and that of character—these separations appear to me to have been made by critics and readers for their own convenience, and to help them out of some of their difficulties, but to have little reality or interest for the producer, from whose point of view it is, of course, that we are attempting to consider the art of fiction” (512). Although his tone is measured, this statement represents a fairly sweeping dismissal of much writing about the novel in the period, and makes it clear that James is addressing a more theoretical level of questions of form and composition. In addition, by insisting on a single standard for the novel, regardless of its particular content or style, he implies that the form itself is inherently flexible and hospitable to a range of subjects. James traces in detail the implications of the assertion, made by other commentators, that the value of a novel lies in its treatment of its subject, not in the substance of that content. This exploration of form as distinct from content sets the stage for James’s engagement with the novel as itself a medium that enacts the ethics of hospitality. The fi rst logical outgrowth of this position is that authors must be free to write about anything they choose: “[ . . . ] the good health of an art which

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undertakes so immediately to reproduce life must demand that it be perfectly free. It lives upon exercise, and the very meaning of exercise is freedom. The only obligation to which in advance we may hold a novel without incurring the accusation of being arbitrary, is that it be interesting” (507). Shifting the debate, as promised, to the composition of the text, James seems close to Hardy’s argument that the novelist not be restrained by outside forces as he or she shapes a work of fiction. Since the novel reflects an individual’s experience of the world, the specific style and structure of the writing must follow from the accurate recording of these impressions, and cannot be dictated in advance: The form, it seems to me, is to be appreciated after the fact; then the author’s choice has been made, his standard has been indicated; then we can follow lines and directions and compare tones. [ . . . ] The execution belongs to the author alone; it is what is most personal to him, and we measure him by that. The advantage, the luxury, as well as the torment and responsibility of the novelist, is that there is no limit to what he may attempt as an executant—no limit to his possible experiments, efforts, discoveries, successes. (507) Like Hardy, James stresses both the necessary freedom for the novelist, and the responsibility that must accompany such artistic freedom. In contrast to the “Candour in Fiction” essays, however, James never defi nes that responsibility in relation to social standards of morality. Instead, the artist’s responsibility is to the truth of his or her own experience, to the task of representing the world faithfully within the pages of the novel. This aesthetic commitment certainly has an ethical dimension, I would argue, but James is very careful to distance it from Victorian associations between literature and moral teaching. Indeed, he does not even raise the question of morality explicitly until the end of the essay, as if to guard against misreading of what has come before: We are discussing the Art of Fiction; questions of art are questions (in the widest sense) of execution; questions of morality are quite another affair, and will you not let us see how it is that you fi nd it so easy to mix them up? These things are so clear to Mr. Besant that he has deduced from them a law which he sees embodied in English Fiction and which is “a truly admirable thing and a great cause for congratulation.” It is a great cause for congratulation, indeed, when such thorny problems become as smooth as silk. (519) In one of his most direct challenges to Besant’s lecture, James mocks his confident assertion that the English novel is inherently moral—a claim Besant will attribute to the unimpeachable morality of middle-class British women in his later contribution to the “Candour in Fiction” series. Instead, James


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

insists on the independence of aesthetics and morality, resisting the idea that the novelist is responsible to a set of values that lie outside the realm of art or the task of faithful representation. While Hardy, Moore, and Linton seem willing to concede some sensitivity or moral judgment in the writer’s treatment of “immoral” subject matter, James requires that the novelist’s execution of his or her text be free from any such considerations. The only link between morality and the novel James acknowledges is that which originates in the author’s mind: “There is one point at which the moral sense and the artistic lie very near together; that is, in the light of the very obvious truth that the deepest quality of a work of art will always be the quality of the mind of the producer. In proportion as that mind is rich and noble will the novel, the picture, the statue, partake of the substance of beauty and truth. To be constituted of such elements is, to my vision, to have purpose enough” (520). Since the novel must not be distorted in response to external pressures, the morality of fiction can only be located within the perspective of the author. And even then, James characterizes morality in the Keatsian language of “beauty and truth,” thus giving an aesthetic cast to the question of ethics. In his extended discussion of the “truth” of the novel, the author’s responsibility to record the particularities of experience, James articulates a quite different sense of the ethics of novelistic representation. He begins by acknowledging the difficulty of establishing what constitutes experience, and thus whether its representation is complete or accurate: It is equally excellent and inconclusive to say that one must write from experience; to our supposititious aspirant such a declaration might savour of mockery. What kind of experience is intended, and where does it begin and end? Experience is never limited and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web, of the fi nest silken threads, suspended in the chamber of consciousness and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue. It is the very atmosphere of the mind; and when the mind is imaginative—much more when it happens to be that of a man of genius—it takes to itself the faintest hints of life, it converts the very pulses of the air into revelations. (509) Starting with Besant’s rather inane claim that the author should only write what he or she knows, James famously complicates the nature of knowledge itself, suggesting that the individual’s experience of the world is fleeting, always partial, and depends upon a certain receptivity to that which one encounters. And this emphasis on openness and the impossibility of completion resonates with ethics as hospitality, as the self’s welcome of that which is other, even as it seems entirely foreign to conventional Victorian rules for the moral content of the novel. If for James the individual’s experience of the world has an ethical dimension, then so too does the artistic process of translating that experience into a literary representation of the world:

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[ . . . ] I may therefore venture to say that the air of reality (solidity of specification) seems to me to be the supreme virtue of a novel—the merit on which all its other merits (including that conscious moral purpose of which Mr. Besant speaks) helplessly and submissively depend. [ . . . ] The cultivation of this success, the study of this exquisite process, form, to my taste, the beginning and the end of the art of the novelist. [ . . . ] It is here, in very truth, that he competes with life; it is here that he competes with his brother the painter in his attempt to render the look of things, the look that conveys their meaning, to catch the colour, the relief, the expression, the surface, the substance of the human spectacle. (510–511) James describes the novel’s relation to its subject not in terms of static representation, but rather as an active engagement between text and world, in which the story within the novel has the capacity for the same kind of life and substance as that without. To achieve an artistically faithful rendering of any aspect of human life, the novel itself must be receptive to the singularity of that life, and it is in this relation that the ethics of the novel resides. Whereas Eliot casts the reader as the locus of ethics between novel and world, James articulates a more direct encounter between text and experience. A bit later in the essay, James describes this process of composition as “selection,” but as usual this term takes on a complex and almost paradoxical meaning: Catching the very note and trick, the strange irregular rhythm of life, that is the attempt whose strenuous force keeps Fiction upon her feet. In proportion as in what she offers us we see life without rearrangement do we feel that we are touching the truth; in proportion as we see it with rearrangement do we feel that we are being put off with a substitute, a compromise and convention. [ . . . ] Art is essentially selection, but it is a selection whose main care is to be typical, to be inclusive. For many people art means rose-coloured windows, and selection means picking a bouquet for Mrs. Grundy. (515) As in the earlier passage, James emphasizes the need to capture those aspects of life which are “irregular” and unpredictable within the novel, to preserve a sense of possibility and randomness even within a mode of representation that is necessarily partial and “selective.” And he explicitly distances this kind of selection, which is responsible only to the accurate representation of life, from the demand that the artist limit his or her portrayal to the socially acceptable aspects of human behavior. In his theory of the novel, James traces out the full implications of the growing sense that there is no longer a single moral standard, or even a basis for a common sympathy, that can govern the composition of literature. As an alternative to these assumptions, he suggests that the ethics of the novel be located in


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

its relation to subject, in the “truth and beauty” of a mode of representation that strives to respect the challenges of an artistic rendering of the world, of successfully creating a work of literature that “competes with life.” Positing an ideal text that is receptive to the world it represents, James articulates an ethics of the novel that requires an orientation of hospitality. Not surprisingly, James ends his essay with qualified praise for the novels of Zola: “In France to-day we see a prodigious effort (that of Emile Zola, to whose solid and serious work no explorer of the capacity of the novel can allude without respect), we see an extraordinary effort vitiated by a spirit of pessimism on a narrow basis” (521). Although he is ambivalent about the novels themselves, James acknowledges Zola as the only author whose approach to rethinking literary form is as radical as his own. As we have seen, the two writers consider questions of art and representation from almost diametrically opposed perspectives, as Zola approvingly suggests that realism is moving away from aesthetics and towards sociology, while James stresses that only aesthetic criteria hold any meaning in discussions of the novel. James correctly recognizes, however, that he and Zola are together establishing new ways of thinking about the relationship between novel and world that will have a far-reaching influence on the next generation of writers, the underlying assumptions of which can already be seen in the literature of the period. Whereas the “ardent eighties” witnessed a veritable explosion of debates about new realism and the novel—debates that centered on literature’s relationship to household and nation, and that laid the foundation for James’s rethinking of narrative form—these conversations were ushered in by the literature of one of the most important of the “old realists,” George Eliot.28 Although her essays insist on the value of sympathy both within the novel and between reader and character, her fi nal work of fiction brings Jewish characters into the heart of the English novel. It thereby challenges, I argue in the next chapter, the limits of sympathetic morality in the face of a demand for unconditional hospitality.


George Eliot Leaves Home The Mill on the Floss and Daniel Deronda

In her 1856 essay “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists,” George Eliot savagely mocks the clichéd moral platitudes of the “lady novelists” (and their readers) whose works proclaim: “It is a fact, no less true than melancholy, that all people, more or less, richer or poorer, are swayed by bad example;” that “Books, however trivial, contain some subjects from which useful information may be drawn;” that “Vice can too often borrow the language of virtue;” [ . . . ] and that, “In order to forgive, we must have been injured.” There is, doubtless, a class of readers to whom these remarks appear peculiarly pointed and pungent; for we often fi nd them doubly and trebly scored with the pencil, and delicate hands giving in their determined adhesion to these hardly novelties by a distinct très vrai, emphasized by many notes of exclamation. (247) As we have seen in Chapter 1, Eliot’s writing is central to any discussion of ethics in the Victorian novel, and it is crucial to recognize that she has no more tolerance for moralistic simplicity in literature than do the later commentators who accuse her own novels of heavy-handed didacticism. In addition to their philosophical pretensions, Eliot also castigates the lady novelists for their inability to represent people and events realistically, and in her own novels she strives to do justice to these interdependent elements of faithful representation and ethical significance. There is thus no better field for exploring the shift in literary ethics from sympathy to hospitality than Eliot’s oeuvre, as all of her novels can be said to test the limits of realism’s ability to both represent and engender ethical relations. And while it is risky to characterize any of her works as dealing only with sympathy or hospitality, I argue that in her last novel, Daniel Deronda, Eliot self-consciously proposes a new ethical orientation as an alternative response to that which is difficult or even impossible to know. To illustrate the nature of this shift, I will briefly consider the representation of home and sympathy in her 1860 novel, The Mill on the Floss. Anticipating and reflecting cultural shifts in the status of nation, identity, and


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

the domestic sphere, the contrast between these two works helps to clarify the move from the morality of sympathy to the ethics of hospitality in the nineteenth century.



In its very title, The Mill on the Floss announces its preoccupation with home. Reinforcing this nostalgic atmosphere of attachment to land and family, the narrator asks: “What novelty is worth that sweet monotony where everything is known and loved because it is known?” (94). In the course of the novel, Eliot will pose this question in a variety of circumstances, and the answer will almost always, although in complex and controversial ways, favor the known. But more important than the specific answer is the possibility of the question itself; in the world of The Mill, novelty can be viewed as a choice rather than as a condition of existence, and it is brightly defined against a backdrop of that which is known, or home. This emphasis on the stability of origin and place determines the specific shape of the narrative, as well as its commitment to a model of ethics that is based in sympathy, loyalty, and continuity with the known. Whereas hospitality might seem to similarly value home, it crucially shifts the locus of ethics towards the arrival of the stranger, and thus calls into question the stability and closure of the socially embedded self. Although the limits of home-centered realism will be challenged by Maggie’s struggles, the text stops short of the leap beyond those limits that is dramatized in Daniel Deronda and other novels by openness to the non-negotiable presence of otherness—the demand of unconditional hospitality. In some ways, The Mill can be seen as ending with the very tensions that will drive the narrative from the beginning of Deronda. As many critics have noted, at the foundation of self in The Mill is a sense of home as beginning, as the lens or original material through which the world is perceived and within which life unfolds. When Tom fi rst returns from Mr. Stelling’s schooling, he experiences: [ . . . ] the happiness of passing from the cold air to the warmth and the kisses and the smiles of that familiar hearth where the patterns of the rug and the grate and the fi re-irons were “fi rst ideas” that it was no more possible to criticise than the solidity and extension of matter. There is no sense of ease like the ease we felt in those scenes where we were born, where objects became dear to us before we had known the labour of choice, and where the outer world seemed only an extension of our own personality: we accepted and loved it as we accepted our own sense of existence and our own limbs. (222) This passage is remarkable in part because it extends the importance of home far beyond the idea of a safe haven or location of a younger and

George Eliot Leaves Home 57 less complex sense of self in relation to the world. Indeed, Eliot suggests here that the connection to home, the sense of being rooted in a particular place, mediates all access to the outside world. The consciousness of self is formed by and embedded within these early experiences, so that they become the crucial touchstone for future identifications and choices. This model of identity implies an ethic of relating to others that values likeness, comprehension, and fi nally assimilation and sympathy, a stance that is further reinforced by the narrator’s use of “we,” as he assumes a common sentiment among readers. Although Maggie’s and Tom’s stories will proceed to unfold in radically different directions, one characteristic they share is the need to measure their own actions against the requirements and influence of their earliest ties.1 These ties can provide structure and direction or they may constrict and ultimately drown, but in either case they imply a particular kind of morality, a basis for action that privileges continuity over difference, loyalty to the old over receptivity and openness to the unfamiliar or strange. Maggie articulates her sense of priority explicitly to Stephen: “‘It is not the force that ought to rule us—this that we feel for each other—it would rend me away from all my past life has made dear and holy to me. I can’t set out on a fresh life, and forget that—I must go back to it, and cling to it,— else I shall feel as if there were nothing fi rm beneath my feet’” (605). The original relationships are not simply fond memories or strong influences on Maggie; instead, she experiences them as the very ground “beneath [her] feet,” and to break with them would be to lose all sense of self. Once again, Eliot stresses the close relationship between identity and home, both metaphoric and, in spatial terms, metonymic, as Maggie imagines the home as a symbol of self and physically returns home rather than elope with Stephen. The Mill’s emphasis on a home-based sense of identity, both as the lens through which the world is experienced and as the moral foundation from which all choices are judged, shapes the narrative. If the realm of the known is primary, then new experiences can only be assimilated to the self through sympathetic identification or refused entirely; a model of hospitality in which the “home base” of the self is changed in the encounter with the other is foreclosed. The novel is most invested, of course, in Maggie’s struggle to reconcile this strong identification with home with her aspirations in the larger world. From the beginning of the text, Maggie is differentiated from Tom in part by her ambivalent attraction to the unknown, dramatized most clearly by her misguided foray into the gypsy camp. Already associated with the gypsies by her family due to her “brown” skin, dark eyes, and unruly hair, Maggie imagines that she will be both welcomed and worshipped by the nomadic community. Instead, of course, she is taken aback by differences of culture and especially social class, and fi nds herself yearning for the home she has so recently left. In part, the scene serves to reinforce the complexity of Eliot’s understanding of sympathy. Rather than valorizing Maggie’s


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

condescending attraction to difference, she highlights the social and political pitfalls of approaching the other in terms of the same. Simultaneously, however, the episode also underscores a lack of options; unable to take responsibility for otherness, Maggie returns home to develop a more ethical but still limited orientation of sympathetic care. Similarly, other episodes early in the novel reflect this tendency to approach and then retreat from the unknown, in a temporal as well as a spatial realm; even as a child, Maggie is described as having a remarkable ability to envision a range of future possibilities and missed opportunities for herself. The narrator attributes her self-recrimination in the wake of her rebellious haircut to this tendency: “[ . . . ] for Maggie rushed to her deeds with passionate impulse, and then saw not only their consequences, but what would have happened if they had not been done, with all the detail and exaggerated circumstance of an active imagination” (121). This early instance of impetuously cutting her own hair anticipates her later actions with Stephen, when she will actually be forced to live out the consequences of an action that she does not fi nally choose to take, thus translating her imaginative regret into reality. It also highlights Maggie’s relationship to time and choice, as she moves psychically back in time to regret actions taken and then forward from that fictional moment to conjure a complete image of an alternative course of events. This projection of the self away to the gypsy camp or forward through time is consistent with the home-centered identity discussed above, as it implies the existence of a secure base from which to experience regret or to imagine a different narrative of cause and effect. In contrast to less centered characters (including the new women of the other novels of this study, Gwendolen, Grace, and Lyndall), Maggie does not turn for refuge to a different idea of self. Instead, she simply wishes that she had acted differently, more consistently with the dictates of home, thus producing an alternate reality within which it would be possible to reconcile her aspirations and her origins. While any character can experience similar desires, Eliot makes it clear in Mill that Maggie’s acute sense of restlessness and confl ict is a specifically female dilemma. As Nancy K. Miller puts it in an important early feminist reading of the novel, “This demand of the heroine for something else is in part what I mean by ‘italicization’: the extravagant wish for a story that would turn out differently” (44). Miller points out that Maggie’s limitations as a character are paralleled by the limited plots available to nineteenth-century women writers. Narrative hospitality, I argue, is one late-century response to this need to accommodate a changed understanding of gender and home. Unlike the new women to come, Maggie does not express a desire to break free from her identity or place in the world. Although her imaginative boundaries will widen and deepen, producing within her a profound dissatisfaction, Maggie’s aspirations never lose the sense of being fundamentally grounded in her original sense of self; what she wants is a world that can

George Eliot Leaves Home 59 accommodate the desires of Maggie, not a new Maggie to better survive in the world: “Maggie [ . . . ] was a creature full of eager, passionate longings for all that was beautiful and glad [ . . . ] with a blind, unconscious yearning for something that would link together the wonderful impressions of this mysterious life and give her soul a sense of home in it” (320). While Maggie (and Eliot) recognize the existence of an alternate “mysterious life,” one that might be expected fundamentally to transform the self, this possibility is immediately and paradoxically associated with the image of Maggie’s “soul” at “home” in it, language that implies continuity and security rather than novelty or openness. Maggie’s ultimately unsolvable dilemma is framed as a conflict between a home-rooted identity and the desire for an existence that exceeds those roots, one that goes beyond loyalty to original ties and that entails a greater significance. This conflict is embodied within the plot of the novel, of course, in the form of Maggie’s choice between two potential lovers, Philip and Stephen. Although Stephen only problematically represents the opportunities of the larger world, Maggie’s relationship to Philip, formed in childhood and strongly associated with both intellect and pity, is clearly emblematic of an early sense of self. And it is in the context of their relationship that Maggie articulates most clearly the strong conviction that the present and future must be continuous with the past, that all actions must be justifiable within the home-centered framework, as opposed to breaking with it. Philip questions whether there is any hope for a future with Maggie, and her answer reflects the web of connections within which her self is defi ned: “Then the future will never join on to the past again, Maggie?—That book is quite closed?” [ . . . ] “That book will never be closed, Philip,” she said, with grave sadness, “I desire no future that will break the ties of the past. But the tie to my brother is one of the strongest. I can do nothing willingly that will divide me always from him.” [ . . . ] in Maggie’s mind the first scenes of love and parting were more present than the actual moment, and she was looking at Philip in the Red Deeps. (564) Philip’s metaphor of the book is significant here, as the passage of time is explicitly associated with narrative, and the possibility of a future relationship with an open, unending book. From Philip’s perspective, to marry Maggie would be to continue a story that began in childhood, to engender a narration of the future that is consistent with, rather than a break in, the ongoing “book” of their connection. Maggie’s reply, while participating in this imagery and promising that the book will “never be closed,” emphasizes her own embeddedness in home and family. To choose Philip is to lose Tom, and the result for Maggie is a kind of paralysis, in stark contrast to Philip’s open book. Thus when Maggie is described as inhabiting a past moment with Philip, as looking at him “in the Red Deeps,” the narrator highlights the extent


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

to which Maggie sees the open book as a fi nite and limited narrative, one which can only be re-read, but which does not imply any imaginative projection into the future. The dead end of her sense of a temporal relation to Philip is reinforced by the transition from Philip’s images of time and narrative to Maggie’s strong association between Philip and place: the Red Deeps. Locations do not move forward in time, they are permanent, and the “Red Deeps” suggests a privileging of home and depth over breadth or scope, a digging in to an essentially static relationship between them— forever frozen in a moment before their love is consummated or made public. By denying the possibility of a future with Philip, Maggie limits her options to a choice between a complete break (Stephen) or a complete return. Whereas the ethics of hospitality allows the space of home to be disturbed and potentially transformed by that which is new and unpredictable, Maggie draws a stark distinction between self and otherness. This gives her no choice but to retreat back to a familiar and static sense of home-based identity from which she is able to limit her relations to those of understanding and sympathy. The strong connection between identity and place implies a particular mode of engagement with the world, a relation to other people that both constitutes and extends the foundation of the self in the realm of the home. The relative stability of a securely grounded self-identity tends to ensure that newcomers will be drawn into the circle of the self, approached from an assumption of mutual understanding and sympathy. 2 This dynamic, while consistent with a traditional understanding of hospitality as a process of bringing the stranger into the space of family and friends, is opposed to the ethics of unconditional hospitality. As in other novels, Eliot exposes the difficulty and limitations of the ethics of sympathy, but Mill is much more invested in exploring the shape and consequences of those limitations than in proposing a viable alternative to them. In his fi nal letter to Maggie, Philip articulates exactly how he has learned to sympathize from his involvement with her: The new life I have found in caring for your joy and sorrow more than for what is directly my own, has transformed the spirit of rebellious murmuring into that willing endurance which is the birth of strong sympathy. I think nothing but such complete and intense love could have initiated me into that enlarged life which grows and grows by appropriating the life of others; for before, I was always dragged back from it by ever-present painful self-consciousness. (634) Here Philip articulates precisely the tensions that characterize a complex understanding of sympathy-based morality. While his initial gesture to place Maggie’s needs before his own hints at something like the Levinasian ethical relation, this element is quickly drowned out by the language of otherness as assimilated to the self, and thus functioning to enlarge rather than

George Eliot Leaves Home 61 challenge it. Sympathy can fi nally only “appropriate” rather than respect the “life of others.” It is also important that Philip attributes his reformation to his relationship with Maggie; lacking a mother and a strong sense of home (as the son of the ambitious lawyer Wakem), Philip must acquire the ability to sympathize with others so strongly that they are incorporated into and merged with his own sense of self. Thus even as Eliot represents an already artistic character developing a more complex moral outlook, this development still unfolds within the emotional and ethical boundaries of Maggie’s attachment to home, and is incapable of offering a viable alternative future for Philip or Maggie.3 When Maggie contemplates a life with Stephen, she is forced to recognize her sympathetic attachments as primary: “Was that existence which tempted her, the full existence she dreamed? Where, then, would be all the memories of early striving, all the deep pity for another’s pain which had been nurtured in her through years of affection and hardship, all the divine presentiment of something higher than mere personal enjoyment which had made the sacredness of life?” (582). This strong conviction of the incompatibility of a life with Stephen and the maintenance of her essential identity drives Maggie home from the aborted elopement—not so much loyalty to Philip, Lucy, or Tom in particular, but rather commitment to the value of loyalty itself. In addition, the passage makes it clear that choosing Stephen would not represent ethical responsibility for the other, but rather “personal enjoyment.” Maggie’s alternative to home is not worthy of unconditional hospitality, of the surrendering of self-consolidation to the demands of the other. The only ethical choice is represented as the retreat to home. As many have noted, Maggie’s decision to go home rather than marry Stephen serves to foreshadow her fi nal “return” to home in the form of the deadly flood. The end of the novel has been the subject of a lively critical debate, especially among feminists, who variously see in Maggie’s drowning the ultimate failure of female self-assertion or a liberating alternative to the early possibilities available to women, with many positions in between.4 Almost all readings agree, however, that the flood serves to mark the impossibility of a satisfactory reconciliation between Maggie’s desires and her reality. While such tensions are the subject of many Victorian novels, The Mill is remarkable for its refusal to imagine an acceptable accommodation between the aspirations of the protagonist and the demands of society. The novel’s establishment of the value of a home-centered continuity of identity, in conjunction with its commitment to a realist representation of the limitations and complexities of a diverse social world, leave little alternative space within which Maggie might successfully imagine—much less experience—a “happy ending.” Many critics have analyzed Eliot’s refusal in The Mill of the most common convention of realist closure, the marriage plot. Gillian Beer and Penny Boumelha both argue that the end of the novel is non-realist. According to Boumelha: “The irreconcilable contradictions of ideology and form

62 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction bring the novel hard up against the limits of its own realism, and the flood that crashes through those barriers submerges the world of history (and of mimetic realism) along with St. Ogg’s, bringing with it the victory of symbol, legend, fantasy” (“George Eliot” 29). By limiting Maggie’s choice of potential husbands to two options, each of which seems an irrevocable betrayal of an aspect of self, Eliot calls into question the realist novel’s ability to successfully reconcile individual desires with the contingencies of the larger world. Although the feminist critics see this as a particularly gendered attack on the underlying politics of the Bildungsroman, I’d also like to read it in more general terms as an early symptom of the growing pressure on the realist novel to recognize and respond to—rather than omit or gloss over—aspects of that larger world that are unpredictable and difficult or even impossible to accommodate. 5 While the later novels of this study, including Deronda, incorporate a more explicit critique of the marriage plot as representing an unsatisfying compromise for nineteenthcentury women, Mill forecloses an ending of reconciliation without comment, allowing the symbolism of the flood to be interpreted variously by readers and critics. The flood then becomes a deeply ambivalent ending, one which refuses the closure of marriage in favor of a total return (or regression) to the self of the home. While the flood itself may be seen as a break with realism— acting as a kind of Deus ex machina to terminate Maggie’s dilemma prematurely—it allows the novel as a whole to sustain its uncompromisingly realist representation of the clash between self and world, to avoid glossing over the starkness of that conflict with a contrived resolution. And while the flooding of the Floss can be read as an acknowledgement of Maggie’s dissatisfaction with the limits of loyalty to home, Eliot’s final work, Daniel Deronda, will push beyond those limits to welcome a new direction for the novel. Simultaneously incorporating and critiquing an extreme form of sympathetic care, Deronda self-consciously addresses the potential de-centering of the self in the encounter with otherness, or the ethics of hospitality.

II. “A CRY FROM THE DEPTHS OF ANOTHER SOUL”: UNCONDITIONAL HOSPITALITY IN DANIEL DERONDA If the initial chapters of The Mill are concerned with placing its characters fi rmly within the context of a physical and emotional space of home, Daniel Deronda opens by introducing two characters, Daniel Deronda and Gwendolen Harleth, whose lack of such a space similarly determines their future behavior. Daniel’s underdeveloped sense of a home-centered identity renders him, and by extension the novel itself, particularly open to the presence and demands of others. This emphasis on uncertainty creates an ethical orientation of the novel that I am calling narrative hospitality, as it

George Eliot Leaves Home 63 explores a relation to otherness that exchanges the ideals of understanding and sympathy for the risks and potential transformation of encountering the other as absolutely other. Respecting and even valuing the extent to which the other cannot be assimilated or even understood, Daniel Deronda investigates the dynamics of hospitality between individuals, communities, and nations. The shift in the treatment of the relationship between self and other, home and stranger, constitutes a new ethical mode in this novel, one that disrupts the realist commitment to communities that are structured by sympathy and the relation to home. 6 Approximately halfway through the novel, the essentially realist narrative of Daniel Deronda is interrupted by Mordecai’s excessive and seemingly irrational demand on Daniel. This demand requires a response that is qualitatively distinct from Daniel’s sympathetic care for Mirah and Gwendolen, for it entails an ethical leap of faith. Before he has learned of his Jewish birth, before knowing that Mordecai is Mirah’s brother, Daniel experiences his reaction to Mordecai’s appeal as “[ . . . ] a profound sensibility to a cry from the depths of another soul; and accompanying that, the summons to be receptive instead of superciliously prejudging” (496). In contrast to sympathy, which is based on the ability to understand the needs of the other party, Daniel’s unconditional hospitality to Mordecai occurs in a state of ignorance. It thus explicitly implies that he acts beyond the limits of rational knowledge. Eliot’s endorsement of Daniel’s response suggests a crucial shift in the shared moral understanding upon which the classic realist novel is based. To dramatize the breakdown she senses in traditional English society, Eliot creates an idealized “Jewish plot” that serves to call into question the structures of community out of which the realist novel develops. As we are introduced to Mirah, Mordecai, and finally Daniel himself as morally exemplary Jewish characters, the novel explores the possibilities and limits of hospitality in both individual and cultural contexts. Simultaneously, at the level of narrative form, the two-part structure of the text dramatizes its own hospitality to “other” stories, and challenges the reader to respond to an unfamiliar fictional presence. Thus the debate about the novel’s coherence that has persisted since Henry James fi rst famously complained about the clash between Gwendolen’s more conventional marriage plot and the “Jewish parts” of the novel is recast when we understand Deronda’s divided structure as a deliberate manifestation of narrative hospitality.7 Testing the limits of her own understanding of the relationship between realism and morality, Eliot explores the complexities of sympathy and the possibility of an ethical orientation of hospitality both within the plot of the novel and in the interactions between reader and text. Furthermore, when Deronda is read as an enactment of narrative hospitality, even Gwendolen’s seemingly recognizably Victorian half of the plot takes on new meaning. Often seen as a character who anticipates the emergence of the new woman in England, Gwendolen’s fi nal remaking of

64 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction self at the end of the novel suggests that, as a result of her interactions with Daniel, she becomes newly receptive to an ethical stance of hospitality, or openness to the unknown. Left widowed and living with her mother and sisters in England, Gwendolen is chastened but still exists in a state of some potential, in contrast to Maggie’s absolute annihilation in Mill. Eliot thus leaves open the possibility for women to redefi ne the British home in terms of hospitality, although she cannot or will not tell this alternate story. To place Deronda in dialogue with Levinas’s writings allows us to use the theory to illuminate the alternatives to sympathy suggested by the novel, as well as to draw on the literary text to challenge the philosophy—to explore the possibilities and limits of an ethics of hospitality as it is enacted within the constraints of an everyday world.8 While my reading is most focused on the radical breakthrough embodied by Daniel’s response to Mordecai, Eliot is also invested in exposing the risks of embracing the unknowability of the other. The two plots of the novel serve in part to shift the question of ethics from Daniel to Gwendolen. While Daniel’s exemplary ethical leap is eclipsed by his newfound Jewish identity and mission, Gwendolen’s ethical awakening is engendered by this same sequence of events, as she is forced to recognize Daniel as other. The transfer of ethical potential from one character to another represents a unique response to the problem of how to represent in linear narrative the singularity of the ethical encounter with the other. Finally, I suggest that an understanding of what is at stake ethically, for both Daniel and Gwendolen, sheds new light on the ongoing debate about the political implications of Daniel’s proto-Zionist quest. The ethical significance of the novel, I argue, is not fully dependent on the specific outcome of Daniel’s journey to the East. Instead, the double ending—in which the resolution of Daniel’s marriage is undermined by Gwendolen’s solitary emergence into an orientation of hospitality—suggests Eliot’s need to question both the politics and the ethics of the realist novel itself.


Daniel’s Sympathy

The openness that will ultimately enable Daniel to embrace, rather than dismiss, Mordecai’s demands is attributed to his unique upbringing as Sir Hugo Mallinger’s “nephew.” Ensconced in a historical, permanent, and luxurious physical home, Daniel is nevertheless ignorant of his true parentage, and therefore feels an enhanced sensitivity to and sympathy for others, even as a child. In contrast to Maggie and Tom’s humble but coherent and loving origins, Daniel’s youthful experience of home is thrown into doubt by his unknown genealogy: “Deronda’s early-wakened susceptibility, charged at fi rst with ready indignation and resistant pride, had raised in him a premature reflection on certain questions of life; it had given a bias to his conscience, a sympathy with certain ills, and a tension of resolve in certain directions, which marked him off from other youths much more than any talents he possessed” (175). These qualities, associated elsewhere in the

George Eliot Leaves Home 65 novel with Daniel’s feminine characteristics, set him apart from the jaded and self-centered perspective on the world which characterizes the society that surrounds him. While Mill is set in a past version of the English countryside, for which the narrator expresses a sense of nostalgia that the reader is assumed to share, Deronda is Eliot’s only novel that addresses contemporary English life. Daniel’s insecure position on the Mallinger estate thus reflects a more general anxiety about the current status and future prospects of the aristocracy, and it is not surprising that he will discover his purpose in life elsewhere. From the outset, the stability of the English home is called into question. Daniel is concerned that his ill-defi ned family background has deprived him of a clear direction for the future, and the narrator suggests that at a certain point, his ability to open himself to all people and pursuits becomes a moral liability, rather than an asset: A too reflective and diff usive sympathy was in danger of paralysing in him that indignation against wrong and that selectness of fellowship which are the conditions of moral force; and in the last few years of confi rmed manhood he had become so keenly aware of this that what he most longed for was either some external event, or some inward light, that would urge him into a definite line of action, and compress his wandering energy. (364–365) Daniel and the narrator are in agreement here that a “defi nite line of action” is required to prevent him from squandering his potential as a morally sensitive individual. For Eliot, while morality is grounded in sympathy with others, this sympathy must be directed towards a particular object in order to make a difference in the world. In some ways, this is consistent with an ethics of hospitality, in that the encounter with the other is what creates the self as a moral entity. The crucial difference between these ethical models is the source and nature of that which shapes the self.9 In this passage, Daniel’s potential mission is seen as a goal that he would actively pursue, and that would channel and “compress his wandering energy.” By contrast, Levinas describes the self’s openness to the other in terms of infi nity; the encounter with otherness redirects our freedom away from self-oriented goals, but it does so in response to an unpredictable and unknowable event: “Finally, infi nity, overflowing the idea of infi nity, puts the spontaneous freedom within us into question. It commands and judges it and brings it to its truth” (T and I 51). Paradoxically, in Levinasian ethics, the other both limits and infi nitely extends the freedom of the self. Thus while Eliot in the guise of the narrator would urge Daniel to pursue a specific goal, a stance of hospitality requires instead that he remain in a state of receptivity, an orientation that will allow the recognition of the infinitely other. Radically distancing himself from psychological conceptions of subjectivity, Levinas declares that Totality and Infinity will “apprehend

66 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction subjectivity [ . . . ] as founded in the idea of infinity” (26). Challenging the sympathetic morality urged by the narrator, Daniel’s ability to respond to Mordecai—to welcome him as other—is dependent on this “too diff usive” orientation towards the world.10 Daniel is marked by this high degree of openness not just to people but also to the physical nature of the world around him, a trait that will be seen again in The Woodlanders’ Giles and African Farm’s Waldo. In contrast to the ambitious and career-focused protagonist of the classic nineteenth-century Bildungsroman, a different mode of masculine selfhood is required by narrative hospitality. Daniel’s sense of interiority is not sealed off by a cynical nature; rather he is characterized as earnest and without guile.11 At its extreme, this level of accessibility leads to a blurring of the traditional boundary between individual and world, interior and exterior: “He was forgetting everything else in a half-speculative, half-involuntary identifi cation of himself with the objects he was looking at, thinking how far it might be possible habitually to shift his centre till his own personality would be no less outside him than the landscape [ . . . ]” (189). While this passage obviously resonates with a Romantic sense of the ideal relationship to nature or the sublime (and several of the chapter epigraphs in Daniel Deronda are quotations from Wordsworth), it also suggests a relative lack of self-consolidation or enclosure, an attribute that enables Daniel’s eventual openness to a radically other (Jewish) self-identification. It is no coincidence, then, that this moment of Romantic reflection on the self’s relation to the world is interrupted by the sight of Mirah Lapidoth. She, along with Gwendolen, will test the limits of Daniel’s sympathy for specific others prior to his crucial encounter with Mordecai. From the first moment that he sees her, Daniel expresses a decidedly non-passive desire to know more about Mirah: “He felt an outleap of interest and compassion towards her,” but is at the same time extremely self-conscious about the need for restraint: “He had no right to linger and watch her” (188). Internally, however, he cannot resist the temptation to imagine her in relation to his own past, as he invests her appearance with inflated significance: “He fell again and again to speculating on the probable romance that lay behind that loneliness and look of desolation [ . . . ]” (188) and once he has prevented her from drowning herself, “The agitating impression this forsaken girl was making on him stirred a fibre that lay close to his deepest interest in the fates of women—‘perhaps my mother was like this one’” (190–91). Daniel does not merely want to enter into a relationship with Mirah; he attempts imaginatively to incorporate her into his family. Indeed, the compulsion to understand her history in relation to his own characterizes the particular mode of sympathy that exists between Daniel and Mirah, and that will continue to develop throughout the novel. His care for her is always, however, accompanied by Daniel’s acknowledgement of the risk of taking advantage of his position as her savior:

George Eliot Leaves Home 67 How could he be Mirah’s guardian [ . . . ] if he showed himself as a lover—whom she did not love—whom she would not marry? [ . . . ] Mirah’s was not a nature that would bear dividing against itself; and even if love won her consent to marry a man who was not of her race and religion, she would never be happy in acting against that strong native bias which would still reign in her conscience as remorse. (377) Here, the two impulses (attraction and restraint) are shown to be inextricably connected; Daniel must refrain from declaring his love for Mirah because he believes he knows, despite her possible consent, that she would regret the decision to marry him. In terms of conventional standards of morality, Daniel’s behavior is exemplary, as he carefully avoids exploiting Mirah’s vulnerable position. This respect, however, is fully determined by his overall confidence that he can understand and even anticipate her desires. In contrast to the independence and reserve that mark Mirah’s response to her life of hardship, this passage exposes a remarkable claim on Daniel’s part to knowledge of her true feelings, regardless of her own expression of them (the “consent” that Daniel’s love might “win”). The unity that is achieved between Daniel and Mirah after he confi rms his Jewish heritage is therefore simply an extension of his pre-existing ability to know her mind, and never goes beyond the framework of sympathy. In George Eliot and Blackmail, Alexander Welsh goes so far as to compare the relationship between Deronda and Mirah to that between Grandcourt and Gwendolen: “Both men go out of their way to rescue the women they marry from a crisis of humiliation [ . . . ] Each expects to assimilate the sexually attractive object to his own social position [ . . . ] both have every reason to anticipate submission” (271). While Welsh also acknowledges important differences between the two relationships, his reading is helpful for highlighting the difference between Daniel’s protective, interested, and knowing sympathy for Mirah and his more complex and ethically significant relation to other others in the novel.


Daniel and Gwendolen: The Limits of Sympathy

From the famous opening lines of the novel, Daniel’s relationship to Gwendolen is represented as unstable and destabilizing: “Was she beautiful or not beautiful? And what was the secret of form or expression which gave the dynamic quality to her glance? Was the good or the evil genius dominant in those beams? [ . . . ] Why was the wish to look again felt as coercion and not as a longing in which the whole being consents?” (7). There has been a great deal of critical debate about the ethics of Daniel’s relationship to Gwendolen. Some feminist critics have seen it as similar to his relation to Mirah, an intrusive attempt to rescue her, which does not even culminate in a marriage, but rather in his abandonment of her in favor of his masculine quest for glory on the world stage.12 Others, notably Eileen Sypher, have


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

argued that Gwendolen is never fully comprehended, either by the novel or by the male characters within it. I agree that Gwendolen is represented as in some sense unknowable, as a result of her constant changeability (or “dynamism”), and I will argue that this quality of instability renders her relationship to Daniel more open and unfi xed than that between him and Mirah. While I would not characterize Daniel and Gwendolen’s interaction as an instance of unconditional hospitality, I do think there are important differences between it and the overbearing sympathy Daniel displays to Mirah. While it is often noted that Gwendolen is tested by the trial of her marriage to Grandcourt, and emerges from the ordeal of his drowning with a new perspective, fewer critics have discussed just how many life-altering experiences Gwendolen undergoes throughout the novel. In the second chapter, on receiving a letter from her mother reporting the family’s fi nancial ruin: “The fi rst effect [ . . . ] on Gwendolen was stupefying [ . . . ] It was almost as difficult for her to believe suddenly that her position had become one of poverty and humiliating dependence, as it would have been to get into the strong current of her blooming life the chill sense that death would really come” (16). The narrator’s strong language emphasizes Gwendolen’s high degree of susceptibility to external changes. Although it often takes a negative rather than a positive form, Gwendolen resembles Daniel in her responsiveness to the world around her. While in this early scene Gwendolen remains in denial about the true implications of the fi nancial change, it will continue to undermine her identity in a series of aftershocks. In her immediate decision to pawn her necklace and continue gambling (in the mistaken belief that she can single-handedly stave off her family’s ruin), another aspect of her inconsistent sense of self is revealed by the narrator: “Who supposes that it is an impossible contradiction to be superstitious and rationalizing at the same time?” (19). I will return to the issue of Gwendolen’s superstitions below, but for now I will simply note that her capacity for seemingly “impossible contradiction” contributes to the sense of Gwendolen’s resistance to being understood. When Gwendolen returns to her mother (and the narrative shifts to the past to give an account of Gwendolen’s early life), the narrator attributes her impulsive and self-centered nature in part to her lack of a geographically grounded sense of home. Once again, the experience of instability in one’s home-life contributes to a sense of openness—in this case vulnerability—of the self to the outside world. In language reminiscent of The Mill, although here describing the loss resulting from the lack of a physical home, Eliot writes: “A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of native land, where it may get the love of tender kinship [ . . . ] for whatever will give that early home a familiar unmistakable difference amidst the future widening of knowledge [ . . . ] But this blessed persistence in which affection can take root had been wanting in Gwendolen’s life” (22).13 In contrast to Daniel—whose uncertain parentage, in conjunction with an extremely

George Eliot Leaves Home 69 comfortable physical home, renders him open and sensitive to the ills of others—Gwendolen’s close attachment to her mother and constant moving from place to place have left her egotistical and short-sighted, thus vulnerable to having her tenuous sense of self threatened by any major life change. The fi nancial collapse is the fi rst of these crises, and when she returns home Gwendolen is at first moved to display an uncharacteristic sympathy for her mother: “A rush of compassionate tenderness stirred all her capacity of generous resolution [ . . . ] It was one of her best moments, and the fond mother, forgetting everything below that tide-mark, looked at her with a sort of adoration” (230). Although we are clearly warned that this represents a high water mark for Gwendolen—a metaphor that reinforces the sense of her personality as fluid and variable—the interaction hints at her latent capacity to care for others. This fleeting moment of compassion is quickly supplanted, however, by a more characteristic sense of being besieged and undone by the unpleasant circumstances: “Gwendolen Harleth, with all her beauty and conscious force, felt the close threats of humiliation: for the fi rst time the conditions of this world seemed to her like a hurrying roaring crowd in which she had got astray, no more cared for and protected than a myriad of other girls, in spite of its being a particular hardship to her” (236). Feeling battered by a general indifference to her personal pain, an indifference that is reinforced by the narrator’s apparently critical tone, she loses the capacity to recognize her mother’s similar sense of loss. Gwendolen experiences a parallel (but again “new”) feeling of displacement when Klesmer refuses to encourage her aspiration to earn a living by acting and singing on stage. “For the first time since her consciousness began, she was having a vision of herself on the common level, and had lost the innate sense that there were reasons why she should not be slighted, elbowed, jostled—treated like a passenger with a third-class ticket, in spite of private objections on her own part” (262). The earlier feeling that she is at risk of losing her privileged position becomes much clearer here, as she articulates it explicitly in terms of social class and reiterates her aversion to interaction with a common mass. In this description, the “third-class” train car functions both as a metaphor for Gwendolen’s feelings of general degradation, and as a literal reference to her lack of resources. Where Daniel’s experience of questioning his parentage leads him to reach out to those around him, Gwendolen’s personal sense of displacement exacerbates her aversion to others, especially as she perceives them as inferior. Her refusal to accept her new position leaves her vulnerable to these recurring scenes of shock, each suggesting a kind of reassessment of her previous life or rebirth into a new one. The encounter with Klesmer also marks the fi rst of these reawakenings that will occur specifically in response to the men with whom she interacts, primarily Daniel and Grandcourt. While Grandcourt usually elicits in Gwendolen a sense of the inconsequence of her actions, or amorality, Daniel’s effect on her is the opposite, as he brings forth her contrary impulse of guilt and the desire to be good:

70 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction His eyes had a peculiarity which has drawn many men into trouble; they were of a dark yet mild intensity, which seemed to express a special interest in everyone on whom he fi xed them, and might easily help to bring on him those claims which ardently sympathetic people are often creating in the minds of those who need help [ . . . ] That sort of effect was penetrating Gwendolen [ . . . ] the struggle of mind attending a conscious error had wakened something like a new soul, which had better, but also worse, possibilities than her former poise of crude self confidence: among the forces she had come to dread was something within her that troubled satisfaction. (332) This passage highlights not only the deep ambivalence of Gwendolen’s moral positioning (and yet another rebirth), but also the complex nature of Daniel’s influence on that sense of conscience. While Daniel does not respond to Gwendolen as an absolute other, their relationship takes the form of an extremely intricate version of sympathy, one that does not merely consist of his ability to understand her, but that also depends on her ability to change in response to his attention. Although on the one hand Daniel’s eyes are described as almost human in their ability to attract people and their problems to him, the passage also emphasizes the feelings of those on whom his gaze is cast. The moral “struggle” and “wakening” of “something like a new soul” take place in Gwendolen’s own mind, in response to but in some sense independent of Daniel’s presence.14 Perhaps most importantly, Daniel’s influence enables a more positive remaking of Gwendolen’s moral sensibility, in which she goes beyond the feeling of a loss of self to experience other possible orientations. In a later encounter between the two, the narrator emphasizes this effect: “Deronda had lit up her attention with a sense of novelty: not by words only, but by imagined facts, his influence had entered into the current of that selfsuspicion and self-blame which awakens a new consciousness” (430). In addition to further muddying the question of who is most responsible for Gwendolen’s moral development, this passage resonates provocatively with Eliot’s own writings on sympathy and the novel. Through “words” and “imagined facts,” Daniel’s influence merges with Gwendolen’s own capacity for “self-blame,” and thus enables yet another moral “awakening.” Similarly, the “words” and “imagined facts” of the realist novel, according to Eliot, stimulate and “awaken” the reader’s capacity to sympathize with others, and thus to behave morally in the world. While it is tempting to see Daniel as some version of the perfect realist novel, Eliot goes on to make it clear that he does not remain unchanged in his relationship with Gwendolen: “But the coercion is often stronger on the one who takes the reverence. Those who trust us educate us. And perhaps in that ideal consecration of Gwendolen’s, some education was being prepared for Deronda” (430). Unlike a novel, Daniel too is susceptible to influence, and while the relationship between him and Gwendolen certainly entails “coercion,” it is

George Eliot Leaves Home 71 represented as a complex and ultimately mutual struggle for understanding between two equally substantial characters. This repetitive series of reawakenings will culminate in Gwendolen’s confession to Daniel after Grandcourt’s drowning and its aftermath. Significantly, however, these late, climactic scenes do not represent a single, momentous transformation from old to new Gwendolen; instead, she is in a constant process of remaking, as she negotiates her relationship to others and to the larger world again and again in response to her changing circumstances. In contrast to Daniel’s more general openness to the world around him, Gwendolen moves abruptly from one position to another, a process that renders her difficult to comprehend or represent fully. With Gwendolen, Eliot self-consciously calls attention to the difficulty of capturing the profound complexity of human personality in a realist narrative. Responding to the extent to which her identity is constantly in flux, and the challenge this presents to the novel, Eliot’s narrator comments directly on the problem of representing Gwendolen: “Sir Joshua would have been glad to take her portrait; and he would have had an easier task than the historian at least in this, that he would not have had to represent the truth of change— only to give stability to one beautiful moment” (117). Unlike the painter, the novelist must incorporate the process of development into her portrayal of character. Repeated rebirths make an accurate representation of Gwendolen in narrative extremely difficult; her dynamism tests the limits of the realist novel, or “history.” Even before the unfolding of the “Jewish plot,” then, Daniel Deronda incorporates a new woman character whose unknowability requires a hospitable opening of the conventions of realism. The sense of Gwendolen as not fully knowable is most clearly visible in her irrational fears, or “superstitions.” Daniel’s openness and sympathy can be seen as ethical in one sense, as they allow his self to be constantly shaped in response to others, but to the extent that his sympathy takes an appropriative form, he must be seen as failing to respect the otherness of the other. Gwendolen, at fi rst glance, would seem to be primarily selforiented, and therefore unable to open herself to another. As a character whose consciousness is repeatedly described as reawakened, however, she is never settled in a consolidated self-narrative. Gwendolen instead undergoes a series of profoundly de-centering events, thus suggesting that her self is repeatedly recreated in response to encounters with otherness. In this sense, from the beginning, Gwendolen demonstrates the potential to recognize a radical difference between self and world. Gwendolen seems to have some consciousness of a larger world that lies outside her everyday experience, but her response to it is described not in terms of openness and receptivity, but rather of terror and paralysis: “What she unwillingly recognised, and would have been glad for others to be unaware of, was that liability of hers to fits of spiritual dread, [ . . . ] Solitude in any wide scene impressed her with an undefi ned feeling of immeasurable existence aloof from her, in the midst of which she was helplessly

72 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction incapable of asserting herself” (63–64). While Gwendolen experiences her response to solitude as loss and powerlessness, it also represents an important check on her otherwise dominant focus on her own desires. Gwendolen is aware of the existence of otherness, of that which lies beyond her capacity to control or even understand, although she is unable to respond to this experience with hospitality or welcome. Her “superstition” may enable Gwendolen’s eventual realization of the significance of the larger world—a realization, I will argue, that takes place in response to her acknowledgement of Daniel’s otherness to her—but it also, like Daniel’s “too diff use” sympathies, presents a problem for the realist narrative. Attempting to account for Gwendolen’s decision not to sell the pawned necklace that Daniel returned to her, the narrator seems to reach the limits of logical explanation: But the movement of mind which led her to keep the necklace [ . . . ] came from that streak of superstition in her which attached itself both to her confidence and her terror—a superstition which lingers in an intense personality even in spite of theory and science; any dread or hope for self being stronger than all reasons for or against it [ . . . ] she had a confused state of emotion about Deronda [ . . . ] It was something vague and yet mastering, which impelled her to this action about the necklace. There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms. (276–77) Although Gwendolen’s superstition is often read in psychoanalytic terms, as the manifestation of a prior (“unmapped”) trauma, I argue that it, along with her constant state of change and rebirth, allows Eliot to test the limits of the novel’s ability to account fully for Gwendolen’s identity. 15 The reference to “unmapped country” may suggest the possibility of mapping, but it also implies that the attempt to know every motivation would be invasive and perhaps even futile. As in the previous passage, Eliot self-consciously raises the problem of representation, and so calls our attention to the question of what can be known and narrated in the novel. Comparing Gwendolen’s impulsive actions to “gusts and storms” highlights their nature as external and wholly unpredictable, just as the admission into the text of “unmapped country” suggests the novel’s openness to that which lies beyond the reach of knowledge and sympathy. Whereas Eliot’s earlier novels demonstrate an awareness of the impossibility of complete representation of the mind of another, their energies are generally devoted to surmounting these barriers to understanding, whereas Deronda stands out for its willingness to embrace an ethics of otherness. Gwendolen’s “unmapped country” is managed through her constant performance of identity, which usually works to stave off the moments of selfconsciousness that are associated with superstition and terror. In contrast

George Eliot Leaves Home 73 to Daniel, Mirah, and especially Mordecai, who are frequently described as sincere and thus fully legible, Gwendolen is constantly said to be behaving externally in ways that do not necessarily reflect her interior thoughts and feelings.16 This doubleness reaches its pinnacle during her marriage to Grandcourt, when she is forced to hide from the world the oppressive nature of their relationship, and in this context it can be seen in feminist terms as a strategy for women’s survival. Even before she meets Grandcourt, however, it constitutes an element of her personality: “[ . . . ] now that she was twenty and more, some of her native force had been turned into a self-control by which she guarded herself from potential humiliation. There was more show of fire and will in her than ever, but there was more calculation underneath it” (25). One effect of her relationship with Daniel, then, is that a less contrived aspect of her self emerges, as she lets down her guard and allows him access to feelings that she normally must suppress. Again, Daniel does not guide her sense of morality so much as by his presence he is the occasion for a deeper engagement with herself: “Had he some way of looking at things which might be a new footing for her—an inward safeguard against possible events which she dreaded as stored up retribution?” (430). Paradoxically these glimpses of Gwendolen’s sincere feelings will render her less knowable, rather than more, as they cannot be easily reconciled with her usual persona. An important consequence of Gwendolen’s shifting, unpredictable, and divided self is that it troubles the notion that Daniel’s relationship to her is essentially one of sympathy based on understanding. While Daniel never doubts his ability to rescue Mirah and set her life on an improved path, his encounters with Gwendolen often leave him in a state of confusion and worry. At a party with both women, Daniel listens to Mirah singing, but can think only of Gwendolen: “In Deronda’s ear the strain was for the moment a continuance of Gwendolen’s pleading—a painful urging of something vague and difficult, irreconcilable with pressing conditions, and yet cruel to resist. However strange the mixture in her of a resolute pride and a precocious air of knowing the world, with a precipitate, guileless indiscretion, he was quite sure now that the mixture existed” (564). Daniel realizes in this moment that it is precisely the presence, or “mixture,” of contradictory elements in Gwendolen’s personality that renders a stable relationship to her impossible. Consequently, Daniel is kept in a constant state of imbalance by Gwendolen’s erratic needs, as he tries to disentangle the strands of sexual attraction, helplessness, and independence in their bond to each other: “[ . . . ] Daniel relented towards poor Gwendolen in her splendour, and his memory went back, with some penitence for his momentary hardness, over all the signs and confessions that she too needed a rescue, and one much more difficult than that of the wanderer by the river—a rescue for which he felt himself helpless” (559–60). While Daniel indisputably plays an important role in Gwendolen’s shifting sense of self during and after her marriage to Grandcourt, I disagree with critics who characterize

74 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction his relationship to her as purely one-sided and appropriative. Even when he would rather not, Daniel is forced to acknowledge Gwendolen’s otherness, the extent to which he cannot simply know and thereby easily rescue her, but must instead reexamine his own life in relation to her.


Daniel and Mordecai: Unconditional Hospitality

Daniel’s most drastic reassessment, however, occurs in response to his encounters with Mordecai. Despite the fact that it is Daniel who journeys to the Jewish quarter of London in search of Mirah’s family, and might therefore be cast as the stranger in the neighborhood, the narrator makes it clear that Mordecai is the unfamiliar and “other” figure, and in this he joins a long line of Jewish strangers stretching all the way back to the Old Testament. In his anthropological study of hospitality across cultures, Julian Pitt-Rivers notes this longstanding association: “The ambiguity of their [Jews’] status, as at the same time belonging and not belonging, within the gates yet beyond the pale, and their reputation as the possessors of cryptic knowledge, the initiates of the mysteries of fi nance and of precious metals, made them strangers par excellence, perfectly endowed to be chosen both to provide the God in the beginning and to remain thereafter his renegade kin” (20). Given this history, it is not surprising that Eliot chooses Jewish characters and themes to suggest an alternative ethics of hospitality. At the same time, as many critics have noted, Eliot’s Jewish characters seem to be themselves starkly divided, with Mirah and Mordecai embodying an almost inhuman purity and goodness, while the Cohen family is represented in conventional, largely negative stereotypes.17 These extremes may in fact be a consequence of the ethical shift I describe, as the decision to define Mordecai and his Judaism as the primary locus of absolute otherness seems to leave little room for nuance or complexity in the other Jewish characters. One symptom of the difficulty of giving up on the ideal of sympathy through mutual understanding may be the relegation of some characters to a space which is not hospitable or sympathetic. Neither absolutely other nor easily assimilated, the Cohens are instead rendered through conventional images of difference. This contradictory portrayal of Judaism can thus be seen as another manifestation of the interruption of the moral certainty of the novel, one which has negative as well as positive implications for specific others in the fictional world. Mordecai, however, is never described in conventional terms. From the fi rst time they meet in the bookstore, his unexpected appearance acts as an interruption of Daniel’s prejudiced stereotype of the Jewish shopkeeper. “But instead of the ordinary tradesman, he saw [ . . . ] a figure that was somewhat startling in its unusualness” (385). Although Daniel denies being Jewish in response to Mordecai’s urgent question, and does nothing to pursue the relationship initially, he does experience an inexplicable attraction to his appeal: “[ . . . ] somehow, in deference to Mordecai, he had begun

George Eliot Leaves Home 75 to study Hebrew [ . . . ]” (413). Thus Daniel’s first sign of hospitality to Mordecai is an almost passive gesture of linguistic openness (“somehow”), an act which enables further receptivity. In contrast to Gwendolen, whose inscrutability is attributable in part to the gap between her external, performed self and the conflicted feelings that lie beneath, Mordecai is essentially unassimilable for the opposite reason. Represented as unreservedly committed to a single mission, he represents a limit- case of sincerity of feeling and purpose, as he exists only to fulfill a duty to his people, and even his sickly physical body hardly acts as a barrier between his internal self and the outside world. Mordecai’s desire for a partner to carry on his work is described as: “[ . . . ] the passionate current of an ideal life straining to embody itself, made intense by resistance to immediate dissolution” (474). His status as only tenuously connected to the material world—a character whose “[ . . . ] mind wrought so constantly in images, that his coherent trains of thought [ . . . ] often resembled genuine dreams in their way of breaking off the passage from the known to the unknown” (473)—renders him an absolute other in relation to Daniel and finally to the realist novel itself. While the narrator struggles to represent Gwendolen’s changeable identity in realist terms, Mordecai is described more simply as an ideal and profoundly otherworldly being. From the time of the novel’s fi rst appearance, this romanticized and non-realist depiction of Mordecai and his Judaism has been criticized and analyzed.18 In terms of narrative hospitality, Daniel’s relation to Mordecai must exceed the bounds of strictly realist representation. The Levinasian relation between self and other, or unconditional hospitality, can only exist in a space of absolute openness, one that is in some ways outside of the flow of narrative time. And while several deconstructive critics, most notably Cynthia Chase, have analyzed the way in which Daniel’s commitment to Mordecai disrupts conventional temporality and the relationship between cause and effect, I emphasize the importance of this break as an attempt to gesture towards an ideal of hospitality that lies beyond the reach of the realist novel. 19 The ethical relation between Daniel and Mordecai reaches its climax in the scene when they meet on the bridge, Daniel’s appearance rowing on the water having mystically fulfilled Mordecai’s vision of his desired student. Again, while Mordecai wants to welcome Daniel into his world (and thus might be seen as a kind of host), it is Daniel’s reaction to this invitation, his ability to allow Mordecai to remake Daniel’s own sense of self and home, that defi nes the encounter as a call for hospitality. From the beginning, Daniel’s response is figured as a struggle between a conventional, rational dismissal of Mordecai’s plea and a stronger impulse to suspend judgment and open himself to other possibilities: Deronda did not speak [ . . . ] His nature was too large, too ready to conceive regions beyond his own experience, to rest at once in the


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction easy explanation, “madness,” whenever a consciousness showed some fulness and conviction where his own was blank. It accorded with his habitual disposition that he should meet rather than resist any claim on him in the shape of another’s need [ . . . ]. (494)

This passage importantly emphasizes the extent to which Daniel experiences Mordecai as unfamiliar and other (“regions beyond his own experience,” “where his own [consciousness] was blank”) and is nevertheless unwilling to shrink from or repel his demands. It also suggests that, while this response is consistent with Daniel’s “habitual disposition,” Mordecai’s vision presents a greater test of that disposition than either Mirah’s or Gwendolen’s cries for help. This test is dramatized during Daniel’s conversation with Mordecai, in which he tries to temper attraction to Mordecai’s claims with practical reminders of his supposed unfitness for the task (because he believes he is not Jewish). It is clear, however, that the rational arguments are no match for the appeal of the duty represented by Mordecai’s demands. When Daniel reminds Mordecai that he is not a Jew, Mordecai responds by saying simply “‘it can’t be true,’” (500) and then goes on to shock Daniel by asserting “‘You are not sure of your own origin’” (501). In the face of this reminder of uncertainty (and evidence of Mordecai’s uncanny and decidedly non-realist powers of divination), Daniel fi nds it impossible to resist: “But the moment had influences which were not only new but solemn to Deronda: any evasion here might turn out to be a hateful refusal of some task that belonged to him, some act of due fellowship [ . . . ]” (501). Mordecai responds to Daniel’s confession that he does not know his mother (and therefore, crucially, whether he is of Jewish birth) not with disappointment but by valuing their status as other to each other: “‘You have risen within me like a thought not fully spelled: my soul is shaken before the words are all there. The rest will come—it will come’” (501). Here, Mordecai not only emphasizes the intuitive and precognitive nature of the relationship (“a thought not fully spelled”), but also the importance of the unknown— Mordecai’s faith in Daniel is strengthened, not called into question, by the fact that his Judaism has yet to be revealed. And in the aftermath of this encounter, Daniel himself endorses the same logic: “Which way soever the truth might lie, he repeated to himself what he had said to Mordecai—that he could not without farther reason undertake to hasten its discovery. Nay, he was tempted now to regard his uncertainty as a condition to be cherished for the present” (515). This insistence on the value of not knowing, of a suspended state in which the appeal of the stranger takes full precedence, is extremely suggestive of an ethics of hospitality that exceeds and interrupts traditional morality, rationality, and the terms of the realist novel itself. The importance of this scene as a break in the narrative is reinforced by the ways it serves to critique the values of the preceding chapters. In the course of his internal conflict over whether or not to accept Mordecai, Daniel

George Eliot Leaves Home 77 contrasts “the historic life of men” with the present day, speculating on the fact that “centuries ago” in Rome or Greece, it would have seemed quite natural to be moved by a man like Mordecai: “Why should he be ashamed of his own agitated feeling merely because he dressed for dinner, wore a white tie, and lived among people who might laugh at his owning any conscience in the matter as the solemn folly of taking himself too seriously?—that bugbear of circles in which the lack of grave emotion passes for wit” (509).20 The “circles in which the lack of grave emotion passes for wit” is a precise description of the social world in which Grandcourt and Gwendolen exist. This broad-based critique of the propriety and skepticism of modern life also suggests a much wider dissatisfaction with the morality of the English; while Grandcourt has clearly never been represented as a sympathetic character, here even the values of such seemingly “harmless” figures as Hans Meyrick and Sir Hugo Mallinger are called into question. Daniel in fact goes on to imagine in Sir Hugo’s voice the typical dismissive assessment of Mordecai: “‘A consumptive Jew, possessed by a fanaticism which obstacles and hastening death intensified, had fixed on Deronda [ . . . ]’” (510). The ironic critique of the first half of the novel is now supplanted by a seeming condemnation of the mode of irony itself, as both Daniel and the novel adopt an orientation of hospitality towards the other. The encounter with Mordecai also requires Daniel to differentiate between his earlier relationships—based primarily on sympathy and the ability to understand the pain of another—and the more urgently ethical relation that Mordecai’s presence demands: “This claim, indeed, considered in what is called a rational way, might seem justifiably dismissed as illusory and even preposterous; but it was precisely what turned Mordecai’s hold on him from an appeal to his ready sympathy into a clutch on his struggling conscience” (511, emphasis added). Here, the tension between the ethical and the rational is clearly articulated; because it is irrational, Mordecai’s appeal can only be acknowledged adequately by an unconditional hospitality which exceeds rationality or sympathy. Levinas points out that the relation to the other is inconsistent with reason, associated with the autonomy of the self and its mastery of the unknown: “That reason in the last analysis would be the manifestation of a freedom, neutralizing the other and encompassing him, can come as no surprise once it was laid down that sovereign reason knows only itself, that nothing other limits it” (43). It is impossible to respect the otherness of the other through reason, since reason is a mode of thought that renders otherness familiar. While Daniel’s openness to all others has helped to prepare him for this moment, the receptivity required by Mordecai goes beyond and is qualitatively different from the sympathy extended to Mirah and Gwendolen.21 Just as the encounter with Mordecai interrupts and changes the direction of the narrative, so hospitality might be said to interrupt the sympathetic relation, to expose the limits and ultimate impossibility of a rational understanding of absolute otherness. 22 Daniel’s receptivity to


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

Mordecai’s demand, his willingness to reshape his own life completely in accord with Mordecai’s desires, disrupts the conventions of the realist novel itself. Just as Daniel’s commitment requires a leap of faith, and could not be achieved through reason, so the reader’s encounter with this scene in Daniel Deronda requires a momentary readjustment of his or her expectations of realist literature; it disturbs the shared foundation assumed to exist between authors, characters, and readers. Faced with a text that challenges easy assimilation, readers experience a kind of ethical shock, as they are asked to reorient themselves in response to the otherness of the novel. Thus narrative hospitality generates an external or “meta” experience of ethical relation between reader and text. Like Eliot’s theory that the reader’s sympathy for characters in the realist novel works to enable a parallel feeling of sympathy towards actual others in the real world, I argue that Daniel Deronda simultaneously portrays and creates a moment of unconditional hospitality, as it challenges the reader’s ethical orientation.


Daniel and His Mother: Origins and the Return to History

The moment of unconditional hospitality, of acknowledgement rather than explanation of otherness, is inconsistent with the structures of narrative. Realist novels cannot remain suspended in a state of receptivity indefi nitely; they must progress towards knowledge and resolution. In Daniel’s case, his decision to delay pursuing further knowledge of his heritage, and thereby to prolong his state of uncertainty, is cut short by the arrival of a letter from his mother. In a literal scene of hospitality, his mother’s missive appears in his home, and he must confront the existence of this figure who embodies a strange mixture of same and other, close relative and total stranger. In this moment Daniel experiences the tension between the ideal relation to Mordecai and the “pressure of that hard unaccommodating Actual” (380), as he anticipates a disappointing clash between the imagined mother and the real: “He wondered to fi nd that when this mother’s very handwriting had come to him with words holding her actual feeling, his affections had suddenly shrunk into a state of comparative neutrality towards her” (619). Whereas the encounter with Mordecai opens wholly new worlds to Daniel, the arrival of his mother is associated with a shrinking of affection and possibility. It is significant, as well, that the mother’s “actual feeling” is described as embodied in her handwriting; in contrast to the face-to-face encounters with Mordecai, in which mediation between the two men is minimized or even abolished completely, the mother appears fi rst only in writing. The letter establishes her as belonging fi rmly to the realm of narrative time and representation, and deflects the possibility of an unexpected face-to-face encounter. Her brief letter thus marks a second important shift in the novel, from the tentative exploration of unconditional hospitality, to the historical and realist questions of origin, inheritance, and home.

George Eliot Leaves Home 79 As many critics have pointed out, Leonora’s revelation, that Daniel’s parents were both Jewish, comes as a bit of an anti-climax. The substance of the commitment to Mordecai clearly exists already, and the confi rmation of a match between Daniel and Mirah was also not difficult to predict. Leonora’s appearance at this stage in the novel therefore seems most significant as a kind of grounding of the “Jewish plot,” a reminder of the actual social and political circumstances that underlie Daniel’s uncertainty and his future choices. To do justice to the idea of realism, Daniel and the novel must confront the background of anti-Semitism, conversion, and genderbased discrimination that led up to his unique status as both Jewish and English. And while there is much critical debate about how realistic or sympathetic the novel’s portrayal of Judaism is, there is no question that Leonora’s strong and troubled voice belongs to a different moral and political register than that of Mordecai. As if to emphasize the difference between Leonora and the two other central Jewish characters, Mirah and Mordecai, she is described as anything but open and earnest. Instead, while Mordecai is the most sincere and genuine figure in the novel, Leonora is characterized as having no mode of communication or being other than that already mediated by representation or performance: “[ . . . ] This woman’s nature was one in which all feeling—and all the more when it was tragic as well as real—immediately became matter of conscious representation: experience immediately passed into drama, and she acted her own emotions” (629). As with Gwendolen’s performed personality, Leonora’s orientation towards the world is deeply affected by her gender, as well as her identity as an artist and a Jew. Leonora’s story also raises issues of feminism explicitly, as she openly resists her coerced role as wife and mother to pursue a career as an actor and singer. If the Jewish presence in England is one element that opens this novel to acknowledge otherness, its representation of dissatisfied and rebellious women is another. The inaccessibility of an authentic self within Leonora, a characteristic that is reinforced by her many names (Leonora Halm-Eberstein, The Alcharisi, The Princess, Charisi, Mother), helps to account for the odd quality of awkwardness or missed connection in both meetings between Daniel and his mother. Leonora is, in fact, the only character in the novel who is determined to challenge his claims of sympathetic understanding. When Daniel hears of his mother’s rebellion against her sexist Jewish upbringing, he tries to assure her that he: “[ . . . ] can imagine the hardship of an enforced renunciation” (631). Leonora responds, however, with an abrupt “‘No,’” and goes on to explain that their difference of gender makes it impossible for Daniel to comprehend her experience: “‘You are not a woman. You may try—but you can never imagine what it is to have a man’s force of genius in you, and yet to suffer the slavery of being a girl’” (631). With this statement, Leonora exposes both the limits and the gendered politics of the sympathy of understanding in which Daniel engages with Mirah and to a

80 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction lesser extent Gwendolen. In the absence of an erotic attraction to bridge (or simply obscure) the gender gap, Leonora points directly to the impossibility of complete understanding, to the element of fantasy or self-delusion implicit in any claim to experience another’s hardship vicariously. This challenge to Daniel’s sympathy serves to reinforce the many links between Leonora and Gwendolen: both perform their identities, both resist the restrictions society places on women, and both call into question Daniel’s ability to understand—Gwendolen, unconsciously, through her unpredictability and Leonora explicitly.23 Ultimately, however, Leonora’s decision to give up Daniel as a child serves to limit the space she is granted by the narrative. She functions only as a hint, rather than a full exploration, of radical alternatives for Jewish women, while the much more conventional Jewish singer, Mirah, is granted a traditionally happy ending. 24 Whether or not Leonora and Gwendolen represent different aspects of a single feminist consciousness, it is no coincidence that the intrusion of Daniel’s “hard, unaccommodating Actual,” in the form of his mother, appears at the same time as and in the same place that Gwendolen’s fantasy of killing her husband becomes terrifyingly real. Before turning our attention to Gwendolen’s remarkable confession to Daniel, however, I’d like to stay with the “Jewish plot,” in order to examine the effect of Leonora’s confi rmation of his Jewish birth on Daniel’s relationship to Mordecai. In the wake of his newfound knowledge, the novel starts to sound a bit like a “coming out” narrative. 25 Daniel begins to see the world with new eyes, to reassess his relationship to the future in light of his freshly discovered past: “It was as if he had found an added soul in fi nding his ancestry—his judgment no longer wandering in the mazes of impartial sympathy, but choosing, with that noble partiality which is man’s best strength, the closer fellowship that makes sympathy practical [ . . . ]” (745). As in the descriptions of Daniel’s youth, the narrator again endorses a conventional and practical morality of specific commitments over the receptivity that marked Daniel’s previous relation to Mordecai. In contrast to the initial moment of hospitality, the verification of Daniel’s background creates for him a new sense of home, in which Mordecai the stranger becomes his brother (literally, when he marries Mirah), and otherness is transformed into same. Ultimately, the decision to end the novel with the marriage of Daniel and Mirah privileges the story of origin over narrative hospitality, since emphasizing the importance of Daniel’s biological status as Jewish minimizes the leap of faith required for his initial acceptance of Mordecai’s plea. While Daniel’s relation to Mordecai was created in a condition of uncertainty, that between Daniel and Mirah is only conceivable, by either of them, if Daniel was in fact born a Jew. The conventionality of his sympathy for and rescue of her therefore dovetails neatly with the discovery of his real identity, and allows the novel the reassuring realist closure of a quite non-radical (though Jewish) wedding: “Among the blessings of love

George Eliot Leaves Home 81 there is hardly one more exquisite than the sense that in uniting the beloved life to ours we can watch over its happiness, bring comfort where hardship was, and over memories of privation and suffering open the sweetest fountains of joy. Deronda’s love for Mirah was strongly imbued with that blessed protectiveness” (808). The ethics of uncertainty is never allowed to trouble or to interrupt the sympathy of understanding that constitutes Daniel’s relationship to Mirah. 26


Going East

While the politics of the marriage to Mirah are unambiguously conservative and conventional, the same cannot be said of the nature of the mission to which Daniel’s embrace of Mordecai leads. In terms of the Levinasian reading I’ve outlined here, only Daniel’s openness to Mordecai in the face of uncertainty can be considered an example of the unconditional ethics of hospitality. There remains, however, the question of how to evaluate the relative ethical and political implications of Daniel and Mordecai’s nation-building project, especially as the establishment of a Jewish homeland embodies the tension between hospitality and hostility at the national level. In the critical debate about the novel’s representation of Judaism generally and the politics of nineteenth-century Zionism specifically, commentators often cite the same evidence in favor of opposing viewpoints. In some ways, the task of founding a nation is inherently inhospitable, as it inevitably entails displacing others, and so participates in precisely the drive for possession and mastery that the ethical moment would disrupt and call into question. Led by Edward Said, many critics have pointed specifically to the imperialist nature of the Zionist project, stressing its consistency with the English nationalist politics that the novel would otherwise seem to criticize.27 In a variation on this reading, Susan Meyer argues that the imperialist interests are primarily those of England, not the Jews themselves. She points out that when the novel was written, the English often advocated Zionism as a means of advancing their own colonial interests in the Middle East and as a safeguard against the presence of a large Jewish population in Europe, arguing: “The novel [ . . . ] purge[s] away the last marks of an ‘otherness’ that does not fit harmoniously into its world” (190). Thus she claims that the novel endorses and upholds England’s long history of inhospitality to the Jews.28 At a more abstract level, other critics have associated the move towards nationalism with a conservative, Hegelian philosophy of the unity and teleology of history, one that leaves little space for the individual or ethics. 29 The majority of the critics, however, view the portrayal of Zionism and Judaism in more ambivalent terms, pointing to the ways the novel simultaneously critiques and relies on discourses of race, nationalism, and inheritance.30 In the description of the Jewish state that Mordecai imagines creating, for example, there is no mention of the people who already inhabit the land in question, but Mordecai does suggest that he imagines Israel as

82 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction a nation of peace and interaction between different groups: “A new Persia with a purified religion magnified itself in art and wisdom. So will a new Judea, poised between East and West—a covenant of reconciliation” (537). While it is difficult to credit Mordecai’s idealism from a contemporary perspective, this is an image of conventional, if not unconditional, hospitality that seems consistent with Eliot’s commitment to respect for others. It is also possible to challenge the purely conservative reading of Daniel’s newfound relationship to history. It is true that to some extent Daniel’s identity—including the uniquely receptive nature that enabled his very openness to Mordecai and Judaism—is swept up in an international, historical project that will largely determine the shape of his life. At the same time, however, the ideas of inheritance and duty that are implied by this heritage are distinct from those of the English society Daniel will leave behind. In contrast to the dead end of the Mallinger line, in which the sons required to inherit the property and carry on the tradition are either absent or illegitimate, Judaism is based on a maternal line of inheritance, one in which Daniel’s connection to his grandfather is crucially dependent on his mother.31 Moreover, the object that is inherited is not property but texts, not a stable source of material wealth, but a body of work that requires active interpretation, translation, and extension. In this way, Daniel can be seen as embracing a living and vibrant past, rather than a dead and corrupt one, in which the very line between past and present, life and death, is called into question: The moment wrought strongly on Daniel’s imaginative susceptibility: in the presence of one linked still in zealous friendship with the grandfather whose hope had yearned towards him when he was unborn, and who though dead was yet to speak with him in those written memorials which, says Milton, “contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are,” he seemed to himself to be touching the electric chain of his own ancestry [ . . . ]. (721) Linking the “zealous friendship” between men to the ability of the dead to speak through text, this passage suggests that these documents themselves represent an instance of narrative hospitality, as they invite Daniel into the larger communities of family and religion. Again, while this does not render Daniel’s lately acquired duty unproblematically ethical, it does emphasize the extent to which the novel endorses the Jews’ relationship to their heritage as an important critique of and model for the dying English patriarchy.32 Even as he is the figure who embodies this critique, however, Daniel’s status as both Jewish and English is subject to many different interpretations. On the one hand, the mix of cultures represented by Daniel’s heterogeneous religious background can be seen as a radical challenge to English provincialism. In Darwin’s Plots, Gillian Beer focuses on the ways in which a simple causal mode of history is problematized by the novel, and reads

George Eliot Leaves Home 83 Daniel as an acknowledgement of the complexity and “impurity” that lie at the heart of English society: “Deronda is enriched by the multiple past both genetic and cultural” (201). Similarly, Reina Lewis employs post-colonial theory, especially that of Homi Bhabha, to read Daniel as a hybrid, “not quite, not white,” and therefore as an instance of social miscegenation, but one which is valued positively by the novel. She attributes the novel’s early lack of critical success to its Christian readers’ discomfort with Daniel’s status as simultaneously self and other, as both like them but also radically different: “Daniel Deronda insists that the Jews are both familiar and alien (their strangeness remains even as their familiarity and acceptability increases) but attempts to reverse the value of their difference: what was once the sign of their inferiority is now the mark of their superiority [ . . . ]” (226). Lewis’s reading of Daniel recalls Derrida’s insistence that all identity incorporates a dynamic of welcoming the other. If for Derrida this is true for all subjects, Bhabha and Lewis emphasize the particularly divided experience of those who inhabit a state of hybridity. To the extent that Daniel represents a radical coupling of essentially unlike elements, a figure who is always in some sense other to himself, and refuses to assimilate fully as either English or Jewish, it can be argued that he preserves some sense of ethical uncertainty and hospitality. As he explains to his mother, “‘The effect of my education can never be done away with. The Christian sympathies in which my mind was reared can never die out of me [ . . . ] but I consider it my duty [ . . . ] to identify myself, as far as possible, with my hereditary people [ . . . ]’” (661). Just as he argues against complete Jewish assimilation into English society, he recognizes the impossibility of his own total assimilation into Jewish culture, and so vows to follow its lead as (partially) other. Daniel’s hybridity, however, can also be read conservatively, as a tempering of his otherness, an attempt to create a non-threatening, familiarly English Jew. Julian Wolfreys’s deconstructive reading takes this position: “Daniel is therefore used [ . . . ] to familiarize and domesticate the Other, to deny alterity by framing the foreign in English terms in a gesture amounting to a colonial imperative, writing foreignness otherwise so as to displace any fear that exists at the illusory heart of English culture in crisis” (145). While I agree that Daniel is represented as ideal and non-threatening, I argue that this does not fully undo the radical nature of his initial openness to Mordecai and Judaism.33 These contradictory readings help to demonstrate the depth of the novel’s ambivalence about the status of the Jew in English society, an ambivalence that is also echoed by Eliot’s nonfiction writing. And just as the novel fi nds it impossible or refuses to clarify the specific nature of Daniel’s mission by following him to the East, I’d like to suggest that, ultimately, the matter of the ethics of the novel cannot be decided by following Daniel, but instead by staying home with Gwendolen. In the chapters that come after his meeting with his mother, the novel dwells mostly on the follow-up to and implications of the news that Daniel is genetically Jewish. This dénouement is


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

interrupted, however, by the drowning of Grandcourt and the subsequent urgent meetings between Daniel and Gwendolen, as she fi nally begins the transformation that will supersede those that have come before. And while the ethics of Daniel’s mission become more difficult to locate with any certainty, Gwendolen’s de-centered worldview suggests the potential for her to exhibit a new sense of hospitality to the otherness around her.


Inheriting Hospitality: Gwendolen at Home

From the beginning of the confession scene, the dynamic between Gwendolen and Daniel echoes that of the early meetings between Daniel and Mordecai, thus suggesting that the ground of the former relationship has shifted. Just as Daniel took Mordecai’s hand in an attempt to soften the reminder that he did not know he was Jewish (a gesture whose meaning far outweighed that of the accompanying words), so he reaches out to Gwendolen to communicate a support for her that he cannot convey in language or even looks: “Deronda could not answer; he was obliged to look away. He took one of her hands [ . . . ] it was the only way in which he could answer, ‘I will not forsake you.’ And all the while he felt as if he were putting his name to a blank paper which might be fi lled up terribly” (690). At the same time that Daniel continues to offer Gwendolen his compassion, he is fi nally forced to admit to himself the true extent of her otherness to him; he has pledged his support to a “blank paper” which is unknown and fi nally unknowable, which has the potential to be not harmless and easy to rescue but instead “terrible.” Here again Eliot suggests a possible pitfall of hospitality, as openness to the other entails the risk of committing oneself to evil rather than ethics. Whereas sympathy may succeed or fail in more limited terms, the unconditional nature of hospitality raises extreme possibilities in both directions. This sense of Daniel’s inability to know Gwendolen is matched by her realization of her own opacity, expressed in terms of the impossibility of giving a coherent account of her actions and feelings during Grandcourt’s death: “The stream of renewed strength made it possible for her to go on as she had begun—with that fitful, wandering confession where the sameness of experience seems to nullify the sense of time or of order in events. She began again in a fragmentary way [ . . . ]” (691). Gwendolen’s confession cannot be expressed as linear realist narrative; rather it takes the form of a non-chronological, fragmentary accretion of conscious thoughts. This breakdown of articulation suggests the simultaneous breakdown of Gwendolen’s carefully maintained separation of her innermost feelings and her outward behavior. She has lost the ability to edit her feelings through the external presentation of a coherent self, and must therefore rebuild a narrative of identity from scratch. This might be seen as a kind of involuntary hospitality towards her own otherness. As Daniel leaves Gwendolen after their second meeting: “[ . . . ] she sank on her knees in hysterical crying.

George Eliot Leaves Home 85 The distance between them was too great. She was a banished soul—beholding a possible life which she had sinned herself away from” (702). As she “beholds” her own life, the deep division within her identity is made explicit, and renders her incapable of connecting to Daniel as before. In the wake of these encounters with Daniel, Gwendolen returns to her family with a much greater capacity for kindness. Her newfound goodness, however, including her care for her mother and resolve not to gain immorally from the money left by Grandcourt’s death, is still undeniably connected to Daniel’s authority: Would her remorse have maintained its power within her, or would she have felt absolved by secrecy, if it had not been for that outer conscience which was made for her by Deronda? It is hard to say how much we could forgive ourselves if we were secure from judgment by another whose opinion is the breathing-medium of all our joy—who brings to us with close pressure and immediate sequence that judgment of the Invisible and Universal which self-flattery and the world’s tolerance would easily melt and disperse. (763) The description of Gwendolen’s dependence on Daniel’s guidance, and of his status as a kind of priest, belongs fi rmly within the realm of a traditional religious morality, in which the otherness of the “Invisible and Universal” is unlikely to exert force except through the mediation of a particular individual. Within this scheme, Gwendolen does in fact need Daniel’s presence to encourage her better instincts, and his leaving her in favor of his world-historical mission would indeed constitute abandonment and a loss of Gwendolen’s potential.34 Despite all of his advice to her when she turns to him for help, however, it is not through priestly guidance or moral platitudes that Daniel will enable Gwendolen’s more profound ethical awakening. Instead, only when he is able to admit fully his otherness to her, and she to him—to sever the ties of eroticism and communication that have rendered her dependent on him—will Gwendolen at last be open to the ethical acknowledgement of an absolute otherness. 35 In their fi nal scene together, Daniel does just that, informing Gwendolen that he is Jewish, is engaged to Mirah, and will soon set off to the East for an indefi nitely long stay. And as he struggles to tell her all, it becomes clear to Daniel just how different from each other they have become (or perhaps always were): “‘It has made a great difference to me that I have known it [the truth of my birth],’ said Deronda, emphatically; but he could not go on easily—the distance between her ideas and his acted like a difference of native language, making him uncertain what force his words would carry” (801–02). The analogy of “native language” is significant, implying a fundamental difference in the medium through which each narrates identity and world. And in response to Daniel’s revelations, his intention to leave her life in favor of one that is utterly alien to it, Gwendolen famously


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

experiences a fi nal reawakening, an altered sense of the world and her place in it: [ . . . ] she was for the fi rst time feeling the pressure of a vast mysterious movement, for the fi rst time being dislodged from her supremacy in her own world, and getting a sense that her horizon was but a dipping onward of an existence with which her own was revolving [ . . . ] she could not spontaneously think of him as rightfully belonging to others more than to her. But here had come a shock which went deeper than personal jealousy—something spiritual and vaguely tremendous that thrust her away, and yet quelled all anger into self-humiliation. (804) In contrast to Gwendolen’s prior moments of rebirth, which emphasized a changed relationship to other people as she felt herself to be less privileged than she had imagined, here Gwendolen is faced with a greater and more impersonal force. Described as going “deeper than personal jealousy,” this “spiritual and vaguely tremendous” something recalls the earlier sensation of dread in the presence of open space, although in this case the reaction is figured in the more positive terms of a new awareness, as anger is replaced by the self’s response to and possible welcome of that which is other. While this moment of self-realization does not constitute an ethical leap like Daniel’s, it does suggest the potential for the kind of openness or hospitality to possibility that allows the ethical encounter to happen. This is not, again, to claim a happy ending for Gwendolen, but rather to claim an open and therefore ethically significant end, to suggest that the ethical potential is not lost to Daniel’s Zionist mission but is rather transferred to Gwendolen. Living with her mother and sisters in England, she is granted a second chance to orient herself in relation to the world, as her unresolved position at the novel’s close represents the possibility of an unconditional hospitality that no novel can fully represent.36 This transfer, or shift, of the greatest ethical potential from Daniel to Gwendolen is a unique strategy that allows the novel to address the confl ict between the singularity of the moment of unconditional hospitality and the narrative requirements of the realist novel. As soon as Daniel’s mission becomes consolidated, directed, and politically complex, leaving behind the originary ethical moment of uncertainty, a new field of openness and possibility is granted to Gwendolen, and her continued presence in England disrupts the closure of Daniel and Mirah’s journey East. Since the ethical moment cannot be sustained through a linear narration, the only way to represent the ongoing importance of radical hospitality to the other is through inheritance, by suggesting that one character’s certainty and knowledge may engender another’s receptivity to the unknown, to futurity, to otherness. It is clear, however, that the novel is deeply ambivalent about the extent to which a more traditional narrative closure can be abandoned. Significantly,

George Eliot Leaves Home 87 the novel ends not with Gwendolen’s awakening but with Daniel’s marriage to Mirah and then Mordecai’s death. If the death of Mordecai is seen as the fi nal step in Daniel’s move from openness to mastery, then the politics of the novel are dependent on one’s assessment of the politics of Daniel’s mission. The demands of realism drive the narrative towards home, and thus the relative certainty of Daniel’s future as a husband and nation builder. This certainty, however, is interrupted and unsettled by the loose-end of Gwendolen’s future, and it is this double ending, this profound ambivalence about the ability of the realist form to do full justice to an ethics of hospitality, that establishes the truly radical nature of Daniel Deronda.

3 “This house from this moment is yours and not mine” Unconditional Hospitality in Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders

Daniel Deronda is ultimately about leaving home, as Daniel’s unconditional act of hospitality to Mordecai interrupts the text and leads him out of England to fi nd purpose far from the morally exhausted nation so thoroughly criticized within the novel. Gwendolen’s alternate story of ethical rebirth in England is suggested but not narrated, leaving unexplored a feminist vision of domestic hospitality. Thomas Hardy, by contrast, turns to the heart of England to document the erosion of sympathy and ensuing gestures towards an ethics of hospitality, and he is particularly attuned to transformations in roles and possibilities for women. Although geographically removed from the metropolitan center, the rural landscapes of Hardy’s novels are suff used by consciousness of the mobility and diversity that are the hallmarks of modern life. In An Imaginary England, Roger Ebbatson suggests that Victorian writers’ focus on rural England can be seen as a response, rather than in opposition, to the intensification of the nation’s industrial and imperial expansion: “If modernity and the industrial revolution cut humanity off from persistence and continuity, creating a rift between the self and the environment, in favour of mobility and dynamism, any imagined return to place is fraught with a sense of the ghostly or the archaic. Indeed the dynamism of progress and evolution leads to a deterritorialisation against which these writers struggle” (3). Hardy’s novels are littered with such “ghostly” returns as they investigate the implications of social mobility and the “dynamism” of progress, and The Woodlanders (1887) is no exception. In this text, it is not so much the arrival of foreigners that highlights the inadequacy of sympathy as a mode of relation, but rather the breakdown of communication within the established community itself. Opening with a familiar scenario of Grace Melbury as a “returned native” who must choose between suitors, the novel goes on to stage both the failure of the marriage plot and the inaccessibility of any fully viable alternatives to it. While Grace experiences fleeting moments of unconditional hospitality to others, this stance of radical receptivity cannot be sustained, and both character and novel ultimately return to the familiar—if ethically bankrupt—conventions of marriage. As a new woman character who embodies both personal and historical clashes between past and

Unconditional Hospitality


future, tradition and change, Grace highlights the particular ways in which women of the period are defi ned by competing expectations. Encompassing questions of domesticity, intimacy, and propriety, narrative hospitality provides a productive framework for understanding how Hardy challenges nineteenth-century constructions of gender and sexuality. Focusing on a series of encounters between characters, Hardy gestures towards alternative modes of relation while simultaneously recognizing the limitations that prevent such possibilities from being fully realized. The novel calls attention to the constricted narratives that constitute women only as daughters or wives, and explores the potential for different kinds of relationships between women. These encounters, which take place outside the context of marriage and family, are characterized by unconditional hospitality to others. While Grace is not able successfully to put into practice concrete alternatives to marriage, such as traveling with Felice or refusing both potential husbands, she does experience a kind of ethical feminism in intense temporary connections to others. In the moment, these relationships suggest the possibility for a radical rethinking of gender and intimacy, one based not on traditional ties of solidarity, but rather on the acknowledgement of difference and the contingent nature of women’s identity. Recognizing the force of social expectation, however, Hardy frames and contrasts these exceptional moments with the realist necessities of compromise and loss, representing in the process both the potential and failure of a radical hospitality to the other. In her uncomfortable status as both enlightened and trapped—aware of current dissatisfactions and other possibilities but unable to escape the ties of family and community—Grace may be read as a figure for the late realist novel itself. As we have seen, Hardy is deeply involved in the debates about morality and literature of the 1880s, and his own novels were subject to editing and censorship for their frank depictions of sexuality. The published texts represent an attempt to reconcile his deep interest in the complexity of sexuality, ethics, and human relations with a shifting but still Victorian standard of the proper subject matter for English fiction. Just as Grace reaches out to alternate relations but ultimately returns to her thoroughly demystified role as wife, so Hardy’s novel includes but fi nally attempts to contain and render palatable his exposure of the limits of conventional morality. By the end of the century, the tension becomes unbearable, and Hardy abandons the novel completely in favor of lyric poetry. In the meantime, however, his texts reveal the strains of the incorporation of suppressed ethical challenges to moral codes of rural England and London publishers alike. These strains are highly suggestive of Jacques Derrida’s reading of Levinasian ethics as hospitality. Derrida theorizes the dynamics of hospitality in terms of contradiction and aporia, pointing to the inevitable tension between unconditional hospitality to the other as other, and the more limited, mediated contact with particular others that takes place within

90 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction the conventions of everyday life. Whereas the fleeting and idealized relation between Daniel and Mordecai recalls the initial Levinasian encounter between self and other, Hardy’s thoroughly embodied characters, tightly enmeshed in their physical landscapes, achieve moments of exceptional receptivity only within the confi nes of an everyday world that immediately intervenes and tempers the ethical potential. Derrida captures precisely this sense of the paradoxical necessity and impossibility of unconditional hospitality, of the ways in which literature can simultaneously imagine and suppress a state of openness to the absolutely other. In an 1896 review of Jude the Obscure, Havelock Ellis writes of Hardy: “We realize that we are in the presence of an artist who is wholly absorbed in the effort to catch the fleeting caprices of the external world, unsuspected and incalculable, the unexpected fluctuations of the human heart” (582). Hardy’s own openness to the “unsuspected and incalculable” in human relations allows his novels to incorporate scenes of unconditional hospitality, even as he is deeply aware of the ephemerality of such ethical moments in both novels and life. Not everyone shares Ellis’s faith in Hardy’s ability to represent the human heart. In contrast to the works of George Eliot, Hardy’s novels may seem to be driven not by complex characters but rather by their surroundings—the geography, landscape, and labor that defi ne late Victorian life in rural England. The tendency of his novels to shift unexpectedly from one genre to another (pastoral to tragedy to social comedy and back) makes it particularly difficult to analyze the motivations of the actors within these plots. One strand of interpretation has cast him as a naturalist, privileging historical, economic, or environmental conditions over individual identity. These critics read his characters largely as victims of circumstance, vessels that exist to demonstrate the workings of capitalism, nature, or fate.1 A related but importantly different approach explains the lack of psychological depth as evidence of Hardy’s materialist view of the human, as the novels stress the extent to which consciousness is grounded in the sensory and biological aspects of the body. In his reading of The Return of the Native, William Cohen draws on the work of Gilles Deleuze to explore the relationship between face and landscape: “Although it can never have been very tempting to read Thomas Hardy as a psychological realist, few critics have gone so far in the other direction as Gilles Deleuze, who states that Hardy’s characters ‘are not people or subjects, they are collections of intensive sensations’ (Deleuze and Parnet 39–40)” (437). This approach highlights an important aspect of Hardy’s interest in physicality and experience, but it minimizes to some extent the specifically affective and relational impulses that animate the later novels in particular. 2 I’d like to suggest that the seeming flatness of Hardy’s characterization may be read in terms of narrative hospitality, as a kind of respectful distance between the authorial voice and the figures that inhabit his fictional world. Just as Hardy critiques the possibility of a straightforward sympathetic connection between individuals, so he incorporates this critique in

Unconditional Hospitality


the form of the novel itself, as he maintains a space between narrator and character. Olive Schreiner described this impression of his novels in a letter to Ellis, complaining that Hardy was: “ [ . . . ] only fi ngering his characters with his hands, not pressing them up against him till he felt their hearts beat” (Lines 12–13). In that “fi ngering,” however, Hardy invests the world of the novel with a strong sense of the energy and relations between characters, enabled by his refusal to embed the reader’s experience within the consciousness of a central figure. Disrupting the assumption of sympathy between characters and between author and novel, Hardy opens his text to the alternative relations of narrative hospitality.

I. “ETHOS AS ABODE”: MARTY SOUTH AND THE PROBLEM OF HOME In The Woodlanders, the novel’s concern with questions of temporality and landscape is reflected through the characters’ aspirations, memories, and relationships. In particular, the conception of home—as a past origin from which to develop or escape, as a specific geographical location that separates the known from the unfamiliar, and as a physical structure that houses families and individuals—plays a crucial role in how characters perceive their own identities and those of others.3 As Derrida states: “[ . . . ] the problem of hospitality [is] coextensive with the ethical problem. It is always about answering for a dwelling place, for one’s identity, one’s space, one’s limits, for the ethos as abode, habitation, house, hearth, family, home” (Of Hospitality 149–51). For Derrida, hospitality refers not only to the ethical relation to the other, but also to the self’s status as internally alienated; the initial act of welcome takes place within the individual, and establishes one’s identity as home. Similarly, in The Woodlanders identity is always a problem, and for Hardy’s characters this problem also takes the form of a crisis of home and belonging.4 Bringing the reader directly into the depths of the novel’s isolated pastoral setting, The Woodlanders begins not with Grace’s return from boarding school, but rather with Barber Percomb’s visit to Marty South. And while this scene might be expected to set up a fading Eden of traditional rural existence, it quickly becomes clear that Hardy permits no such illusions. At fi rst glance, the South cottage seems to represent the ideal of simple country life. Its “exceptional state of radiance” spills out of the open front door, penetrating the darkness outside and inviting anyone who passes “immediately into the living-room,” thus minimizing the distinction between interior and exterior, and suggesting that the light and warmth of the fi replace, conventionally associated with home and hospitality, are accessible to all (9). As soon as Percomb takes advantage of this apparent invitation, however, the tone of the scene shifts, as his entry frightens Marty, and she explains that the door is open only because “‘the chimney smokes so’” (11). Indeed, each


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element of the scene must be reinterpreted in light of the hard realities of rural existence: the light of the fi re is present only because Marty is staying up all night to fi nish the difficult labor of making spars to support her ailing father, and Percomb intrudes in order to convince her to cut off and sell her hair. The competing meanings in this minor opening scene suggest an important dynamic in the novel as a whole, as the categories of home and stranger, tradition and modernity, are frequently invoked only to be immediately revealed as entangled and mutually contaminating. 5 Marty herself occupies an ambiguous position in Little Hintock and in the novel, as she seems to represent the epitome of the unchanged rural community, yet also remains in the margins of the story.6 Even her physical presence reflects a tension between isolation and connection: “Her face had the usual fulness of expression which is developed by a life of solitude. Where the eyes of a multitude continuously beat like waves upon a countenance they seem to wear away its individuality; but in the still water of privacy every tentacle of feeling and sentiment shoots out in visible luxuriance, to be interpreted as readily as a printed book by an intruder” (11). Marty is represented as exceptional for the accuracy of her features as a guide to her personality, emotions, and experience. It does not require loving attention to know Marty—indeed, even an “intruder” can effortlessly read and understand her face. Ironically, however, the legibility of Marty’s face is directly attributed to the lack of observation of it. Therefore, although Marty’s love for Giles Winterborne is on display for those who choose to look, it is seen only occasionally by outsiders (Percomb and Felice Charmond) and is seemingly missed altogether by its object, Giles himself. As with the fi re and the open door, then, Marty’s transparency and emotional availability, seemingly the hallmarks of a sympathetic connection to others, are merely an accident of her lonely existence. The description of the face suggests that this is a paradox of the modern world more generally; it is only in such a world that one faces the “eyes of a multitude” of strangers, and the result of this encounter is not communication, but rather a further alienation from the overwhelming mass of others. In the circumscribed and close-knit world of the older forms of agricultural societies, however, one’s inner life is almost continuous with the surroundings, and the very distinction between external expression and the truth of internal being does not exist. Here the novel stresses the complexity of the problem of knowing other people, as those who are knowable are also essentially invisible, while those who can be seen, like Grace, cannot be fully known.

II. A “SHADOWY CONJECTURAL CREATURE”: GRACE’S HOMECOMING From the moment she is introduced in the novel as her father’s primary reason for sleeplessness, Grace Melbury is an unsettled and unsettling

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character, a “returned native” who is not clearly at home in either her father’s house or among the girls at her upper-class boarding school. That the reader learns of her recent history and status through the misgivings Melbury admits to his wife emphasizes both the extent to which our access to Grace is mediated through the expectations of other characters in the novel, and the uncertainty of her displaced and shifting identity. Melbury has long planned the marriage of Grace to Giles Winterbourne, to assuage his guilt for having “stolen” the fi rst Mrs. Melbury from Winterbourne’s father many years ago. Convinced of Grace’s potential, however, he has also spent beyond his means to send her away to a finishing school. Reduced to an object of her father’s will, Grace thus becomes the cause of one debt even as he plans to use her to “pay off” another. Melbury goes on to articulate his concern that his plans for her future are inherently contradictory: “‘But since I have educated her so well, and so long, and so far above the level of the daughters hereabout, it is wasting her to give her to a man of no higher standing than he [Giles]’” (18). This brief glimpse of father and step-mother introduces several of the factors that are responsible for Grace’s indeterminate and unpredictable character. She exists in a suspended state between home and school, trapped within competing versions of her father’s aspirations for her—which are themselves dictated simultaneously by his past regrets and his projected hopes—and thus embodies contradictions that are at once geographical, temporal, and economic. Her position is particularly vexed because she is a girl, and is therefore expected to validate her father’s decision to educate her by marrying up. Grace’s education represents an increased number of possibilities only in a restricted sense: before going to school, she could have married Giles, while now she might be able to marry someone else or to go abroad with Felice (and thereby meet a different rich man to marry). As Penny Boumelha points out in one of the fi rst feminist readings of the novel: “[ . . . ] for a male character, as for Clym Yeobright, [ . . . ] education can, either in itself or by virtue of its opening up of certain kinds of employment, constitute at once the means and the mark of his class-mobility. Grace, on the other hand, is simply left by it ‘as it were in mid-air between two storeys of society’ (p. 253) until the new class-position is consolidated by a suitable marriage” (Thomas Hardy 110). Grace’s indeterminate status reflects the larger cultural shift in women’s roles, as they are collectively trapped in “mid-air” between Victorian constraints and newfound opportunities in education, work, and political participation. On a practical level, however, Grace must return to her father’s house and thus remains nominally under his supervision. In The Woodlanders, Hardy is particularly interested in exploring Grace’s response, as a new woman, to this contradictory position, as class indeterminacy is paralleled by her suspension between father’s household and future husband’s. The problem of Grace’s identity, of the relationship between her past, present, and future selves and between her native woodland and her distant school is reflected by the mismatch between social

94 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction extension and physical retreat, as she is forced to reinhabit an identity she intended to leave behind. As soon as she emerges from her father’s thoughts to become a physical presence in the novel, this disjunction is evident to all: What people therefore saw of her in a cursory view was very little; in truth, mainly something that was not she. The woman herself was a shadowy conjectural creature who had little to do with the outlines presented to Sherton eyes: a shape in the gloom, whose true quality could only be approximated by putting together a movement now and a glance then, in that patient attention which nothing but watchful loving-kindness ever troubles to give. (38–39) Grace’s sojourn in the advanced world of upper-class education, distant from Little Hintock geographically, temporally, and socially, renders her spectral and indefi nable when she returns to her native setting.7 Without the grounding of land and a community of people, the passage suggests, one can only be known through a lengthy process of observation by a “loving” one.8 Because she has left the tightly knit universe of Little Hintock, Grace has cut herself off from the continuity and familiar connection that are necessary to be fully present to others. Mobility has disrupted the dynamic of sympathy as the basis for personal relationships and even identity, and the resulting sense of disconnection leaves Grace in a disorienting state of limbo. Having been literally absent from home, Grace also finds it impossible to be fully at home with herself, as the lack of sympathetic surroundings has left her unsure of her own desires and values. Once dislodged from her origins, her future is no longer limited to a single legible path, and Grace is left open but not fully committed to a range of possibilities and other individuals, including especially Giles, Felice, and fi nally Fitzpiers. In some ways, Grace is similar to both Daniel and Gwendolen in the earlier novel; she experiences a sense of openness to and sympathy for others, like Daniel, but as a woman her future, like Gwendolen’s, will ultimately be determined by her choice of spouse, in lieu of alternate opportunities for self-direction. This sense of diff useness, of being without a clearly centered identity, affects both the readers of and the characters within Hardy’s novel. While the reader may experience Grace as an unlikely heroine, with neither psychological nor moral depth, characters like Felice and Fitzpiers are drawn to this very element of incompleteness in Grace, to her ability to reflect their own concerns. Grace’s indeterminacy thus manifests itself in a series of fragmented relationships. These connections are not built from a stable base and developed over time (as shown by her inability to return fully to Giles), or even sustained through proximity and habit (as in a more successful marriage), but rather take the form of unexpected and temporary eruptions of openness to another, moments of hospitality and intimacy

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that are possible because of a lack of stronger ties to a single person or place. Once sympathetic attachments to home and community have been disrupted, Hardy suggests, they are supplanted by these fleeting but potentially self-altering experiences of receptivity to the other. At the level of form, these moments of narrative hospitality serve to highlight the limits of realist representation; Grace’s unconventional encounters with others disturb the assumptions of the reader, as they enact an alternate mode of ethical response. Just as Grace’s physical appearance reflects an unstable and open sense of self, her return to Melbury’s house exposes further the impossibility of easy reintegration into a coherent identity. Indeed, this scene highlights the extent to which such coherence is always essentially an illusion, as the fact of Grace’s return recalls the initial aspirations that necessitated her departure, and thus triggers an intricate process of comparing old dreams of the future with present memories of the past. If leaving home represents the attempt to give substance to new possibilities, to open oneself to the unknown, then the eventual homecoming must be fraught with disillusionment, with the realization of the difference between the possible and the actual. And by beginning with the return rather than the departure, the novel emphasizes the real at the expense of the ideal at a structural level, relegating the sense of infi nite potential to the already inaccessible and perhaps always romanticized past. Grace’s position is further complicated by the particular implications of a daughter returning to the father’s home, a space in which she is not mistress but can no longer comfortably be considered a child or ward. This is a specific instance of the more general problem of woman’s role as hostess; while she might be expected to welcome guests in her capacity as the Victorian “angel in the house,” it is only the male master, either father or husband, who has the power to invite others into his home. Grace’s initial return home is thus defi ned by her conflicted sense of identity; from her position as adult daughter, the only obvious path she can pursue is the welcome of a suitor, an action which will allow her to take on the familiar roles of wife and mother in her husband’s home. Even Grace’s invitations to her two potential suitors, Giles and Fitzpiers, however, are largely dictated by her father’s shifting desires. Not surprisingly, then, the scene of Grace’s homecoming is marked by conflicted images of stasis and change, possession and alienation. In addition to commenting from the outside on how Grace’s time away has altered her legibility for those who remained behind, and for the narrator himself, Hardy also suggests that Grace’s own perceptions of home have been transformed. As she wanders through her father’s house after dinner, Grace is struck by both that which seems different and that which seems unchanged: “Each nook and each object revived a memory, and simultaneously modified it. [ . . . ] Her own bedroom wore at once a look more familiar than when she had left it, and yet a face estranged. The world of little

96 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction things therein gazed at her in helpless stationariness, as though they had tried and been unable to make any progress without her presence” (46–47). Although the reader sees the house through Grace’s eyes and consciousness, she is represented as an oddly passive recipient of the impressions and even “gaze” of household objects. Grace’s memories of her home are “revived” by the sight of each “nook” and “object,” which implies the accuracy of the mental images she has maintained while at school, but they are at the same time “modified,” corrected to correspond more precisely to the reality that is now again before her. The “simultaneity” of these two experiences suggests something of the indeterminacy of Grace’s consciousness and identity, as a sense of continuity is derailed by the unreliability of memory. The slightly uncanny atmosphere is further emphasized by the personification of Grace’s bedroom and its contents, as the room manages to wear a “familiar” look despite possessing an “estranged” face.9 Here sameness and change are so deeply intertwined that the distinction between them becomes questionable, as Grace’s very status as native or foreigner seems indeterminate. And surprisingly, the room itself dictates Grace’s experience, as the qualities of familiarity and estrangement are attributed to the space and the objects in it, rather than to the observer’s interpretation of those items. Indeed, the association of room and face plays havoc with the function of home, as the location that might represent unquestioning welcome to Grace, a sympathetic refuge from the community that will view her skeptically, is instead the very source of those unpredictable encounters, and takes the form of an active surface (the face) rather than a passive and empty space. While Levinas’s “face-to-face” encounter does not describe the relation of self and thing, this episode suggests that objects themselves are strangely embodied and possibly even implicated in Grace’s ethical orientation to others. Just as Grace cannot rely on memory as a stable foundation from which to adapt to change, so her bedroom does not represent a private internal space from which to gather the self in preparation to meet the external world. In each case, faith in knowledge and sympathetic understanding is disrupted by a sense of otherness, and the need for an alternative mode of relation becomes clear. Finally, the suggestion that the small items in the room have tried and failed to “make progress” in Grace’s absence is partially explained by a more quotidian detail, divulged by the narrator but unknown to Grace herself, about Melbury’s maintenance of the bedroom while she was away: “Over the place where her candle had been accustomed to stand, when she had used to read in bed till the midnight hour, there was still the brown spot of smoke. She did not know that her father had taken especial care to keep it from being cleaned off” (47).10 The transition here from Grace’s consciousness to the narrator’s sheds new light on the bedroom scene as a whole. While Grace perceives the objects themselves as responding to her absence and return, the narrator points to more mundane aspects of stasis and change. The room has not, of course, remained untouched for the

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duration of Grace’s time at school, but has been cleaned and dusted like the rest of the house. Even uninhabited rooms are subject to routine activity; they become dirty and must be cleaned—a room that had not been cleaned would not, after all, look the same. In a reflection of his ambivalence about the decision to send Grace to school, however, her father has resisted this process in which minor changes like the removal of dirt serve to preserve the general sameness of the whole (a clean and inhabitable chamber), insisting that one particularly significant kind of dirt remain on the wall. This seemingly small action underlines Hardy’s insistence that any relation to home is overdetermined and complex, subject to the influence and even manipulation of others. Associated with Grace’s habit of reading even before she goes to school, the mark itself is also significant, for it suggests that her difference from others in the community is in part a cause of her journey away from Little Hintock, and not merely its effect.11 When considered alongside the footprint in the yard that he has preserved under a rock, it becomes clear that Melbury’s welcome of Grace involves a denial of the very changes he has sacrificed so much to achieve (Hardy 19). Melbury’s material attempts to stop time reinforce the extent to which homecoming entails a paradoxical convergence of past and future, proximity and distance. Unable fully to surrender control of his daughter or her room, Melbury clings hopelessly to the fiction of continuity, as he both desires and resists the opening of his home to the unfamiliar and new.



Soon after she arrives in Little Hintock, Grace is invited to the home of Felice Charmond, a wealthy widow who has inherited not only her home but much of the territory within which the events of the novel take place.12 As an outsider and as a woman of property, Felice might seem capable of offering a radical alternative sense of possibility to the other women in the novel, of providing opportunities for development and self-discovery that are independent of a traditional marriage plot. Solidly ensconced within her class position, however, Hardy suggests that she is incapable of the kind of flexibility and hospitality that characterize Grace’s hybrid sense of self. Instead, Felice is largely defined by her possessions and power, and despite occasional impulses of resistance to hierarchy, she is ultimately unable to subvert conventional roles. Felice’s failed attempts at hospitality, however, help to shed light on the complexity of the relations between women in the novel. Although Felice’s actions lie behind many of the major events of the plot, her fi rst appearance in the text does not occur until the fi fth chapter, and even then she is heard but not actually seen. Not surprisingly, it is Marty who encounters her in this instance, since the appropriation of Marty’s hair is the fi rst evidence of her wealth and powers of manipulation, and


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it is in fact Marty’s roughly cut hair that allows Felice to recognize her. In response to encountering her on foot, Felice directs her coachman to invite Marty to ride on the carriage, and the tired girl gratefully accepts. Although the purchased hair establishes a connection between these two women who would otherwise have nothing in common, the motivation for Felice’s strangely charitable act remains obscure, even to the narrator: Inside the carriage a pair of bright eyes looked from a ripe handsome face, and though behind those bright eyes was a mind of unfathomed mysteries, beneath them there beat a heart capable of quick, extempore warmth [ . . . ] At present, after recognising the girl, she had acted on a mere impulse, possibly feeling gratified at the denuded appearance which signified the success of her agent in obtaining what she had required. (40) Just as Marty’s open door acted as a misleading sign of hospitality towards Percomb, here Felice’s apparent generosity actually serves to express feelings of domination. Whereas a genuine act of hospitality must be offered to any stranger who appears at one’s door, it is clear that in this instance Felice reaches out to Marty as her superior, in terms of class, age, status, and— especially since the haircut—physical appearance. And although she allows Marty to ride on the carriage, she stops well short of inviting her all the way into her personal compartment, and their only communication takes the form of wishing each other good night. The fact that Marty benefits from the action in two ways (she is spared further physical exhaustion and she avoids an awkward encounter with Giles and Grace) does not invest Felice’s action with ethical significance, and the effect of the encounter is to emphasize, not diminish, the differences between the two women. Although Grace’s visit to Felice’s home is a more significant moment in the plot of the novel, this encounter, I will demonstrate, is similarly determined by Felice’s role as owner and superior, and never represents a sincere opening of home or self to another. From the outset, the relationship between Grace and Felice involves a complex interplay of similarity and difference. Just as the return to her own home is characterized by a confusion of feelings of belonging and distance, so the sight of Hintock House recalls Grace again to her uniquely divided position: “The exterior of the house had been familiar to her from her childhood, but she had never been inside, and the approach to knowing an old thing in a new way was a lively experience” (58). Emphasizing the distinction between outside and inside, Hardy raises the possibility that Grace’s crossing of this boundary will constitute a significant transformation; at this moment, Grace’s education has enabled her access literally to the interior of a house for the fi rst time, and figuratively to a new world of opportunities. In contrast to her own bedroom, which looks at the newly refi ned Grace skeptically when she returns, Felice’s home will now embrace her, at least temporarily. In a

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strange reversal of roles, however, it is not the host of this newly accessible space, Felice, who is described as opening herself to Grace, but rather Grace who responds to the invitation with a particularly receptive bearing: “There was something so sympathetic, so responsive in the sound of Grace’s voice, that it impelled people to play havoc with their customary reservations in talking to her” (60). Like Daniel Deronda, Grace’s lack of a fi rmly centered sense of self leaves her open to accept the sensibilities of others, creating intimacies that overlook differences of social status. In the unusual exclusively female space created by Felice’s ownership of Hintock House, some sense of hospitality is shared between the women, as Felice’s opening of her home enables a parallel opening within Grace. As in the scene with Marty, however, this encounter is based on a limited relationship of sympathy, and is not an unconditional welcome of the other. Felice originally makes contact with Grace because of their similarities; she is seeking a female traveling companion. Despite differences of age and, more importantly, sexual experience, Felice assumes between them a common attitude towards men: “‘Man-traps are of rather ominous significance where a person of our sex lives, are they not?’” (59). Felice’s proposal to Grace, that she accompany her to Europe and record her impressions for a book, implies that they will function together as a single unit, with Felice’s mind generating free-form material for Grace to channel, to “put [ . . . ] down systematically on cold smooth paper” with a “cold steel pen” (60). Although the “coldness” of Grace’s imagined pen and paper serves to emphasize her difference from Felice’s heated and promiscuous sexual life, the relationship is primarily one of sympathy. The cooperative vision is enabled by Grace’s hybridity, which renders her similar enough (in education and manners) to support Felice’s ambitions yet still different enough (in class and experience) to avoid threatening them. The imagined trip, made possible by Felice’s exceptional wealth, would allow both women to experience a sort of suspended state, in which Grace would escape the immediate hand-off from father to husband, while Felice would attempt to redefi ne herself as a writer. Traveling is one of the few possibilities besides marriage for which Grace’s education has prepared her, and thus represents potential freedom both geographically and intellectually, allowing her to reinvest her imagined future with new hopes. While the ultimate result of a sojourn in Europe might simply be securing a European husband, it is still an unfamiliar path with the opportunity to open onto many unpredictable outcomes. This aborted journey thus represents a practical feminist alternative, as it suggests new possibilities for unmarried women to determine their own futures, but it does not significantly alter the ethical relation between Grace and Felice. The image of cooperation and the possibility of escape from established narratives, although attractive to both Grace and Felice, is indeed not sufficient to overcome the conventional competition between women based on physical appearance. In a remarkable scene as Grace is leaving the house,


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the two women stand side by side before a mirror, which therefore reflects difference between them rather than identity. In contrast to more familiar instances in Victorian fiction, in which a woman’s image in the mirror highlights the doubleness of her sense of self, this mirror works to consolidate each woman’s role based on external appearance rather than internal division.13 Felice fi nds that the physical contrast works to her own disadvantage: “There are complexions which set off each other to great advantage, and there are those which antagonise, the one killing or damaging its neighbor unmercifully. This was unhappily the case here” (62). The mirror allows Felice to view herself and Grace as if through the eyes of a third (male) party, and she concludes that Grace’s presence would render her own beauty invisible. The mirror disrupts the possibility of a sympathetic collaboration based on a sort of master-apprentice model initially imagined by Felice, one that implied a gradual, sequential process of substitution of the older woman with the younger. It instead places them, literally, in the same plane, and thereby forces an immediate physical competition. In addition, the scene recasts the purpose of the journey, from Felice’s writerly to her romantic ambitions. Felice’s social advantages of wealth and experience are inconsequential in the eyes of the mirror, which reflects only Grace’s youthful and innocent face. Over-investing the reflection with significance due to her impulsive and non-reflective jealousy, Felice rejects Grace, preferring loneliness to rivalry. What begins as a conventional, though feminist, act of hospitality—in which Felice welcomes Grace into her home and future life based on their compatibility with each other—is derailed by an imaginary male gaze into a scene of jealousy and competition. Reflecting back the interior of her ornate home, the mirror effectively traps Felice in her role as mistress of the estate, defining her future in terms of women’s need to secure a mate. And if this is the primary goal, a genuine welcome of another woman with the same desires becomes impossible. When Grace reports the news to her father, Melbury as usual misreads Felice’s actions as stemming from precisely the opposite of her true motivations, assuming that Grace has been scorned because, rather than in spite, of the differences in class and manners between the two women.



Although the trip with Felice never becomes a reality, the consciousness of an alternative future it presents to Grace has a lasting effect. This sense of possibility is clearly one of the factors that helps to drive her away from Giles and towards Fitzpiers, but more significantly, it also casts doubt on the wisdom of that decision. During the month before her marriage to Fitzpiers, a time defi ned by the passing of authority over her from father to fiancé, Grace is fi rst able to articulate her own misgivings. Awake at dawn because of the anxiety caused by her engagement, she witnesses clear evidence of

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Fitzpiers’s infidelity. Staring out of her own window, and thus focused on the space beyond her father’s home, she observes Fitzpiers’s house, seemingly shut up tight for the night: “The window-shutters were closed, the bedroom curtains closely drawn, and not the thinnest coil of smoke rose from the rugged chimneys” (167). Despite these signs of his isolation and ability to sleep through the night, she then sees Suke Damson leaving the house, with Fitzpiers’s arm reaching out to adjust her shawl. The short distance between father’s and future husband’s houses is literally invaded by the presence of another woman, and Fitzpiers’s disloyal act of welcome towards Suke leads Grace to reconsider alternatives to being transported directly from one home to the next. Although the duration is not narrated within the text, this sight apparently sends her into a three-hour reverie, at the end of which she has rejected not only her engagement to Fitzpiers, but the option of marriage more generally: “‘I have been thinking very much about my position this morning,’” she declares to her father, “‘And I feel that it is a false one. I wish not to marry Mr. Fitzpiers. I wish not to marry anybody’” (168). Grace comes to a realization not simply about Fitzpiers’s possible character flaws, but about her status and future overall. If allowed to stand, this declaration would upend both Grace’s life and the novel itself entirely, and it suggests an early hint of Hardy’s attempts to break out of conventional women’s plots. Melbury, however, refuses to acknowledge her desire to avoid marriage entirely, instead attributing her rebellion to the only source he can imagine—the influence of yet another man, Giles Winterborne. Despite the apparent depth of this moment of resistance, Grace’s doubts are quickly allayed by the thoroughness of Fitzpiers’s fabricated narrative: “It was all so plausible—so completely explained” (170). Like his tightly closed house, Fitzpiers’s explanation leaves no space for doubt. The ease with which Fitzpiers wins back her trust emphasizes the fragile nature of her decision; able to reject one option, she has not—indeed, given her limited experience and gender, could not have—imagined a viable alternative to marriage, and is thus still extremely vulnerable to all outside influences. Grace’s short-lived rebellion is enabled by a sense of openness and uncertainty marked by the silent passage of three hours, which suggests the potential of an ethical receptivity to that which is unknown, and shut down in the face of a coherent narrative which seems to account for every moment: “The interim [time until the wedding] closed up its perspective surely and silently. Whenever Grace had any doubts of her position the sense of contracting time was like a shortening chamber” (171). Marriage to Fitzpiers, which might be seen as an opportunity for new experience, is represented instead as a path to enclosure and limitation. The extent to which Grace’s choices have been imposed upon her by father and husband is highlighted by the spatial arrangements of her married life, as she and Fitzpiers fail to establish their own household. The narrator relates the fact in a passively constructed sentence that leaves the


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responsibility for this choice entirely unclear: “It had been decided that they should, at least for a time, take up their abode in her father’s roomy house [ . . . ]” (180), and it is difficult to determine what combination of Melbury’s, Fitzpiers’s, and Grace’s doubts about the marriage result in this arrangement. The very details of the description make it clear that the ambivalence and hybridity of the joint household run deep. Even though “[ . . . ]one wing of [the house] was quite at their service, being almost disused by the Melburys,” Grace’s father exerts total control: “so scrupulous had been the timber-dealer that there should occur no hitch or disappointment on their arrival that not the smallest detail remained undone” (180). If Grace is already marked by an incomplete separation from the world of Little Hintock and her childhood, by conflicting loyalties and desires that have driven her towards marriage with Fitzpiers in an attempt to enable her most far-reaching ambitions, then it is obvious that living with Fitzpiers in her parental home will only deepen her identity crisis. Grace’s confl icting impulses and limited options are manifested within her very living situation, as even the hand-off from father to husband is muddied and incomplete. Her status as mistress of two homes simultaneously would thus seem to cut her off from all possible alternatives to the traditional roles of daughter and wife. In his discussion of hospitality, Derrida acknowledges the inevitable tension in the role of hostess, as she must welcome others even as she is not considered the master of the home. He addresses the potential sexism of Levinas’s discussion of ethics and the role of the feminine, as Levinas can be read as placing women outside the ethical relation. Derrida suggests an alternate interpretation, in which the self’s initial gesture of welcome is seen as an acknowledgement of the centrality of sexual difference in hospitality: “The absolute, absolutely originary welcome, indeed, the pre-original welcome, the welcoming par excellence, is feminine; it takes place in a place that cannot be appropriated, in an open ‘interiority’ whose hospitality the master or owner receives before himself then wishing to give it. Hospitality thus precedes property [ . . . ]” (Adieu 45). Associating the abstract “feminine” with a sense of welcome and interiority that precede a consolidated home or identity, Derrida suggests that feminine difference underlies the ethical relation, and is thus neither outside nor secondary to it. Hardy similarly complicates the relationship between women and property, as he calls into question Melbury’s effectiveness as master of the house, and goes on to stage several scenes of hospitality in which traditional gender roles are subverted. The tension between Grace’s old life and new is seen even in as small a detail as the sign that marks Fitzpiers’s office: “[ . . . ] a ground-floor room had been fitted up as a surgery, with an independent outer door, to which Fitzpiers’s brass plate was screwed—for mere ornament, such a sign being quite superfluous where everybody knew the latitude and longitude of his neighbours for miles round” (180). The sign supports the fiction that Fitzpiers and Grace have established their own life as a couple in Little Hintock,

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but the reality is that they are enfolded within the small and entirely known community, and, more importantly, that it is impossible to maintain a truly independent existence in such a place. The reference to Fitzpiers’s medical practice also recalls his similarity to Lydgate in Eliot’s Middlemarch.14 Hardy may well be referring directly to the earlier novel’s emphasis on the incompatibility between small-town marriage and medical ambition, as the incorporation of the surgery into his father-in-law’s home suggests that Fitzpiers is literally not going anywhere. While Melbury’s welcome of the couple into his house might be seen as a conventional act of hospitality, it simultaneously has the effect of extending his control over his daughter’s life into the realm of her marriage, and serves to contain the new possibilities promised by Fitzpiers’s status as outsider and scientist. Once again, Grace’s past life and future aspirations seem to crash into each other through the overlapping functions of the interior spaces of the home. Paradoxically, however, it may be that very confusion of household propriety that ultimately enables a renewal of Grace’s sense of resistance and possibility, since it works to intensify her divided identity and her uncertainty about her married life. Given her confl icted loyalties, Grace’s response to Fitzpiers’s extramarital attachments, fi rst to Suke and then to Felice, is decidedly unconventional and potentially liberating. When Grace discovers that Fitzpiers’s explanation of Suke’s late night visit is untrue, she is recalled to her original moment of doubt: “[ . . . ] she did not fail to suspect that she had made a frightful mistake in her marriage. Acquiescence in her father’s wishes had been degradation to herself. People are not given premonitions for nothing” (209). Because neither soothing explanations from Fitzpiers, nor “the feline wildness” of jealousy that Grace is expected to feel, are forthcoming to eliminate her regrets, Grace begins to achieve a state of detachment from both Fitzpiers and the marriage itself. Within the space created by this distance, she is able temporarily to subvert her construction by Melbury and Fitzpiers, forging her own relationships outside marriage and becoming able to distinguish the difference between social convention and intensely human and unpredictable emotions. Similarly, when Grace realizes that Fitzpiers is regularly traveling to visit Felice, she does not respond with the anger or resistance that her father expects: “This apparent indifference alarmed him. He would far rather that she had rushed in all the fire of jealousy to Hintock House, regardless of conventionality, confronted and attacked Felice Charmond unguibus et rostro, and accused her even in exaggerated shape of stealing away her husband. Such a storm might have cleared the air” (220). In part, this moment merely reflects the difference in personality between father and daughter; where Melbury tends to fret and act impulsively, Grace is more prone to rumination and passivity. In addition, however, this response suggests the possibility for alternative relationships between women. Throughout the novel, Grace repeatedly refuses to hate, attack, or even plead with her female rivals. Instead, she represents herself as aloof from the emotional


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responses of anger and jealousy, and thus more likely to analyze than to act on these feelings. As she tells her father: “‘I am quiet because my sadness is not of a nature to stir me to action’” (220). Rather than rendering her vulnerable, as Melbury clearly fears, Grace’s “indifference” and passivity instead mark her ability to escape some of the limitations of the role of the jilted wife, as she goes on to forge unconventional and risky attachments to both Felice and Giles. This moment, although easily overlooked because it is defi ned by Grace’s inaction rather than by a violent or angry response, suggests the existence of radical alternatives for understanding women’s positions. Going beyond the cooperative vision of traveling with Felice, Grace places herself more fully outside established female expectations. Hardy anticipates later feminist writers here, including Virginia Woolf, who suggests in her 1938 antiwar essay Three Guineas that educated daughters can most effectively resist cooptation by male institutions by forming a “society of outsiders” and collectively adopting an attitude of indifference (126–27). While Grace does not have access to a larger community of women, or to a political reading of her own responses, she does seem aware that she has constructed herself as an “outsider” by refusing more predictable emotions and behavior. Among the conventions that Grace moves beyond with this realization are those that stabilize her sense of identity as dutiful daughter and wife. Forced to give up the self-defi nition imposed on her by her relationships with these men, Grace fi nds herself in a relatively open and ambiguous position, one in which she cannot rely on familiar modes of conduct. As a result, her subsequent encounters with Suke, Felice, and fi nally Giles will be characterized by a renewed receptivity to unpredictable forms of relation—a meaningful capacity to extend hospitality to others with the potential to alter radically her sense of self. In one remarkable scene, this newfound openness takes the form of a literal act of hospitality, as Grace waits at home for Fitzpiers to return (unaware that he has been badly hurt in the confrontation with her father). When Fitzpiers’s two lovers, Suke and Felice, arrive at the house to determine his state of health, they encounter an open door and Grace’s invitation to enter: “[Grace] went to the top of the stairs, and said faintly, ‘Come up,’ knowing that the door stood, as usual in such houses, wide open” (260). In an ironic inversion of home as an intact domestic space, this group of three women represents the violation of Grace and Fitzpiers’s marriage. Even more surprisingly, Grace refuses to play the role of the resentful and jealous wife: A tenderness spread over Grace like a dew. It was well enough, conventionally, to address either one of them in the wife’s regulation terms of virtuous sarcasm, as woman, creature, or thing. But life, what was it, and who was she? She had, like the singer of the Psalm of Asaph, been plagued and chastened all the day long; but could she, by retributive

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words, in order to please herself, the individual, “offend against the generation,” as he would not? [ . . . ] The tears which his [Fitzpiers’s] possibly critical situation could not bring to her eyes surged over at the contemplation of these fellow-women. (261–262) Beginning with an image of Grace covered in dew, and ending with her free release of tears, this episode suggests that conventional competitive roles among women are momentarily washed away by some unexpected feeling of connection and counter-intuitive sympathy.15 By throwing in her lot with Fitzpiers’s two mistresses, and emphasizing their common feeling, Grace resists not only sexual rivalry but also class divisions in both directions. That a milk maid, a merchant’s daughter, and an heiress should stand together weeping, “[ . . . ] pitying another though most to be pitied themselves [ . . . ],” suggests that these women have momentarily found with each other an alternative to the economic and sexual mores of everyday society (262). Enabled by Grace’s selfless act of hospitality, this potential shift in social relations remains only a potential. As soon as Melbury arrives home, the two mistresses “silently disappear,” and none will interact with each other substantively again. In the context of the novel as a whole, this is a typically ambivalent moment. The radical possibility suggested by the subversion of the roles of wife and mistress is not fulfi lled by any subsequent reorientation of relationships or futures, as Grace will ultimately re-embrace her wifely duties to Fitzpiers with a vengeance. The act of inviting Suke and then Felice into her home even before knowing who they are, however, is associated with an unanticipated sense of fellowship, represented not as a rational decision to treat the women differently, but as a passive sensation of experiencing an external tenderness that descends like dew, and that calls into question familiar modes of being in the world: “But life, what was it, and who was she?” Comparing herself to the psalm singer, Grace seems to set aside wifely jealousy, an emotion that implies possession of the spouse and competition with other women, privileging instead her place within a family tradition (“the generation”) and a kind of universal obligation as host. Discussing the tension that exists in any act of hospitality between welcoming a foreigner by asking for a name, and an unconditional welcome extended to the stranger as such, Derrida asks: “Does one give hospitality to a subject? to an identifiable subject? [ . . . ] Or is hospitality rendered, is it given to the other before they are identified, even before they are (posited as or supposed to be) a subject [ . . . ]?” (Of Hospitality 29). Although the isolation and tight-knit community of Little Hintock minimize the possibility of fi nding a complete stranger at one’s door, it is significant that Grace’s invitation precedes her knowledge of who arrives, and that she resists casting them in the most obvious subject positions as enemies or rivals. Refusing to behave in accordance with the animal metaphors used to characterize women’s competition (“feline jealousy” and “unguibus et rostro


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

[‘with claws and bill’]”), Grace is able momentarily to create an alternative space of welcome between women, one that suggests possibilities beyond the romantic entanglements that have originally brought them together. That this space exists within the house of her father and husband necessarily limits the potential, but when women come together outside such domestic enclosures, other possibilities can be further explored.

V. RADICAL HOSPITALITY IN THE WOODS An earlier and more significant meeting between Grace and Felice takes place under radically different circumstances. Indeed, all of Chapter 17 is marked by a sense of otherworldliness, as unlikely pairings are brought together in the woods, creating an alternative space that recalls the forest of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Just as the forest in the play represents an exception to the laws and order of the daylight world, so the woods in the novel are associated with a lost time of harmony between individuals and nature. Unlike the play, however, in which the forest scenes constitute the bulk of the action, this chapter of the novel functions as a brief and potent interruption of the more conventionally realist plot. In a structural instance of narrative hospitality, the novel opens itself to this surprising and unsustainable scene of intimacy and otherness. In contrast to other encounters between Grace and Felice, this meeting significantly happens outside of any character’s home, in the seemingly communal space of the woodland. The question of who is most at home in the forest is complex; while Felice technically owns most of the woodlands in the novel, she is an outsider, and Grace is actually much more comfortable in and knowledgeable about this space.16 Thus neither Grace nor Felice is clearly in the position of host or guest, and they approach each other as individuals on relatively neutral territory: “[Felice] held out her hand tentatively, while Grace stood like a wild animal on first confronting a mirror or other puzzling product of civilization. Was it really Mrs. Charmond speaking to her thus? If it was she could no longer form any guess as to what life signified” (235–36). While this image of the mirror obviously recalls the actual mirror in Felice’s home, it now registers the changed relationship between the two women.17 The mirror plays a dual role here, as it suggests that Felice is a reflection of Grace while at the same time the mirror itself is characterized as an object of modern civilization. The passage implies, then, that Grace simultaneously looks both at and in a mirror when she confronts Felice. Moreover, while looking in the mirror suggests similarity or even identity between Grace and Felice, the alternative image of Grace as a wild animal and Felice as the mirror (or other “puzzling,” man-made “product”) implies a radical difference between them, one that cannot be bridged by gender, humanity, or even language. Rather than the mirror reflecting a similarity that breeds competition, as in the first encounter, it now exposes an absolute difference

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that is beyond recognition or comprehension (“she could no longer form any guess as to what life signified”). Just as any act of hospitality entails a tension between welcoming a specific individual and the unconditional welcome of the absolutely other, so the meeting between the two women dramatizes this paradoxical moment, as it is not clear whether their connection is based on familiarity or estrangement, sympathy or indifference. This contradiction between identity and absolute difference structures the next two encounters between the two women. The sense of disorientation continues as Felice and Grace walk together into the woods. Just as Grace’s earlier realization about Fitzpiers was marked by the absence of narration and a loss of a sense of time, allowing alternate visions of the future to emerge, so the distance covered in the woods cannot be accounted for: “They went further, much further than Mrs. Charmond had meant to go; but mental indiscipline hindered her from beginning her conversation, and in default she kept walking” (236). Again, Grace’s moments of insight are associated with a gap—temporal or spatial—and always marked by the absence of language. The deeper the two women move into the forest, the further they are, literally and metaphorically, from their socially sanctioned roles and relationships. Once they begin the conversation, Grace is able to recognize and to divine, despite the older woman’s protestations to the contrary, the depth of Felice’s feelings for Fitzpiers. The communication takes the form of a wordless subtext to Felice’s spoken explanation, as: “The moment that the speaker’s tongue touched the dangerous subject a vivid look of self-consciousness flashed over her; in which her heart revealed, as by a lightning gleam, what fi lled it to overflowing. So transitory was the expression that none but a quick-sensed woman, and she in Grace’s position, would have had the power to catch its meaning. Upon her the phase was not lost” (236). Agency and intention are strangely absent from this moment of confession; Felice’s face betrays her feelings involuntarily, and Grace simply “catches” the emotional content. Rather than gaining knowledge of Felice through conversation or other verbal means, Grace employs a form of intuition which allows her access to Felice’s true feelings despite her spoken protestations to the contrary. This intuitive mode of communication is necessary because the message being expressed (that Felice has genuine feelings for Fitzpiers) is inconsistent with Felice’s behavior up to this point in the novel. Relying solely on verbal communication would deny Grace access to the depth of Felice’s emotion, which is only perceptible when Grace is able to open herself to an uncharacteristic aspect of Felice’s identity. This moment of extra-linguistic communion marks the encounter as an interruption, as that which exceeds and subverts conventional modes of relation. It can thus be associated with an act of unconditional hospitality, which Derrida argues may be characterized by the absence of language: “[ . . . ] we have come to wonder whether absolute, hyperbolical, unconditional hospitality doesn’t consist in suspending language, a particular determinate language, and even the address to the other”

108 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction (Of Hospitality 135). Grace is able to respond to Felice’s feelings not because she has built up a deep knowledge of her identity but rather because she is able to register that which contradicts the Felice known to others. Grace’s ability to perceive and respond to the unexpected, to the other within Felice, represents a moment of unconditional hospitality. The revelation of Felice’s unexpressed feelings allows Grace to achieve a new understanding of Felice’s position with respect to Fitzpiers: “‘Before I came I had been despising you for wanton cruelty; now I only pity you for misplaced affection. [ . . . ] I thought that what was getting to be a tragedy to me was a comedy to you. But now I see that tragedy lies on your side of the situation no less than on mine, and more’” (238). It is important to note that this shift in Grace’s relation to Felice does not take the form of “female bonding” or a deep sympathetic connection. While Felice is disarmed and must struggle to deny the intensity of her sincere feelings for Fitzpiers, Grace, the supposedly naïve young wife, is already distanced enough from the marriage and her own feelings to characterize her life in the theatrical and self-consciously literary language of “tragedy” and “comedy.” The space between the two women is maintained, rather than annihilated, in this scene as Grace’s pity is detached from, rather than founded on, a deep emotional tie, and as Felice continues to refute her inadvertently revealed feelings. Recalling her earlier response of “indifference,” and in contrast to the more superficial bonding of their fi rst encounter in Felice’s home, here Grace’s refusal of stereotypically feminine emotion allows her access to an unconventional and ethically significant relation to Felice. Grace’s faith in her newfound intuition is remarkable, as she refuses to accept Felice’s explanation for the affair with Fitzpiers (in contrast to her earlier readiness to accept her fiancé’s alibi). She is deaf to such appeals, relying instead on her ability to divine the truth from Felice’s demeanor: “‘Oh that’s affectation,’ said Grace shaking her head. ‘It’s no use—you love him. I can see in your face that in this matter of my husband, you have not let your acts belie your feelings’ [ . . . ] Grace clung to her position like a limpet” (237). Despite Grace’s tenacity, however, Felice still insists on preserving the sense of separation and difference between them, as she continues to put forth verbal denials and is unable to reconcile the old Grace with the new: “Much of her confusion resulted from her wonder and alarm at fi nding herself, in a sense, dominated mentally and emotionally by this simple schoolgirl” (237). Implying that Grace’s claims are excessive and even insane, she dismisses her “ravings,” all the while “struggling to restore a dignity which had completely collapsed” (238). Felice’s disorientation reflects her relative conventionality, her inability to accept the fundamental reordering of female roles and relations that Grace’s behavior implies, and thus recalls her earlier moments of failed hospitality. At this point the two women part ways, but rather than re-emerging into the social world that would confi rm their traditional roles and conventional rivalry, each remains confused, driving them deeper into the wood. When they

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encounter each other again, an overwhelming sense of fear and the unfamiliarity of the night-time forest draw them together. This meeting entails none of the conventional greetings of the fi rst, but is instead initiated by shouts, and the two women are “almost in each other’s arms” before they even recognize each other. Having crept under the hollies, thus inserting themselves as deeply into the forest and away from the light of the ordinary as possible, they turn to each other ostensibly for physical warmth and comfort: They consequently crept up to one another, and being in the dark, lonely, and weary, did what neither had dreamed of doing beforehand— clasped each other closely. Mrs. Charmond’s furs consoled Grace’s cold face; and each one’s body, as she breathed, alternately heaved against that of her companion; while the funereal trees rocked, and chanted dirges unceasingly. (240) Going beyond the “flash” of intuitive understanding that took place during the fi rst encounter, this remarkable passage juxtaposes the sense of individual difference with that of an almost primal connection. Although Felice’s class is still marked by her furs, they now serve to “console” Grace’s face, even as they recall the “wild animal” imagery of the fi rst encounter in the woods. The image of the bodies breathing against each other suggests a relationship between lovers or even mother and fetus, in which the physical boundary between self and other becomes blurred. The disorientation created by the forest—cold, dark, and “funereal”—forces the women to acknowledge, physically, the strange interplay between sympathy and competition that structures their relationship. And once again, an instinctive and unspoken communion takes precedence over the more cognitive realm of verbal communication. Whereas the earlier meeting at Hintock house shifted gradually from camaraderie to competition and alienation, the scene in the woods is marked by a more complete and ambiguous intermingling of identification and indifference.18 The complexity of the relation between the two women, and the impossibility of reducing it to a clear sympathetic or competitive dynamic, serves to preserve a sense of the impossibility of complete understanding, as even the women’s identification with each other is based not on the extent to which they know each other, but rather on a more intuitive and less conscious sense of interdependence. The scene between Grace and Felice thus suggests the potential for a radically altered mode of relation between individuals—one that does not require the context of a tightly knit, traditional community, in which proximity creates familiarity and sympathy—but which is instead based on the recognition that connections can be made in the face of difference and unfamiliarity. It is only when Felice and Grace have acknowledged the extent to which they are unable to know themselves or each other fully that they achieve their strange intimacy. The scenes

110 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction which take place within each woman’s house require negotiating between an impulse to welcome the other and a competing sense of propriety, consisting of women’s domestic duties to home, men, and sexual convention. By contrast, the meeting in the woods enables a radical subversion of these roles, as Grace and Felice establish a temporary realm of absolute hospitality between individuals, an unconditional opening of self to other. Initially, the breakdown of the physical distance between the two women seems to engender a sincere mode of speech previously unavailable to Felice. And her ability to speak truthfully is closely associated with the exceptional physical connection between them: “Mrs. Charmond embraced Grace more and more tightly, and bowed her head upon that of her companion. The younger woman could feel her neighbor’s breathings grow deeper and more spasmodic, as though uncontrollable feelings were germinating. [ . . . ] ‘I have to make a confession—I must make it!’ she whispered brokenly” (241). The newfound intimacy between Felice and Grace forces Felice’s feelings to emerge not simply as a “flash” that runs counter to her conscious expression, but rather in the form of speech that seems to bubble up from her physical body. At this moment, however, to emphasize the impossibility of earnest and equal communication between the two, Grace’s original naïveté reasserts itself, making her unable to comprehend the depth and irreversibility of Felice’s bond with Fitzpiers. Frustrated, Felice addresses Grace: “‘Tchut! Must I tell you verbatim, you simple child? Oh, I suppose I must! [ . . . ]’ She thereupon whispered a few words in the girl’s ear, and burst into a violent fit of sobbing” (241). The specific content of this whispered communication is never revealed. Although it is possible that Felice simply divulges the extent of her liaison with Fitzpiers to the naïve Grace, it seems to me more likely, given a later reference in the novel to her “personal condition” (334), that Felice has confessed to being pregnant with Fitzpiers’s child.19 In either case the whispering, which may be seen as a futile attempt to recreate the earlier moments of non-verbal, intuitive communication (since the exchange, not recorded by the text, is silent for the reader if not for the characters), instead serves to dissolve that bond. Once Felice has narrated her own story, filling in the gaps to which Grace’s intuition initially responded, the relationship between the two women reverts back to convention. Grace’s estrangement from Felice is marked by a moment of confusion and paralysis: “She turned as if to hasten away. But Felice Charmond’s sobs came to her ear: deep darkness circled her about, the cold lips of the wind kissed her where Mrs. Charmond’s warm fur had been, and she did not know which way to go” (242). It is almost as though Grace’s orientation of receptivity must subside before she can separate herself fully from Felice and the landscape of their communion. Immediately thereafter, the two women fi nd their way out of the forest, and the remarkable intimacy is lost. Although Grace has clearly been affected by the experience, evidenced by her speaking to Felice “[ . . . ] in what seemed her own voice grown ten years older” (242), the radically

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disorienting relationship between the two women cannot be sustained upon their re-emergence into society. Indeed, as soon as they reach familiar ground the prior experience takes on a dream-like quality, as Grace claims, with “cold civility”: “‘How we have got here I cannot tell’” (242), and Felice regrets her rashness in divulging her secret. Just as Daniel Deronda cannot remain suspended in a state of uncertainty regarding his Jewish identity, so the intuitive, unconditional intimacy briefly achieved between Felice and Grace is incompatible with the requirements of realist narrative. As if to call attention to this unsustainable interruption, in the 1912 edition of the novel Hardy adds to the parting scene the act of Grace and Felice “[ . . . ] kissing each other almost unintentionally” (404n). This last, fleeting physical gesture, performed “almost” without intention, serves to recall the intense but necessarily short-lived moment of intimacy and hospitality between the two women. The novel does not, indeed cannot, dwell on the self-conscious acknowledgement of the crisis of identity and the self’s relation to the other explored in this chapter. Hardy’s many revisions to this scene suggest that it perhaps pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable in the novel, as well as in the fictional relationships between characters. The encounter between Grace and Felice represents a fleeting vision of an alternative mode of relation, one that sets aside conventional barriers to an intense form of human connection, and that explores instead the possibility of a profound welcoming of the other by the self. That this state is imagined between women, rather than as a traditional romantic attachment, allows Hardy to focus particularly on the constrictions of late Victorian female lives, and to suggest the potential for a fundamental shift in women’s possibilities. In the context of the novel, however, this alternate vision is not yet viable, and the demands of realist narrative instead drive the story to confront the impossibility of a radically altered future for Grace.



Having acknowledged Fitzpiers’s affair with Felice, and having tried and failed—because she cannot obtain a divorce—to renew her engagement to Giles, Grace again lives alone in her father’s house.20 Even this temporary refuge is vulnerable, however: “the limpid inertion of Grace’s pool-like existence was disturbed as by a geyser. She received a letter from Fitzpiers” (295). If the “pool-like” state recalls Grace’s earlier position of indifference and willingness to welcome her husband’s mistresses (with a similarly liquid tenderness that spreads over her “like a dew”), Fitzpiers’s letter and impending reappearance disrupt this indeterminate period, forcing her back into the more restricted role of estranged wife. Determined not to accept passively Fitzpiers’s re-entry into her life and home, Grace escapes through the back door, and sets off in search of Giles. From the outset, her actions


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are motivated by a sense of the impossibility of accommodating herself to the available spaces and relations. By seeking out Giles, however, Grace relocates herself between two potential lovers, suggesting that any outcome will be structured—either in conformity with or through direct opposition to—the conventional forms of female behavior. The moment she sees the light of Giles’s minimal cottage, it is represented as a space of hospitality: “She had walked between three and four miles when that prescriptive comfort and relief to wanderers in the woods—a distant light—broke at last upon her searching eyes. It was so very small as to be almost sinister to a stranger, but to her it was what she sought” (299–300). Already, this passage hints at the complicated motivations of Giles’s welcome. In the fi rst sentence, the refuge signaled by the fi relight shining out of the house is associated with universal relief; any wanderer in any wood can expect to be offered comfort and shelter in a solitary dwelling. This reassuring scenario is immediately called into question, however, by the suggestion that the light might represent a threat to anyone other than Grace—thus implying that the hospitality sought by those lost in the woods is selective rather than universal, and that Grace will be forced to rely on and to test Giles’s loyalty to their aborted bond. From the beginning, Giles’s cottage embodies the tension between unconditional and everyday hospitality, and it is clear that no simple reconciliation between lovers will be possible. Peering into an open window, Grace and the reader are simultaneously struck by the domesticity of Giles’s life even in the sparse confines of the tiny cottage: “The room within was kitchen, parlour, and scullery all in one: [ . . . ] A fi re burnt on the hearth, in front of which revolved the skinned carcase of a very small rabbit, suspended by a string from a nail. Leaning with one arm on the mantel-shelf stood Winterborne [ . . . ]” (300). The small size of the dwelling does not exclude any of the necessities of a home, it simply requires the single room to fulfi ll multiple functions, and the image of Giles supervising the cooking of his dinner suggests that he, too, serves as both hunter and cook, breadwinner and homemaker. The emphasis on the diversity of roles for both the interior of the house and its inhabitant reinforces the sense that this particular shelter can accommodate only a single person at a time, and thus immediately calls attention to the crisis that will be created by Grace’s knock at the door. Giles and his cottage are so closely associated here as to seem to be extensions of each other, as both are solitary and self-contained, unable to create a space for a shared relation between autonomous individuals. Giles already embodies both male and female roles within the home, and so cannot imagine a scenario of co-habitation. 21 What ensues is a complex dance around the question of how Grace and Giles may occupy the same space, with each of them sometimes invoking and sometimes rejecting the rules of respectability. Giles’s fi rst reaction to the appearance of Grace at his door is an almost instinctive act of welcome: “When the light of the room fell upon her face

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he started; and, hardly knowing what he did, crossed the threshold to her, placing his hands upon her two arms, [ . . . ] Thus they stood, [ . . . ] till he broke the silence by saying in a whisper, ‘Come in’” (300–01). As soon as the light from his fi re touches her, Giles tries to minimize the distance between them, fi rst “crossing the threshold” to make physical contact with her outside the door, and then inviting her to return to the interior with him. It is as if, by being in each other’s presence, they have created a new space of home, one which envelops them outside the actual house, and that allows them a fleeting moment of connection and pleasure. Importantly, however, this connection cannot survive the move into the actual cottage, as Grace immediately resists the invitation to enter, exclaiming “‘No, no, Giles!’” and “stepping yet further back from the door” (301). She is the fi rst to resist sharing the house, both to respect the rules of propriety and to avoid imposing on Giles. A short time later, however, they seem to exchange roles, as Giles persuades Grace to give up the plan to walk to Sherton in the rain, and instead offers her sole possession of the cottage: “‘Now this house from this moment is yours and not mine,’ he said deliberately. ‘I have a place near by where I can stay very well’” (302). The almost legalistic language of substitution rather than sharing is explicit and striking (“yours and not mine”). In an excessively generous act of hospitality, Giles does not merely open his home to Grace, he cedes it to her completely, rendering himself all but homeless. “Without so much as crossing the threshold himself he closed the door upon her, and turned the key in the lock” (303). The darkly comic detail of locking her in, as though Giles does not trust himself to remain outside, highlights the extremity of Giles’s actions even before they take the tragic turn that will lead to his death. Rather than making peace with the contingencies of the laws and customs that keep them apart, Giles refuses the possibility of negotiation by completely subjugating his own basic needs to Grace’s comfort and safety. By playing out the dire consequences of this act, Hardy seems to be staging the contradictory nature of any act of hospitality, the ways in which the unconditional also necessarily depends upon the existence of particular conditions. This is particularly seen in the inherent tension between the role of master of the house and the role of host, the impossibility of simultaneously possessing and welcoming. As Derrida says: It does not seem to me that I am able to open up or offer hospitality, however generous, even in order to be generous, without reaffi rming: this is mine, I am at home, you are welcome in my home, without any implication of “make yourself at home” but on condition that you observe the rules of hospitality by respecting the being-at-home of my home, the being-itself of what I am. There is almost an axiom of self-limitation or self-contradiction in the law of hospitality. (“Hostipitality” 14)

114 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction The ability to offer hospitality also implies ownership of the home, thus rendering any concrete act of welcome limited and contingent, a less than perfect opening towards the other. In response to this paradox, Giles gives up his role as master of the home completely, and thus preserves the purity of his act of welcome to Grace. By doing so, however, he also surrenders his self-mastery, and sets the stage for his own demise. The time during which Grace lives in Giles’s cottage while he lies sick and exposed to the elements nearby also serves to drive home dramatically the impossibility of their relationship. The initial courtship was derailed by Grace’s inability to reintegrate her hybrid identity into the community of Little Hintock—a disjunction that exposed the gap between her dreams of the future and Giles’s that may well have existed all along. Now disillusioned and disoriented by her attempts and failures to imagine alternative outlets for her highest ambitions, Grace tries to reanimate a desire that originates in a past from which she is irrevocably alienated, while Giles loves a Grace who certainly no longer (and perhaps never did) exist. The clash of temporalities and identities is dramatized by the spatial separation between them; they literally cannot be in the same place at the same time, but can only displace each other, the presence of one automatically pushing the other to a safe distance.22 As Grace begins to thoroughly usurp Giles’s place in the cottage, cooking, cleaning, and sleeping there, she feels a responsibility to play the role of host, as well, as she becomes concerned about Giles’s wellbeing: “‘Oh, come in—come in! Where are you? I have been wicked—I have thought too much of myself! Do you hear? I don’t want to keep you out any longer. I cannot bear that you should suffer so. Gi—i—iles!’” (310). Denying the exclusivity of the cottage, Grace places herself (“I”) in the middle of Giles’s name as she cries out, thus reinforcing her call as a plea for Giles to join with her completely. Giles refuses this invitation, however, as he has fully ceded his position in the house to Grace. Becoming instead the homeless wanderer, he takes upon himself responsibility for maintaining the social laws and thereby Grace’s status as respectable and untainted. In this moment, each is thinking and acting as and for the other, a role reversal that is a hallmark of the unconditional act of hospitality. As Derrida says: Crossing the threshold is entering and not only approaching or coming. [ . . . ] It is as if the stranger or foreigner held the keys. [ . . . ] it’s as if the master, qua master, were prisoner of his place and his power, of his ipseity, of his subjectivity (his subjectivity is hostage). So it is indeed the master, the one who invites, the inviting host, who becomes the hostage—and who really always has been. And the guest, the invited hostage, becomes the one who invites, the master of the host. The guest becomes the host’s host. (Of Hospitality 123–125) If it is impossible to remain master of one’s home and simultaneously extend a full welcome to the other, then the guest will inevitably take on the role

Unconditional Hospitality


of host. And in this scene, Grace takes over not only the house, but also Giles’s desire, as she seems suddenly to embrace the full reconciliation that she rejected earlier. Giles thus has no choice but to play the part of Grace, to refuse to enter his own cottage in the name of propriety. Hospitality, the opening of home and self to the other, entails a challenge to and reconstitution of identity, and this scene captures dramatically the potential for absolute alienation, for loss rather than gain of self-defi nition. Once he has ceded his home and the role of host to Grace, Giles is left to remake his own sense of self and habitation within the woods. Just as the creatures of the forest, “who knew neither law nor sin” (306), begin to permeate the hut, so Giles slowly becomes a part of the ground, vegetation, and weather that surround his former dwelling. Giles’s disappearance is steady and gradual. The fi rst night Grace calls to him, he is able to respond: “[ . . . ] through the darkness and wind a voice reached her, floating upon the weather as though a part of it” (310). Although partially merged with “the weather,” the voice is still Giles’s, and addresses her directly. By the following evening, Giles’s immersion in illness and nature, and his loss of human contact, has rendered him almost unrecognizably other: “It was an endless monologue, like that we sometimes hear from inanimate nature in deep secret places where water flows, or where ivy leaves flap against stones; but by degrees she was convinced that the voice was Winterborne’s” (313). Giles’s extreme gesture of hospitality renders his own consolidation as an autonomous individual vulnerable to penetration. To place the needs of the guest fully ahead of one’s own, to truly open one’s home to the other, is to open the self to visitation, to the presence of that which lies outside the borders of the individual. In contrast to the former balance between Giles and the environment, which allowed him to coax the trees into growing and to “read” the landscape as one who is separate from it, Giles’s refusal to act in his own interests in relation to Grace, to affirm the urgency of his desire and disdain for the rules of respectability, results in his absorption into the inhuman realm. Derrida suggests that such vulnerability is always a risk of the unconditional act of hospitality, and can be seen as the difference between a limited “invitation” to a particular entity, and the more complete welcome to the other of “visitation”: “Thus, the distinction between invitation and visitation may be the distinction between conditional hospitality (invitation) and unconditional hospitality, if I accept the coming of the other, the arriving [arrivance] of the other who could come at any moment without asking my opinion and who could come with the best or worst of intentions: a visitation could be an invasion by the worst” (“Hostipitality” 17 n.17). Giles’s self-sacrifice can thus be seen as an act of absolute hospitality that goes beyond the realm of those moral systems which would privilege the duty to preserve the self over the lesser transgression of sharing the cottage with Grace. Unlike Deronda’s opening of identity, which enables his acceptance of Mordecai and subsequent embrace of a new sense of self, Giles’s unconditional


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

receptivity to the environment results in death. If Eliot highlights the ideal potential of hospitality, Hardy is intent on confronting its dark underbelly, the possibility that the other will consume the self. Ironically, of course, the extremity of Giles’s sacrifice ultimately guarantees its failure, as his death eliminates not only the possibility of reconciliation with Grace but even the proof of their fastidiously proper behavior. Hardy anticipates Derrida’s understanding of the “heterogeneity” within any act of hospitality; to respond to the other as other, without conditions, is incompatible with the welcome of a particular individual, the subject who is named, known, and even loved. In the end, neither ethical system is validated, and Giles’s death marks a gap or aporia, as it suggests the impossibility of containing the urgency and unpredictability of human relationships within existing social structures. For Grace, this moment of Giles’s estrangement from the realm of human community is signaled by the absence of recognizable language. Instead, she is confronted by an aspect of Giles that she can never know through cognitive means. While Grace and Felice earlier enter this non-verbal state together, and thus experience a heightened intimacy in the woods, here the separation it imposes between Grace and Giles is absolute. When Grace fi nally rescues him, he is long past the point of being able to rejoin the human world, and he instead “[ . . . ] seem[s] to look at her as some angel or other supernatural creature of the visionary world in which he was mentally living” (314). In response to Giles’s excessive and irrevocable act of sacrifice, Grace appears to be shaken to her core, unmoored by the evidence that she has heretofore been blind to the consequences of a strict adherence to social custom. And just as Giles opens himself to the most threatening aspects of the natural environment, so Grace experiences the storm outside as a personified entity who challenges her self-consolidation. Isolated from all three men in her life, and without the presence of an alternate relationship like that forged in the forest with Felice, the storm becomes a menacing figure, forcing her to confront head-on the limited possibilities before her: The wind grew more violent, [ . . . ] popping its head into the flue, and shrieking and blaspheming at every corner of the walls. As in the grisly story, the assailant was a spectre which could be felt but not seen. She had never before been so struck with the devilry of a gusty night in a wood, because she had never been so entirely alone in spirit as she was now. She seemed almost to be apart from herself—a vacuous duplicate only. The recent self of physical animation and clear intentions was not there. (308) The encounter with the storm recalls the moment of realization before the wedding, or that reached with Felice in the woods, as Grace seems to recognize a disjunction between pre-determined roles and an alternative

Unconditional Hospitality


sense of self. In contrast to the earlier instances of awareness, however, this realization of self-fragmentation does not open up to a significant act of resistance or intimacy. The “dreadful enlightenment” that brings understanding of Giles’s desperate state comes too late, and although she brings him in and nurses him, “[ . . . ] he never for a moment recognised her,” as he has become a part of the threatening and foreign natural world of the storm (314). The revelation of the extent of his love for her brings comfort but also self-recrimination: “Her timid morality had, indeed, underrated his chivalry till now, though she knew him so well” (314). Even this greater understanding of Giles only widens the gap between him and Grace, and ultimately leaves her with fewer imaginable possibilities rather than more. She has witnessed not a noble ethical alternative to the petty laws of society, but rather the futility and deep injustice of those laws, and the result is fi nally to close down access to the more radically indifferent and unconventional self that once found comfort in the company of women. 23 Giles’s unexpected and slightly absurd death leaves both Grace and the reader of the novel at a loss. Exaggerating the discrepancy between the rules of custom and the actual relationships between individuals, Hardy brings the text to a virtual standstill, as he forces both characters and readers to confront the impossibility of a happy realist ending. Refusing to gloss over Grace’s limited options and frustrated desires, Hardy opens the text to that which is starkly and irremediably other, allowing an excessive and implausible death scene to unsettle the direction of the novel itself. He thus exposes the utter insufficiency of existing social conventions without offering the comfort of alternatives to them, and the ethical significance of the narrative can only be located within the gap between the two. Rather than ending the novel at this point, as Eliot does in The Mill on the Floss, Hardy insists on playing out the aftermath of Grace’s survival and future. 24 Jarringly following the climax of Giles’s death with the most mundane and “realist” resolution of the marriage plot, The Woodlanders tests the limits of conventional narrative’s ability to accommodate that which is unassimilable, to contain in novelistic form that which exceeds representation.



Following Giles’s death, Grace can envision no choice but to die herself or retreat back to an existence determined by social convention, suppressing the disjunction of self beneath the trappings of a marital alliance, and establishing a home with Fitzpiers that will be closed rather than open. Giles’s death does not liberate Grace into multiple possibilities, but instead seems to narrow her options back to only one imaginable future, as the wife of Fitzpiers. She commits irrevocably to this path when she chooses to cure herself of the fever that killed Giles by swallowing the medicine she was given by Fitzpiers, as the decision to accept the antidote simultaneously


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

implies her willingness to reunite with its maker. As during the original courtship, Grace allows herself to be convinced by Fitzpiers’s eloquent narratives. This second seduction is of course more jaded than the fi rst, as Grace exposes the unoriginality of his declarations of love by pointing out that he has quoted Shakespeare, but she still reverts to her former conception of the marriage vows, and allows them to defi ne her as a wife. In contrast to her earlier moments of detachment and receptivity to alternative female narratives, Grace now submerges herself in the very text that founds her marriage. Despite having argued earlier with Giles for a distinction between the mere formality of the vow and the ethical truth of “divine law,” she now relies on the written expression of those vows to justify a return to Fitzpiers: Reading it slowly through she became quite appalled at her recent offhandedness, when she rediscovered what awfully solemn promises she had made him [ . . . ] She became lost in long ponderings on how far a person’s conscience might be bound by vows made without at the time a full recognition of their force [ . . . ] She wondered whether God really did join them together. (354) Although the original wedding ceremony was not narrated in the novel (“Five hours later she was the wife of Fitzpiers” [173]), Grace’s reading of the vows makes her aware of the legal and religious authority embedded in their language. She is initially ambivalent about her duty to return to Fitzpiers, as she questions the lasting legitimacy of the promise she made in her formerly naïve state, and wonders if her current self is still bound by it. At the same time, however, Grace seems to perceive the relationship between her past actions and present state in terms of a linear causal narrative, one that stands in contrast to the doubling back and confusion of temporalities that has structured much of the text. While the novel clearly stresses the lack of continuity between Grace’s self at the time of the wedding and the present, and points to the arbitrary legal formality that keeps her tethered to Fitzpiers, Grace herself is won over by the force of the religious text. As she makes her decision, she invokes a God conspicuously absent, otherwise, from the landscape of the novel: “That particular sentence, beginning ‘Whom God hath joined together,’ was a staggerer for a gentle woman of strong devotional sentiment” (354). Having failed in her attempts to imagine a future outside of the strictly defi ned roles of daughter and wife, Grace retreats to a passive acceptance of authority. 25 Stripping away her specific identity, Hardy represents Grace as the stereotypical female reader (or “gentle woman”) who is dangerously vulnerable to (“staggered” by) the influence of texts. Reversing the arguments in favor of censorship, here he suggests that reading and blindly following the deeply “moral” text of the marriage vow leads Grace to make the wrong choice. This late scene in which Grace rereads and reconsiders

Unconditional Hospitality


her own marriage plot serves to highlight Hardy’s larger questioning of the available narratives for women’s lives, both within and outside the novel. Despite having experienced and exposed the inadequacy of this story, both character and novel have no viable alternative to it. For most readers, the decision to return to Fitzpiers has a cynical quality, since it is clearly a choice based on convention and social expectation, rather than true desire or fidelity to self. Here the reader’s perspective and Grace’s part company for the remainder of the novel, as Hardy highlights the marriage as an empty promise, a formal relationship that lacks both foundation and future of trust or sincerity. This mood is reinforced by Melbury’s pessimism about Grace’s future with Fitzpiers, a comment added to the 1896 edition of the novel to undercut any possibility that the couple might be thought to live happily ever after. Observing Grace and Fitzpiers from a distance, Melbury speaks aloud to his companions: “‘[ . . . ] let her bear in mind that the woman walks and laughs somewhere at this very moment whose neck he’ll be coling next year as he does hers tonight[ . . . ]’” (414n). Perhaps concerned that readers’ desires for a conventional romantic ending have led to misreadings of the novel, Hardy allows even the generally imperceptive Melbury to comment on the hopelessness of Grace’s future with Fitzpiers. Hardy’s need to amend the text in order to clarify that the story does not culminate in a simple or happy resolution calls attention to the rapidly shifting registers of the last several episodes of the novel.26 In addition to the incongruity between Giles’s (melo)dramatic death and Grace’s resigned and almost hyper-realist return to Fitzpiers, the last several chapters revive the seemingly minor subplot of Suke’s marriage to Timothy Tangs. His attempt to punish Fitzpiers for the earlier affair by setting a man-trap ends up instead cementing the reconciliation between Fitzpiers and Grace. This incident, which echoes the larger vacillation in the novel between comedy, tragedy, and the absurd, contributes to the sense that the end of the text represents only a partial and unsatisfactory resolution of the conflicts raised within it. In terms of the questions of home and hospitality I’ve explored here, the indeterminacy of the novel’s conclusion reflects and reinforces both the potential and the impossibility of a radical welcome of the other. In its resistance to consistent realist modes of characterization and structure, Hardy’s text allows the reader to glimpse the existence of a radical alternative future for Grace, only to emphasize the irreconcilable gap between those possibilities and the web of limitations through which the world of the novel is realized. Like Grace, the late realist narrative of The Woodlanders is trapped between radical potential and traditional form, and neither character nor novel is left comfortably at home with itself.


Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy in Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm

In the preface to the second edition of The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner describes the form or “method” of her novel. Invoking an extended theater metaphor, she distinguishes her text from those written using the “stage method,” suggesting that African Farm is structured instead by “the method of the life we all lead,” in which: “[ . . . ] nothing can be prophesied. There is a strange coming and going of feet. Men appear, act and re-act upon each other, and pass away. When the crisis comes the man who would fit it does not return. When the curtain falls no one is ready” (29). Jumping into the larger conversation on the development of late Victorian fiction in the 1880s with this brief introduction to the text, Schreiner suggests that realism requires the novel to be open to that which is unpredictable, that it need not follow the strict rules of the well-made play. She also distances her novel from the typical colonial adventure stories of the period, narratives that are: “[ . . . ] best written in Piccadilly or in the Strand: there the gifts of the creative imagination, untrammeled by contact with any fact, may spread their wings” (30). Schreiner asserts that a true novel from the colonies is not one of romantic escapades, but instead draws on everyday materials, as the author can only “[ . . . ] paint what lies before him” (30). Although she arguably reaches beyond what lies “before [her]” to construct her fi rst novel, this South-African-born English writer helps to open Victorian realism to radically new subjects and forms. Originally published in 1883, The Story of an African Farm shifts the home base of the novel to South Africa, and thus approaches issues of belonging, gender, and ethics from an already unconventional and heterogeneous perspective. Bringing together the questions of nationalism and colonialism broached by George Eliot with the radical critique of marriage and women’s traditional roles seen in The Woodlanders, Schreiner pushes the ethics of hospitality to its limits in both plot and narrative form. Like Joseph Conrad, Schreiner is a not-quite-English writer who nevertheless intervenes in the history of the Victorian novel by relocating it and thus bringing the colonial “periphery” to the center. Her father, Gottlob Schreiner, was a German Lutheran who went to South Africa with the London Missionary Society, and thus occupied a deeply contradictory position

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


in the racial politics of the colony, as the attempt to convert the native Africans to Christianity confi rmed their humanity in ways that some colonizers did not.1 As a woman who traveled throughout her life between South Africa and the most politically radical and cosmopolitan circles of London, Schreiner herself embodies both the potential and limitations of narrative hospitality, and her novel helps us to see the profundity of the ethical shift already under way in the works of Eliot and Thomas Hardy. It is important to acknowledge at the outset that Schreiner does not extend hospitality in the novel to the native inhabitants of South Africa; focusing almost exclusively on the Dutch, German, and English colonizers, she resists engaging directly with the ethics and politics of European imperialism.2 The silencing of these voices, however, occurs within a context that does call into question the underlying power structures and moral assumptions that enabled the scramble for Africa. If, as Edward Said has suggested, nations are in some sense narrations, Schreiner’s employment of an almost dizzying variety of modes of storytelling and her exploration of radically open and unconventional relations between characters may indirectly constitute a critique of colonial power dynamics. 3 Tracing both its formal hybridity and the ethically significant encounters that structure the events of its plot, this chapter argues that The Story of an African Farm posits narrative hospitality as an ethical response to the late Victorian rethinking of both gender and nation. While there has been important and illuminating critical work done on both the progressive feminist and less progressive colonial politics of the novel, questions about the relationship between these complex issues of identity and the text’s unconventional narrative form have been less deeply examined.4 Following an early period of celebratory and largely biographical commentary on Schreiner’s precocious feminism, a second wave of criticism importantly brought to light her complicated and less clearly subversive attitudes towards race and imperialism.5 Here I join recent attempts to place these two strands of her thought in relation to each other, and to account more fully for the formal elements of her work. Like Eliot and Hardy, Schreiner is deeply interested in the dynamics of home, but she dislocates her central characters more radically than either of the other authors, as Lyndall and Waldo are each removed from both family and country. Living as exiles from the beginning, and uncomfortably sharing space with the native Africans, the residents of the farm would seem to be in no position to offer hospitality to or accept it from others. Homi K. Bhabha addresses these questions of belonging, personal history, and the fraught relation between self and other in colonial settings, and his term “unhomely” usefully identifies precisely the dilemma of defi ning home in such spaces. Building on a Levinasian understanding of the ethical relation to the absolutely other, Bhabha investigates the politics of representing such relations in literature. Similarly, Schreiner incorporates the contradictions of national identity and the welcome of the other in the voices and

122 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction fractured structure of the novel itself. My reading of it will begin by delving into the possibilities and limits of hospitality in the unhomely spaces of Schreiner’s South Africa, as Otto, Waldo, and Lyndall each negotiate a new understanding of the ethics of home. As the younger characters venture away from the farm in the second part of the novel, their relationships to each other and to the strangers who arrive unexpectedly take center stage. Joining an acknowledgement of the inaccessibility of the other with a deep commitment to alternative models of intimacy and connection, Schreiner’s novel resonates provocatively with the work of Luce Irigaray. Irigaray’s seminal feminist critique of gender in Levinas’s ethical writings fuels her more recent attempts to imagine an intimate heterosexual relation that nevertheless acknowledges alterity. Engaging with and even going beyond this model of feminist ethics, Schreiner represents radical alternatives to conventional relationships, as Lyndall, Waldo, and Gregory Rose all refuse traditional gender roles and familiar modes of love and friendship. This novel undermines the Victorian marriage plot more explicitly than those of Eliot or even Hardy, as Lyndall voices the anti-marriage rhetoric of the nascent new woman movement, turns down two potential suitors, and bears a child out of wedlock. Bringing together an idealized vision of unconventional gender relations with a pragmatic representation of the consequences of Lyndall’s radical choices, African Farm engages with both the possibilities for and limitations on late Victorian women and literature. In light of the deaths of Lyndall, Waldo, and Lyndall’s baby, Schreiner clearly does not present a happy ending or an obviously effective response to the impasses encountered by her characters, but she does hint at the unique role of stories in imagining wholly different feminist futures for social and individual relations. Thus the pessimistic plot of the novel is countered by its investment in narrative innovation, as a variety of characters tell stories that imaginatively rewrite the colonial past, unhomely present, and liberated future of the African farm. Opening the realist structure of the text to the unique voices of its characters, Schreiner engages in a narrative hospitality that challenges the reader to respond to the unexpected. Abandoning the omniscient narrator completely in the second half of the novel, Schreiner stages the shift from sympathetic knowledge to openness in the formal strategies of the text itself. The “strange coming and going of feet” in African Farm allows it to portray and embody a new ethics of unhomely hospitality.

I. HOSPITALITY AS ETHICAL RESISTANCE ON THE AFRICAN FARM As a woman born to a British mother and German father in a South Africa colonized by the Dutch, the question of home is a fraught one for Schreiner

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


in the most obvious sense.6 Bhabha’s work has been extremely influential for thinking about the ways in which the intersections of national and cultural identity are inscribed in European and post-colonial literature, as he describes the uniquely “unhomed” status of both colonizer and colonized.7 This term is particularly useful for thinking about the early parts of Schreiner’s novel, as she stages the invasion of the African farm of her title by a duplicitous Irish rogue, and simultaneously allows glimpses of an alternative but ultimately ineffective resistance to this threat by the German overseer, Otto, and his son Waldo. Emphasizing literature’s ability to expose the invisible fractures and irreconcilable contradictions that structure the individual’s relationship to home and country in the colonial context, Bhabha urges the critic to recognize these common symptoms of global power struggles across otherwise disparate texts: “[ . . . ] there may be a sense in which world literature could be an emergent, prefigurative category that is concerned with a form of cultural dissensus and alterity, where non-consensual terms of affiliation may be established on the grounds of historical trauma. The study of world literature might be the study of the way in which cultures recognize themselves through their projections of ‘otherness’” (12). Exploring a variety of “projections of otherness,” Schreiner begins her novel with a meditation on the clashes of hospitality and cruelty that expose the underlying “dissensus and alterity” of her story of an African farm. Part I of The Story of an African Farm is usually described as the more conventional of the two sections of the novel, employing a third-person narrator to tell a relatively straightforward story of childhood and of the treacherous actions of Bonaparte Blenkins. But the realist and parodic tone of this section, often compared to the work of Charles Dickens, is disrupted by the presence of Otto Farber, the German overseer of the farm who is both paternal and childlike, deeply altruistic and dangerously naïve.8 Although Otto’s acts of charity and literal hospitality are attributed to his Christian morality, they are also represented as excessive and even absurd. The illegible and irrational nature of these gestures thus aligns them with an ethics of alterity, as they have the power to challenge the corrupt dominance of the other European adults in the novel. In the unhomely world of African Farm, Otto’s commitment to traditional hospitality renders him and his actions absolutely other to his fellow characters and fi nally the narrative itself, as his presence creates an opening towards ethical possibilities that lie beyond the space of the novel. While the setting of the novel can be seen as inhospitable in many ways, from the sparse landscape to the relentless heat of the sun to the casual cruelty of Tant’ Sannie (who acts in lieu of several absent mothers), Otto is constantly linked with the idea of home, especially in contrast to the interloping Bonaparte: “It was certainly not to look at the old German overseer, who stood in the centre of the group, that they had all gathered together. His salt-and-pepper suit, grizzly black beard, and grey eyes were

124 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction as familiar to everyone on the farm as the red gables of the homestead itself; but beside him stood the stranger, and on him all eyes were fi xed” (51). Associated with the physical structures of the farm, Otto represents the sheltering aspects of home, a trait that is reinforced by his willingness to welcome Bonaparte into his cabin. For the orphaned girls, Lyndall and Em, Otto’s cabin represents the only nurturing, safe space in their lives: “This place was the one home the girls had known for many a year. The house where Tant’ Sannie lived and ruled was a place to sleep in, to eat in, not to be happy in” (54).9 Just as Otto’s hospitality seems ill-suited to his actual circumstances, however, as he is taken advantage of by Bonaparte and others, so his home seems out of place in the landscape of the novel. Accumulating small collections of objects that are at once ordinary and peculiar (“curious seeds” and “misshapen stones” (94)), Otto creates a space defi ned by his personal past that he shares with the girls, lending them a national tradition to fi ll in the blank left by their dead parents and hybrid colonial identifications: Long winter nights, when they had sat around the fi re and roasted potatoes, and asked riddles, and the old man had told of the little German village, where, fifty years before, a little German boy had played at snow-balls, and had carried home the knitted stockings of a little girl who afterwards became Waldo’s mother; did they not seem to see the German peasant girls walking about with their wooden shoes and yellow, braided hair, and the little children eating their suppers out of little wooden bowls when the good mothers called them in to have their milk and potatoes? (54) This long sentence makes clear the continuity between Otto’s individual story and that of his nation and culture, as it moves from the particular recollection of the meeting of Otto and his wife to the generalized and almost anthropological details of German dress and eating habits. Peppered with elements that do not exist on the farm, from snow to “good mothers,” Otto’s nostalgic national memory serves to highlight, through contrast, the discontinuous and “unhomely” quality of the farm outside his cabin. And because Otto’s Germany is a distant place, both geographically and temporally, it is not vulnerable to the mocking and disloyalty that mark Otto’s relationship to the adult characters in the novel. Just as the cabin marks a space of home that throws into relief the dysfunctional nature of family relations on the farm, Otto’s naïve sympathy for others serves to disrupt the dynamic of deceit that otherwise dominates the fi rst part of the novel. The scene in which Otto brings food and his coat to “the wife of the absconding Kaffi r herd” is remarkable in part because it represents the most sustained contact shown in the novel between a European and a native African (87). This encounter reinforces the extent of Otto’s difference from the other characters in the text, as he pauses to

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


speak to the woman even before he is aware of her relationship to the herd: “It was not his way to pass a living creature without a word of greeting” (87). Otto subscribes to a Christian ethic of universal respect and care for others, and attempts to remain true to these values even in the inherently unequal and exploitative setting of colonial South Africa. This disjunction emerges even in the structure of the narrative itself. While Otto recognizes the woman as an individual he knows, and goes on to speak to her directly about her circumstances, the narrative voice describes the woman in stereotypical racist language: “She had a baby tied on her back by a dirty strip of red blanket; another strip hardly larger was twisted round her waist, for the rest of her black body was naked. She was a sullen, ill-looking woman, with lips hideously protruding” (87). Even if we assume that the narrator’s perspective is distinct from Otto’s, the presence of prejudiced language within the description of the basic elements of the scene calls into question the effectiveness—and even legitimacy—of any individual act of charity.10 In other moments, however, Otto’s sympathy is represented both as subversive and as remarkably conscious of cultural difference. As he returns to his cottage to wrap up a portion of his own food for the woman, he feels ashamed, perhaps recalling Pip’s act of charity towards the convict in Dickens’s Great Expectations: “It was very bad to be discovered in the act of giving; it made him red up to the roots of his old grizzled hair” (88). Otto self-consciously subverts the dominant morality of the farm, in which Africans are less than human and one’s own needs take precedence over all others. When he returns to the woman and discovers that she plans to sleep in the field, Otto pauses to consider an additional act of giving: “The German reflected. Kaffi r women were accustomed to sleep in the open air; but then, the child was small, and after so hot a day the night might be chilly. [ . . . ] He took off the old brown salt-and-pepper coat, and held it out to her” (88). This moment of hesitation is significant because it indicates an unexpected complexity in Otto’s moral calculations. Although his charity is largely driven by a logic of sympathy, the assumption that humans universally share a set of basic feelings and needs, here he also attempts to understand the Kaffi r woman as different from himself—possibly accustomed to sleeping outside and therefore less in need of a coat than another might be. After yet more reflection, the particular circumstances and perhaps a more imaginative form of sympathy (the presence of the baby and the unpredictable weather) seem to trump cultural difference, and Otto literally gives her the coat off his back. Although the hesitation could be read cynically, implying Otto’s reluctance to surrender his clothing, I suggest that it instead reflects the extent to which he recognizes the specific humanity of the woman, and that it thereby serves to distance Otto even further from the dominant racial politics of the novel. And this distance is reinforced, rather than undercut, by the narrator’s irony-laden comment concerning the Kaffi r woman’s deception: “That she would creep back to the huts at the homestead when


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

the darkness favoured her, the German’s sagacity did not make evident to him” (88). While this information affects the reader’s perception of Otto’s naïveté, it does not negate the significance of his moral stance. As in the initial description of the woman, the tension between the narrative voice and Otto’s actions reflects a larger tension in this part of the novel, where individual ethical acts coexist uneasily with an inherently unethical social order. Otto’s sympathy is not effective within the corrupt confines of the African farm, but its articulation serves to interrupt and expose the limitations of the dominant moral economy.11 Otto only survives for a portion of the fi rst part of the novel, and the narrator seems to resist the idea that he grows or changes. On his last night on the farm (he dies before he can leave as planned), just before he goes to sleep, Otto reads from a story-book, and the narrator emphasizes his Quixotic inability or refusal to distinguish clearly fi ction from fact: “To the old German a story was no story. Its events were as real and as important to himself as the matters of his own life” (95). Although this episode is usually seen as further confi rmation of Otto’s innocence, the scene of reading complicates the relationship between fi ction and experience, for both Otto and for the reader of Schreiner’s text. On the one hand, this moment seems to underline Otto’s capacity for an excessive and even irrational sympathy, as he identifies not only with the Kaffi r woman but even with fictional characters. Critics rarely note, however, that Otto seems to be a more critical reader of this story than he is of the events in his own life, as he is aware that the heroine of the story is threatened by malevolent forces: “He could not go away without knowing whether that wicked earl relented and whether the baron married Emilina. So he adjusted his spectacles and began to read. Occasionally, as his feelings became too strongly moved, he ejaculated: ‘Ah, I thought so! That was a rogue! I saw it before! I knew it from the beginning!’” (95). In direct contrast to his response to Blenkins, Otto claims to have discerned that a character in the story is a “rogue” even before it becomes clear to Emilina. In part, of course, this simply emphasizes the difference between stories and life, despite the narrator’s earlier claim that Otto equates the two. As the reader of a story, one occupies a privileged position, and is thus able to discern sincere motives from insincere, and to see ahead into the future in ways the characters cannot. Just as the reader of African Farm knows almost immediately that Blenkins is a fraud—and may even be moved to try to “warn” Otto—so Otto is a reader who can accurately interpret the moral universe of the stories he encounters. This is just one of several instances in the novel where Schreiner represents a scene of reading or writing that also refers to the reader’s own relationship to the text. It is also possible, however, to see continuity between Otto’s actual experience and his reading of this story. While he is exceptionally gullible and accepting of Blenkins’s lies until this point in the plot, Otto fi nally

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


sees during the scene just before he returns to his cabin that he has been betrayed by the intruder, as Tant’ Sannie and even his friend, “the hottentot maid,” have all turned against him. In the wake of this realization, Otto does not convey his feelings directly: “All anger and excitement faded from the old man’s face. He turned slowly away and walked down the little path to his cabin, with his shoulders bent; it was all dark before him. He stumbled over the threshold of his own well-known door” (90). The sense of blindness and alienation is short-lived, however, as we then witness Otto writing to the girls to say goodbye, and packing up the things of value from his life at the farm. We might thus be tempted to view Otto’s reading of the bedtime story as an outlet for his newfound knowledge of the possibility of dishonesty and evil in the world. Although his moral outlook will not permit him to consider revenge or even bitterness towards those who have wronged him, he is determined to avoid falling again for the lies of a rogue, and expresses this new skepticism in a more critical mode of reading. The possibility that Otto eventually recognizes the truth of Bonaparte’s behavior, although it occurs too late to change any of the events of the novel, importantly complicates his status in the text. In contrast to critics who argue that his extreme sympathy renders him a tragically ineffective figure, I suggest that Otto’s presence in Part I of the novel serves to unsettle and call into question the ethical perspective of other characters and even the narrator herself.12 His otherworldliness and moral significance are both reinforced by the almost mystical description of the end of his life; death is personified and represented as restoring a youthful appearance to Otto’s face, in harmony with his childlike innocence. In the fi nal sentence of the chapter, the narrator suddenly addresses Otto directly, speaking to him in death: “Yes, dear old man; to such as you time brings no age. You die with the purity and innocence of your childhood upon you, though you die in your grey hairs” (96). No longer speaking to the reader, the narrator expresses both sympathy and wonder towards Otto, and seems to create a privileged space within the text from which the reader is momentarily excluded. While many critics have identified Otto with Schreiner’s father, and have read this scene as his daughter’s thinly disguised elegy to him, the intimate and sentimental tone of the moment can also be seen as a form of resistance, as Otto’s life and death are placed beyond the reach of the corruption of the everyday world. Beginning with his subversive act of charity and ending with a death scene that borders on the supernatural, this chapter suggests a significance for Otto beyond that of the naïve religious man, one that challenges the ethical assumptions of novel and reader alike. Within the context of colonial South Africa, sympathy itself takes on a more radical and subversive meaning. Although Otto cannot be said to engage in unconditional hospitality, his presence as a character creates a moment of narrative hospitality within the text.

128 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction II. “A WILD FITFUL TERROR”: WALDO’S SILENT RESISTANCE Once Otto is dead, Bonaparte’s domination of the farm becomes more complete, and the tone of the novel reverts back to broad parody. This farcical narrative is again interrupted, however, by the gratuitousness and intensity of Bonaparte’s cruelty to Waldo. Beginning with his mocking delivery of the news of Otto’s death and his sadistic destruction of Waldo’s sheepshearing machine, Bonaparte’s malevolence reaches its excessive peak in his determination to beat Waldo for an imagined transgression. Waldo’s response to this beating, which takes a silent and passive form, implies the existence of alternative modes of resistance to colonialist domination. Refusing to validate Bonaparte’s mode of power through physical opposition or revenge, Waldo instead relies on his exceptional receptivity fi rst to God and later to nature to provide alternative resources for surviving the unjust punishment with his sense of self intact. Repeating his father’s offer of hospitality to Bonaparte as he leaves the farm in disgrace, Waldo inherits and perpetuates Otto’s disruption of power relations on the farm and within the narrative itself. From the beginning of the episode, it is clear that Bonaparte views his punishment of Waldo not as a spontaneous reaction to a genuine wrong, but rather as an elaborate drama, of which Bonaparte is playwright, director, and lead actor. His accusation of Waldo—Bonaparte claims that he has stolen Tant’ Sannie’s dried peaches—is expressed in the form of a pantomime, since his attempts to communicate the charges in English fail. Tant’ Sannie’s response, however, is less predictable than he, or in fact the reader, might expect, as she vacillates between an almost maternal sympathy for the boy and a heartless pleasure in his misfortune. Interrupting Bonaparte’s carefully staged interrogation of Waldo, Tant’ Sannie addresses him directly: “‘You need not be so afraid, child,’ [ . . . ] ‘I was a child myself once. It’s no great harm if you have taken a few’” (122). Expressing uncharacteristic sympathy with Waldo’s position (although this is also ironically undercut by the fact that he is not, in fact, guilty of stealing anything), Tant’ Sannie raises the reader’s hopes that she will fi nally act to protect the children from Bonaparte’s behavior as evil step-father. He too is aware of this possibility, however: “Bonaparte perceived that her remark was not in keeping with the nature of the proceedings and of the little drama he intended to act” (122), and redoubles his efforts to invest the scene with a detached gravity. Tant’ Sannie continues, however, to try to soften the impact on Waldo, urging him to confess and attempting once again to relate Waldo’s experience to her own: “‘The creature looks as if all the devils in hell were in it,’ [ . . . ] ‘Say you took them, boy. Young things will be young things; I was older than you when I used to eat ‘bultong’ in my mother’s loft, and get the little niggers whipped for it. Say you took them’” (123). As in the fi rst instance, a seemingly sympathetic gesture is offered in spite of both Tant’

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


Sannie’s fear of Waldo and the obvious differences between their characters and experiences. Further complicating this moment, her admission that she was once responsible for the unjust whipping of African servants places her fi rmly in league with, rather than in opposition to, Bonaparte’s plan. Tant’ Sannie’s perverse and misguided sympathy points to the corrupt nature of the familial relationships on the farm, as the possibility of maternal care is exposed as devoid of any substantive feelings of intimacy or nurturing. Connecting her own childhood to Waldo’s only highlights the profound linguistic, personal, and most importantly ethical distance between them, and her feeble attempts to blunt Bonaparte’s senseless cruelty will only strengthen his resolve. The three characters in this scene comprise a strange distortion of a traditional family group, in which Bonaparte’s theatrics, Tant’ Sannie’s impotent pleas, and Waldo’s stony silence coexist in uneasy tension, and set the stage for the strange and excessive violence that follows.13 Waldo’s silence persists throughout the beating, and is broken only when he is fi nally left alone and prays aloud to God. Bonaparte, however, continues his dramatic narration of Waldo’s guilt and the necessity for punishment as he brutalizes the boy. The scene has deep sadistic sexual overtones, as Bonaparte ties Waldo up, cuts off his shirt, whips him slowly and deliberately, and even returns the next day to examine the effects of his work. As John Kucich points out in his enlightening recent study of imperial masochism, however, Waldo’s response to the beating suggests his refusal to accept the oedipal and sexualized drama that Bonaparte tries to orchestrate: “The ‘terror’ in his eyes, it turns out, derives not from forbidden sexual desire, paternal punishment, or guilt, but from the narcissistic traumas of abandonment and neglect he associates with a cruelly unresponsive deity” (92). While I agree that Waldo does not play the role that Bonaparte imagines for him, I’d like to suggest that this resistance can also be read in narrative and ethical, rather than psychoanalytic, terms. From the moment the two characters enter the shed, Waldo’s behavior is described not as a reaction to Bonaparte’s actions, but rather as an expression of his own unusual mindset: “Waldo obeyed sullenly: one place to him was much the same as another. He had no objection to being locked up” (124). With one brief exception, this is the last hint we are given of Waldo’s perspective during the punishment; Bonaparte’s intentions dominate both the action and the narration of the scene: “‘“Chasten thy son while there is hope,”’ said Bonaparte, ‘“and let not thy soul spare for his crying,” Those are God’s words. I shall act as father to you, Waldo. I think we had better have your naked back’” (124). Waldo’s refusal to answer this declaration in any way, or to respond to the violence that follows, prevents him from validating the corrupt Biblical and paternal frameworks within which Bonaparte tries to justify his actions. To engage with Bonaparte by arguing back would make the inarticulate Waldo even more powerless, as it would acknowledge the older man’s claims of authority, and would indicate an acceptance of the role of victim in Bonaparte’s elaborate drama.

130 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction This refusal is seen most clearly when Bonaparte comments on Waldo’s lack of tears after the beating is fi nished: “You don’t seem to have found your tongue yet. Forgotten how to cry?” said Bonaparte, patting him on the cheek. The boy looked up at him—not sullenly, not angrily. There was a wild, fitful terror in the eyes. Bonaparte made haste to go out and shut the door, and leave him alone in the darkness. He himself was afraid of that look. (125) When Waldo looks at Bonaparte, it is not with the emotions of anger or resentment that the beating might have produced directly. Instead, he presents a face stricken by a look of existential terror, one that disrupts the more contained episode of parental punishment and control conceived by Bonaparte. Just as Otto’s earlier acts of extreme generosity served to place him in a realm separate from the racism and hypocrisy of the farm, so Waldo’s capacity for a deeper and less predictable emotional response than the one Bonaparte hoped to elicit shifts the balance of power between them, rendering Bonaparte fearful and uncertain in the face of a boy he cannot understand.14 In the aftermath of the beating, the narrator returns to Waldo’s perspective, recording his restless pacing and his failed attempts to summon the presence of God. Confi rming that Waldo does not participate in Bonaparte’s narrative of the beating, as he seems to have no immediate consciousness of the wounds themselves (“He had never known [his shoulders] were cut in the night” [126]), the narrator nevertheless reminds us of the lasting effect of the torture in Waldo’s own life story: “That was a long wild night, and wild thoughts came and went in it; but they left their marks behind them for ever: for, as years cannot pass without leaving their traces behind them, neither can nights into which are forced the thoughts and sufferings of years” (126). Here we are reminded of Waldo’s status as embedded within the physical space of the farm, as he accumulates experience and growth not by leaving, but by spending a night literally tethered within the shed. Waldo seems to translate the physical impression of the beating into a compression of experience that allows him to assimilate his personal trauma into his larger awareness of the injustice and cruelty of the world as a whole. It is as if the pain Bonaparte infl icts on him is immediately depersonalized, to take its place in Waldo’s orientation towards the suffering of others. This ability to subvert the conventional response to being physically injured is reinforced by Bonaparte’s return to the shed to confi rm the outcome of his actions: “He bent over him, and carefully scratched open one of the cuts with the nail of his forefi nger, examining with much interest his last night’s work. He would have to count his sheep himself that day; the boy was literally cut up” (126). Deprived of any outward signs of Waldo’s submission, Bonaparte can only recreate the physical wound in an attempt to convince himself that his efforts have succeeded in establishing

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


his dominance. His almost clinical fascination with the corporeal signs of the violence stands in direct contrast to Waldo’s unconsciousness of his own cuts, and underlines again the disjunction between Bonaparte’s intentions and Waldo’s response. Waldo’s ability to survive Bonaparte’s cruelty without actively engaging with it confi rms his inheritance from Otto of an ethic that stands in contrast to the dominant terms of the homestead. Even Lyndall, Waldo’s closest companion on the farm, casts her sympathy for his hardships in more conventional terms of power and the possibility of revenge. Openly defying Bonaparte and Tant’ Sannie to release Waldo from the shed, she draws on her own ambitions in order to formulate a response to his suffering: “‘Waldo,’ she said, as she helped him to stand up, and twisted his arm around her waist to support him, ‘we will not be children always; we shall have the power too, some day.’ She kissed his naked shoulder with her soft little mouth. It was all the comfort her young soul could give him” (127). Although she obviously cares for Waldo, Lyndall’s attempts to help him are actually closer to Bonaparte’s value system than his own; she focuses on his physical wounds, lifting him up and kissing his shoulder, and she encourages him to look forward to a time when he, too, can wield power over others. That Waldo does not share this response to his ordeal becomes clear just five days later, when Bonaparte is cast out by Tant’ Sannie after she sees him courting her niece. This almost immediate turning of the tables suggests that Waldo’s unconventional reaction to the beating has in fact impeded Bonaparte’s ability to dominate the residents of the farm, and like his father before him, Waldo responds to Bonaparte’s need by opening his home to him and offering him food. Waldo’s hospitality is not, however, motivated by Otto’s naïve faith in others, but rather by a much more knowing capacity to see beyond personal injury, and to understand the larger injustice of his world. Waldo acts not in ignorance, but in a willing repudiation of feelings of hatred and revenge, as he refuses to allow Bonaparte’s presence to disrupt further his inner life.

III. “THE INTERVENTION OF THE BEYOND”: DISRUPTING COLONIAL TEMPORALITIES As the children of German and English parents respectively, Waldo and Lyndall are born into an already confl icted relationship to home and country. In contrast to Eliot’s Daniel or Hardy’s Grace, they are confronted by otherness and the problem of belonging simply by virtue of being raised in South Africa, as they inherit the alienating role of colonial oppressor. In response to this unique dilemma, neither character has access to a straightforward orientation of hospitality, but each establishes an unconventional response to home that offers resistance to the dominant imperialist context. Waldo’s refusal to submit to Bonaparte’s sadistic punishment sets the stage


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

for his exploration of an unconventional identity as artist and laborer. He and Lyndall inhabit distinct but intersecting narratives of time and space, and these alternative narratives will eventually enable a radical ethics of intimacy between self and other in South Africa. Even before Bonaparte’s fi rst appearance in the text, the news of the arrival of this stranger seems to compel the children to consider their own status as denizens of an African farm, and here the differences between Lyndall and Waldo are evident. While Lyndall’s response to the news is to express her admiration for Napoleon Bonaparte—and is thus consistent with her desire to escape the narrow confi nes of her life as a girl in rural South Africa—Waldo counters her story of imperial war and military might by imaginatively conjuring the original native inhabitants of the land on which they sit. Similar to his father in his ability to sympathize with others, Waldo rejects both the selective history found in textbooks and Em’s simple religious faith, instead working to establish a vital relationship to the past that is based in his ability to “hear” and convey voices of the dead: “‘Sometimes I lie under that little hill with my sheep, and it seems that the stones are really speaking—speaking of the old things, of the time when the strange fishes and animals lived that are turned into stone now; and the time when the little Bushmen lived here, so small and so ugly [ . . . ]’” (49). In contrast to Lyndall’s desire to escape her physical setting, Waldo’s vision takes him deeper into the land itself, as he tries to restore, or at least acknowledge and show respect for, a lost time of harmony between man and nature. Waldo’s idealization of the past also works to politicize the present, as he fi rst acknowledges the Bushmen as fellow artists, and then identifies the violent events of colonization that led to their demise: “‘He used to kneel here naked, painting, painting, painting; and he wondered at the things he made himself,’ said the boy, rising and moving his hand in deep excitement. ‘Now the Boers have shot them all, so that we never see a yellow face peeping out among the stones’” (49–50).15 The ethics and politics of Waldo’s position are complex, as he recognizes the humanity of the Bushmen and the injustice of their defeat, but simultaneously speaks of them in condescending and appropriative terms. Waldo feels a genuine connection to the creators of the stone paintings, but the source of this fellowship is entirely one-sided, generated by his own desires: “‘I know that it is I who am thinking,’ the fellow added slowly, ‘but it seems as though it were they who were talking. Has it never seemed so to you, Lyndall?’” (50). Waldo’s ambivalence here, as he both questions the validity of his experience of connection and affirms the claim that others speak through him, reflects the wider instability of all of the Europeans’ status in South Africa. Through Waldo’s exceptional sensitivity to the land and its people, Schreiner highlights the underlying question of the legitimacy of the farm’s very existence. According to Bhabha, this tension is an essential component of literatures produced from experiences of colonialism, as both invaders and

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


natives are alienated from a coherent sense of history, geography, and tradition. Borrowing the idea of a “negating activity” from Franz Fanon, to refer to a mode of existence that resists the passive construction of the self by dominant social forces in favor of an orientation of invention and desire, Bhabha suggests that a radical invocation of the past may serve to disrupt the present: The negating activity is, indeed, the intervention of the “beyond” that establishes a boundary: a bridge, where “presencing” begins because it captures something of the estranging sense of the relocation of the home and the world—the unhomeliness—that is the condition of extra-territorial and cross-cultural initiations. To be unhomed is not to be homeless, nor can the “unhomely” be easily accommodated in that familiar division of social life into private and public spheres. (9) The “unhomely” refers to temporal and spatial disjunctions of “cross-cultural” experience, and it is best appreciated by an orientation towards time that recognizes the disruption of the present by both past and future. Cutting across the conventional distinction between public and private space, the unhomely recognizes the impossibility of clearly segregating colonial politics from personal identity. The arrival of an outsider provokes Waldo to engage imaginatively with his own status as interloper, to reframe the landscape of the farm in terms of conquest and loss, and thus to destabilize the very distinction between resident and stranger. Through his receptivity to the voices of the past, and his simultaneous recognition of the fraught circumstances that have enabled his presence in the other’s space, Waldo unsettles the farm as settlement, and emphasizes the arrival of the stranger as a temporal break: “The unhomely moment relates the traumatic ambivalences of a personal, psychic history to the wider disjunctions of political existence” (Bhabha 11). As we have already seen in his response to the beating, Waldo perceives his own experiences of oppression as continuous with the suffering of others, and his resistance thus has wider political implications. Despite Bonaparte’s personal politics of domination, racism, and greed, he is ushered into the novel by a moment that reminds the reader of the tenuous position of the colonial invader. In Part II of the novel, as Waldo and Lyndall become the central characters, these questions of politics, identity, and place become more explicit and urgent. And while Lyndall’s proto-feminist speeches have been the subject of much critical attention, I’d like to focus instead on the ways in which the novel explores the relationship between Waldo and Lyndall, establishing in the process a subtler and fi nally more radical questioning of conventional understandings of gender and relationality than that put forth in Lyndall’s explicit diatribes. Their short-lived reunion, which takes place after Lyndall has returned from an unsatisfying stint at boarding school,


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

and before Waldo leaves the farm for a year-long journey, helps to frame the unconventional relationships and alternative forms of narrative that characterize the second part of the novel. Waldo’s tendency to question and examine closely his immediate surroundings highlights the difference between his and Lyndall’s orientation towards the larger world. While Waldo is grounded in the physical geography of the farm, and attempts to dig deeper into the past and into the underlying meaning of the elements in which he is embedded, Lyndall has always turned herself outward. Waldo is aware of his inability to project himself into a new future, as he tells Lyndall: “‘I have only a few old thoughts, [ . . . ] and I think them over and over again; always beginning where I left off. I never get any further. I am weary of them’” (188). Although he fi nds it exhausting, he is committed to the gradual and arduous process of understanding the elusive truths of his environment. As signaled by her recent absence from the farm, Lyndall is determined instead to widen her experience, to discover other places and modes of being. Having responded to Waldo’s complaint by comparing him to a hen who sits on eggs that never hatch (a particularly significant analogy, given that Lyndall is already pregnant at the time of this conversation), she goes on to elaborate on the difference between them: “‘I am so pressed in upon by new things that, lest they should trip one another up, I have to keep forcing them back. [ . . . ] But this one thought stands, never goes—if I might but be one of those born in the future; then, perhaps, to be born a woman will not be to be born branded’” (188). In contrast to Waldo’s deliberate return to old ideas and questions, Lyndall feels in danger of being overwhelmed by an onslaught of new experiences. Always desperate to escape the limitations of her gender, class, and geography, she chooses a life that requires constant adaptation to the unfamiliar. Her confession to Waldo, however, exposes the difficult and even self-contradictory nature of this path; rather than opening out into alternative possibilities and wider choices, Lyndall describes the novelty she seeks as yet another source of limitation, as the new things “press in” and need to be “forced back” in order to preserve a coherent sense of self. Her vision of true freedom is described in impossible terms; Lyndall does not merely desire to live in a different present, but rather to be born in the future, to start over within a world that would not immediately impose restrictions on a woman’s life possibilities. While this is a familiar feminist sentiment, I am most interested in the temporal structure of Lyndall’s ideal. It is not possible to build a better future that is continuous with the present; rather one must be reborn into the future, in order to begin anew in a moment that has severed its ties to the past.16 This helps to explain the pessimism of Lyndall’s attitude both to the metaphorical hen and to her own pregnancy, as it suggests that any child she bears will not represent a more open future, but will instead be burdened by the same limitations Lyndall has already experienced and failed to overcome in her short life.

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


In another conversation with Waldo, however, Lyndall seems to suggest a different alternative to her present circumstances, one that is not located in her own personal future but rather in the lives of a geographically diverse set of other people.17 Having escaped the frenzied dance that follows Tant’ Sannie’s wedding, Lyndall and Waldo sit together in the cart, listening to the distant celebration: “It is so nice to lie here and hear that noise,” she said. “I like to feel that strange life beating up against me. I like to realize forms of life utterly unlike mine.” She drew a long breath. “When my own life feels small, and I am oppressed with it, I like to crush together, and see it in a picture, in an instant, a multitude of disconnected unlike phases of human life—mediaeval monk with his string beads pacing the quiet orchard, and looking up from the grass at his feet to the heavy fruit-trees; little Malay boys playing naked on a shining sea-beach; a Hindoo philosopher alone under his banyan tree, thinking, thinking, thinking, so that in the thought of God he may lose himself; a troop of Bacchanalians dressed in white, with crowns of vine-leaves, dancing along the Roman streets; [ . . . ] a Kaffi r witch-doctor seeking for herbs by moonlight, while from the huts on the hill-side come the sound of dogs barking, and the voices of women and children; a mother giving bread and milk to her children in little wooden basins and singing the evening song. I like to see it all; I feel it run through me—that life belongs to me; it makes my little life larger; it breaks down the narrow walls that shut me in.” (214–215) From beginning to end of this speech, Lyndall imagines an unconventional relation between individual and world that seems radically to call into question the limits and possibilities of time and space, self and narrative. Although the novel has described the rituals of the Boer wedding in great detail—and has also taken the occasion of the dance to stage the strange and asymmetrical love triangle developing between Lyndall, Gregory, and Em—Lyndall recasts the distant noise of the celebration as an instance of encounter with that which is “strange” and other, one of many “forms of life utterly unlike mine.” She then goes on to contrast the compression of her own life with a heterogeneous and seemingly random list of geographically and temporally distant alternatives, each encapsulated within a fragmented image that implies but does not spell out a longer story. Surprisingly, Lyndall does not describe these moments as clearly external to her, but rather seems to call into question the very borders between her own life and those of others: “[ . . . ] I like to crush together, and see it [my own life] in a picture, in an instant, a multitude of disconnected unlike phases of human life.” The ambiguity of what gets “crushed together,” and of whether Lyndall’s life is seen alongside or instead contains the other glimpses of life, creates


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

a profoundly de-centered and almost undecipherable moment of imagination, as the specificity of the disparate scenes is disturbed by the problem of placing them in relation to Lyndall. This tension between radical difference and containment structures the entire monologue. Clearly the individual lives that Lyndall imagines are meant to represent experiences that are foreign to her, as she includes men and children from a deliberately wide range of cultures, religions, and even historical periods. An orientation of receptivity to otherness would thus seem to be required in order to explain her sense that her own “little life” has been made “larger,” its “narrow walls” broken down. At the same time, however, these images of alien lives are generated purely from Lyndall’s imagination, and she also claims that they “run through [her]” and “belong to [her],” statements that suggest she imaginatively colonizes and romanticizes these others in order to enrich her own experience. The ambiguity of this moment is significant on many levels, as it reflects the status of both Lyndall the character—who has some power over others because of her ethnicity and intelligence, but is also limited by her gender and position as orphaned outsider—and of Schreiner herself, who existed in a similarly divided state between South Africa and England, radical feminism and traditional constraints. Lyndall’s vision can also be read in terms of Bhabha’s analysis of the complexity of temporality and narrative in the colonial context. If Waldo’s imaginative recreation of South Africa’s past enacts the unhomely position of the colonizer, Lyndall’s invocation of a temporally diverse vision of others highlights the narrative instability of nation and culture in the colonial moment: “In the production of the nation as narration there is a split between the continuist, accumulative temporality of the pedagogical, and the repetitious, recursive strategy of the perfomative” (Bhabha 145). Bhabha characterizes the individual’s relationship to nationalism and community as being enacted in two possible modes, the pedagogical and the performative. Associated with normativity and the production of stable national subjects, the pedagogical works through a linear understanding of history and time, while the performative functions to destabilize this process, emphasizing instead the heterogeneity and unpredictability of the self’s relation to others.18 Lyndall’s vision seems to embrace both modes, as she projects herself in a position of mastery and simultaneously undermines this relation by allowing a vision of otherness to challenge and perhaps radically alter her sense of self. This self-reflexive mode of narrative hospitality, in which the claim to know the other’s story is both posited and called into question, can be seen as a kind of microcosm of the novel as a whole, reflecting the ways in which literary form must be radically reconfigured to accommodate the profound complexity of colonial interactions. As Bhabha argues: “The liminality of the people—their double-inscription as pedagogical objects and performative subjects—demands a ‘time’ of narrative that is disavowed in

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


the discourse of historicism where narrative is only the agency of the event, or the medium of a naturalistic continuity of Community or Tradition” (151). Schreiner’s text stretches the conventions of realism to their breaking point in its attempt to acknowledge the limitations of historicism and the “naturalistic continuity” of the classic English novel. Incorporating a wide variety of literary modes and styles, the narrative hospitality of African Farm allows it to engage with both the pedagogical and the performative relations between subject and nation. Both Lyndall and Waldo might be said to exist imaginatively in such an alternate “‘time’ of narrative”—one that calls into question traditional concepts of agency, history, and relations with others—as a way of escaping their inherited colonial positions. These alternative orientations take almost opposed forms for the two characters, however, as Waldo tends to look not ahead to the future and outward among other individuals, but rather back into the past and within the mysteries of his immediate natural surroundings in order to disrupt the oppressive patterns of the present. These parallel but incongruent positions necessitate the unconventional modes of communication and intimacy that exist between Waldo and Lyndall, as they imply a connection based not on a shared sense of presence and similarity of perspective, but rather on a mutual feeling of alienation from the present.19 This incongruent correspondence helps to explain the singular form of friendship between Waldo and Lyndall, in which her incessant talk is answered by his silence, and their physical proximity is secondary to a kind of spiritual communion. Allowing his dog to stay with Lyndall when she returns, Waldo implies that even this indirect, transitive association is significant: “He was satisfied that at least his dog was with her” (199). He may also consciously acknowledge the complexity of their temporal orientations, as he does not even try to enter into her vision of future-directed stories and aspirations. In the wake of Lyndall’s global vision, the narrator describes Waldo’s response: “To him the words were no confession, no glimpse into the strong, proud, restless heart of the woman. They were general words with a general application. He looked up into the sparkling sky with dull eyes” (217). Rather than contrasting their relationship with other, more conventional models, Waldo accepts the limits of linguistic communication, and thus responds to her idealizations of the future with his own image of escape, one that is infi nitely distant but that reaches back to the past rather than forward. Having established that Lyndall does not pray, Waldo essentially redefi nes the activity of prayer itself: “‘I will tell you,’ he added, in a still lower voice, ‘where I could pray. If there were a wall of rock on the edge of the world, and one rock stretched out far, far into space, and I stood alone upon it, alone, with stars above me and stars below me—I would not say anything; but the feeling would be prayer.’ There was an end to their conversation after that” (218). Obviously, this vision stands in contrast to Lyndall’s


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

multiplicity of stories in many ways, as Waldo idealizes a moment of utter solitude (“alone upon it, alone”), in which he communes not with human others but with the stars that surround him—stars which are remote both spatially and temporally, since their light reaches earth many years after they fi rst shine. By imagining a non-verbal prayer, one that is described simply as a “feeling,” Waldo suggests the possibility of a mode of communication that is not grounded in any kind of dialogue or even speech, and that does not depend on the presence of both parties. Perhaps fittingly, this moment represents the last significant conversation that occurs between Lyndall and Waldo. She will wish him farewell before he sets off into the world, but they will not have another chance to develop their connection through speech or physical proximity.

IV. “I LOVE TO YOU”: NARRATIVE ETHICS OF INTIMACY As many critics have noted, much of the second part of the novel is told not from a third-person narrative perspective, but rather in the voices and reports of several of the characters themselves. 20 This shift in narrative mode reflects the complete breakdown of the farm as even a temporary home base, as Waldo, Lyndall, and Gregory all embark on journeys into the larger world, and as two unnamed strangers temporarily disturb the isolation of the homestead. Turning to the younger characters, Schreiner raises the possibility of radical alternatives to traditional heterosexual relationships and families. These new modes of relation—fi rst glimpsed in the unconventional intimacy between Waldo and Lyndall, and now extended to Waldo’s interaction with his stranger, and Gregory’s care for Lyndall—all embody a non-appropriative dynamic between subjects, one that resonates productively with post-structuralist understandings of the ethics of hospitality as receptivity to the otherness of the other. Although the seeming non-viability of these alternative relations, seen most clearly in the premature deaths of Waldo, Lyndall, and Lyndall’s baby, have led some feminist critics to characterize the novel as pessimistic and ultimately conservative, I suggest that this pessimism exists in tension with the radical potential explored through the telling of stories. New modes of understanding others ethically, of speaking to and of rather than for them, may contain the seeds of a profoundly altered future, one that is not yet possible in the time and space of a violently contested battle for colonial dominance, but which may be glimpsed in the literature that emerges from such unhomely places. Irigaray is the feminist thinker perhaps most explicitly determined to re-imagine relationships between men and women in light of an ethics of responsibility for the other. As Tina Chanter says: “[ . . . ] Irigaray does

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


not restrict the scope of her question to women’s differences from men, she also introduces the question of how to think sexual difference in terms of absolute alterity or radical otherness” (173). Irigaray’s recent writings on alternative modes of communication between lovers, especially in I Love to You, help to place the local failures of Lyndall and Waldo in a larger context of feminist and queer challenges to traditional models of intimacy. Schreiner seems to anticipate—and perhaps, in her openness to rethinking gender roles and sexuality themselves, to go beyond—Irigaray’s feminist reorientation of post-structuralist ethics.


Waldo’s Stranger and the Intimacy of Allegory

Given the incompatibility of the role of “host” or “hostess” with the unhomely colonial setting of the novel, these exceptional moments of hospitality and intimacy unfold in a variety of unpredictable locations and circumstances. Of greater significance in Waldo’s development than his actual time away from the homestead may well be his encounter with a stranger from the outside world who arrives at the farm in the beginning of the second part of the novel. In contrast to Bonaparte and Gregory, who successively insinuate themselves into day-to-day operations of the homestead, the two characters identified only as “strangers” are fleeting visitors; Waldo’s stranger remains on the margins of the farm and interacts exclusively with him. And while Bonaparte was intent on casting Waldo as an actor in a self-serving script of his own devising, this European stranger maintains an essentially distant stance, allowing him to give voice to Waldo’s desires rather than his own. Refusing Waldo’s offer of traditional hospitality in the form of a bed for the night, the stranger sits in silence, and when he speaks it is to pose questions, rather than to divulge his own story. Unlike Bonaparte and Gregory, whose true motivations and untruthful statements are immediately exposed by the narrator, the stranger remains equally mysterious to Waldo and the reader, functioning as a disruptive presence at the level of both plot and narrative form. Indeed, although the presence of the stranger is often noted only for the book he gives Waldo and as the source of the long allegory he tells—which takes over the novel for ten pages, and was later reprinted as a self-contained story—the interactions between him and Waldo are crucial for understanding the relationship between ethics and narration in the novel. The stranger begins by asking questions: for two-and-a-half pages, all of his quoted speech takes the form of interrogative statements addressed to Waldo, as he inquires about Waldo’s place on the farm, his level of contentment there, and finally the meaning and value of the wooden post Waldo has been carving. This simple gesture, which is more significant than Waldo’s actual answers, establishes his attitude as one of openness, as he is willing to subordinate his own interests to another, and to listen before he speaks.


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

Critics often treat the allegory as the stranger’s elaboration of the meaning of Waldo’s carving, overlooking Waldo’s own explanation of his work, given in response, again, to the stranger’s inquiries: “Yes, I will tell you,” he muttered; “I will tell you all about it.” He put his fi nger on the grotesque little manikin at the bottom (Ah! that man who believed nothing, hoped nothing, felt nothing; how he loved him!), and with eager fi nger the fellow moved upwards, explaining over fantastic figures and mountains, to the crowning bird from whose wing dropped a feather. At the end he spoke with broken breath—short words, like one who utters things of mighty import. (159)21 Beginning with an affi rmative “yes,” Waldo makes it clear that he willingly shares his work with the stranger, having divined his difference from Bonaparte, who cruelly destroyed his earlier creation. Retracing the carvings with his fi nger, as if simultaneously pointing to and reading them for himself, Waldo narrates the meaning of his art, betraying the depth of its importance in his very manner of speech. The intimacy and sense of mutual understanding in this scene are also reflected by the narrative voice itself. Referring to the man as “the stranger” and to Waldo as “the fellow” or “the boy” throughout the encounter, the narrator does not speak clearly from the perspective of either character, but rather seems to remain suspended between the two. Thus, the italicized parenthetical exclamation, “how he loved him!” is difficult to attribute with certainty to Waldo or his stranger. Although it seems likely that it is Waldo who experiences love with such vehemence, given the stranger’s declaration that he “feels nothing,” the grammar of the sentence makes a defi nitive attribution impossible. Given the obvious differences between Waldo and the stranger, including nationality, age, and class, as well as the ways in which the characters in the novel are generally embedded within complex structures of power and oppression, the intellectual bond between these two figures represents an exceptional, and unsustainable, moment of intimacy and communication. Unlike the emotional connection between Waldo and Lyndall, which is not dependent on physical proximity, this scene places the material presence of the stranger in tension with his cool demeanor and attitude of unconcerned indifference towards Waldo. Within the space created by the stranger’s measured interest and carefully maintained difference, Waldo is able to articulate the story of his carving. Irigaray associates precisely such spaces with a respectful relation between lovers, as they establish a nonappropriative mode of communication: “I am listening to you prepares the way for the not-yet-coded, for silence, for a space for existence, initiative, free intentionality, and support for your becoming” (I Love to You 117). And while Irigaray speaks specifically of a heterosexual relationship, the second part of Schreiner’s novel is invested in testing the possibilities of a

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


wide range of interactions between individuals, posing multiple alternatives to counter the pessimistic picture Lyndall draws of the dangers of marriage for women. 22 As the stranger launches into the extended allegory in response to Waldo’s explanation, prefacing it with simply, “‘I think, [ . . . ] that I partly understand you. It is something after this fashion, is it not?’” the sense of exchange seems to be broken, since the stranger’s voice takes over the narrative for the bulk of the remainder of the chapter. 23 Although this might be read as an extreme act of appropriation, since the stranger literally tells Waldo’s story for him, I’d like to suggest that the interruption of the novel—as a sub-narrative disrupts the story of the characters’ lives—actually serves to reinforce at the level of form the intimacy and exchange that has developed between Waldo and the stranger. Although it is not spelled out for the reader, Waldo’s own telling of his story, which comes before the stranger’s voice takes over, stands to balance and supplement the allegory within the world of the text. The stranger’s telling is thus the third version of the story, as Waldo fi rst carves it in pictures, then narrates those pictures for the stranger’s benefit. The stranger’s elaboration of it is necessary for the reader, who can neither see Waldo’s carving nor hear his awkward explanation of it, but for Waldo the stranger’s allegory is a translation or adaptation of his own work, rather than a new invention. The stranger’s decision to present the story in the form of an allegory also reinforces its status as a translation or expansion, rather than appropriation, of Waldo’s voice. 24 Allegories are usually constructed as universal narratives, emptied of psychologically developed characters and historically or geographically specific settings. Situated somewhere between fiction and philosophy or theology, allegories are associated with objective narrative voices, as the primary meaning of the story is expressed through the plot. Commenting on the political efficacy of Schreiner’s allegorical stories, Ann Heilmann suggests that this objective quality helps to bolster their nascent feminist content: “One of the reasons for the impact of her allegorical writing was that it lent universal significance to the personal and political aspirations of her readers. Inspired by her archetypal language and biblical imagery, white women in particular were able to conceptualise their claim to equality and citizenship as a spiritual quest for human redemption” (Strategies 125). Indeed, given the prevalence of this form in the body of Schreiner’s work, it is tempting from a literary-critical perspective to read the story of the hunter not as the stranger’s attempt to appropriate Waldo’s narrative, but rather as a moment of direct authorial intervention, as Schreiner simply suspends the story of the farm to provide a clear statement of her philosophical position. Waldo’s responses to the allegory suggest that he believes it to be an accurate and respectful expression of his feelings and aspirations. The narrator interrupts the story twice to record Waldo’s reactions, and in both cases his enthusiasm is unequivocal: “At every word the stranger spoke


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

the fellow’s eyes flashed back on him—yes, and yes, and yes!” (164). These “flashes” are then described as “passionate [ . . . ] more thirsty and desiring than the love-glances of a woman.” The second instance is also represented as a non-verbal response with clear erotic overtones: “The boy had crept closer; his hot breath almost touched the stranger’s hand; a mystic wonder filled his eyes” (166). Disrupting the stranger’s complete control of the narrative, these moments suggest that an intimate energy between Waldo and the stranger informs and validates the spoken allegory, as Waldo silently affi rms both the stranger’s actions and the content of the story itself. In the immediate aftermath of the allegory, this endorsement becomes even more explicit, as Waldo fi rst begins to cry and then, seeing that the stranger does not laugh at him, fi nally speaks directly to him: “‘How did you know it?’ the boy whispered at last. ‘It is not written there—not on that wood. How did you know it?’” (169). Although phrased as a question, “How did you know it?” constitutes a direct confi rmation of Waldo’s belief that the stranger has fully understood and communicated his own thoughts. That Waldo cries also reminds the reader of the prior encounter between him and Bonaparte, when Waldo refused to show any emotion in response to Bonaparte’s cruelty and physical abuse. In contrast to the earlier scene, the particular nature of the intimacy between Waldo and the stranger becomes clearer. Bonaparte tries in every way to impose his narrative on Waldo, by misrepresenting his actions and then resorting to physical violence, as he literally holds him captive and penetrates his skin. The connection between Waldo and the stranger, however, is enacted across a distance, both physical (their only contact takes the form of a single “ungloved” handshake) and emotional, as the stranger maintains a pose of aloof indifference for most of the scene. Waldo’s willingness to shed tears in the presence of the stranger confi rms his feeling of trust and mutual understanding, a feeling which is enabled rather than inhibited by the stranger’s emotional restraint. In addition, while Bonaparte seemed to be acting out a sadistic sexual fantasy during the beating, with which Waldo stubbornly refused to engage, the later scene emphasizes Waldo as the origin of the sexualized connection between the two men. Rather than trying to enter and control his life, as Bonaparte did, the stranger is content merely to help Waldo express his story, to nurture his artistic expression while leaving his physical and mental self intact. In response to Waldo’s inquiry about “how he knew it,” the stranger refers back to the wood carving, and embarks on a short lecture about the relationship between art and truth. He asserts that “true” art is valuable because it is capable of producing multiple meanings, and suggests that Waldo’s carving has this quality, and lacks only the beauty that would require a more skilled craftsman. This explanation, while perfectly valid and pleasing to Waldo—who exclaims “‘All my life I have longed to see you’” (170)—seems extraneous and even a bit labored in light of the exceptional moment of intellectual intimacy that has already taken place between

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


them. Like Lyndall’s monologues on the woman question, the substance of these slightly awkward and didactic speeches is expressed more subtly by the dynamics that are established between characters and between character and place. Just as the scene of the telling of the allegory may reveal more about Waldo and his aspirations than the more familiar content of the story itself, so the explicitly philosophical expositions in the text must be balanced against and perhaps even seen in tension with the more radical moments of narrative hospitality. Immediately after a mini-lecture on aesthetics, the stranger returns to an interrogative mode, and asks Waldo to tell him “what [he] has been doing all [his] life” (170). When Waldo attempts to comply with the stranger’s request, and give an accounting of his own life, the novel does not record his speech. Instead, the narrator steps in to remind us of the difficulty of doing justice to one’s own experience: A confused, disordered story—the little made large and the large small, and nothing showing its inward meaning. It is not till the past has recorded many steps that before the clearest eyes it falls into co-ordinate pictures. It is not till the “I” we tell of has ceased to exist that it takes its place among other objective realities and fi nds its true niche in the picture. The present and the near past is a confusion, whose meaning flashes on us as it slinks away into the distance. (170) In contrast to the allegory, with its carefully constructed symbolic structure and clear moral, Waldo’s narration of his own life is spontaneous, “disordered,” and difficult to interpret. And while the narrator seems critical of this mode of storytelling—emphasizing the teller’s lack of objectivity and purpose, which leads to confusion and errors of scale and perspective—I’d like to suggest that it is one of several ways of accounting for lived experience that the novel itself includes and values. Just as the allegory was preceded by Waldo’s messier narration of the meaning of his carvings, so it is followed by his confused life story. Waldo’s fragmented but meaningful utterances frame and balance the stranger’s more fi nished life lessons, serving as a reminder of the need for hospitality to individual, unpredictable stories, of the inadequacy of a single tale or form for capturing the hybridity and chaos of the unhomely colonial space.


Waldo’s Letter

The question of who is best qualified to tell the various stories associated with the farm and its inhabitants only intensifies as the second part of the novel continues, since the time characters spend away from the homestead is not experienced by the reader fi rst-hand, but is instead narrated after the fact in several different ways. When Waldo reappears, after an extended absence from both the farm and the novel, he again attempts a kind of

144 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction autobiography, although in this case it takes the form of a letter to Lyndall, describing in detail his movements and encounters since leaving the farm. 25 This remarkable epistle becomes the text of the novel for approximately ten pages, and thus stands in contrast to Waldo’s earlier self-narrations, which were not recorded for the reader. In the process of writing the letter he seems almost to conjure Lyndall’s presence, to use the act of narration as a figure for his connection to her and to his home: “[ . . . ] [Em] wondered how it was that he sat to write so intently after his long weary walk. He was not tired now; his pen hurried quickly and restlessly over the paper, and his eye was bright. [ . . . ] He was writing to Lyndall. He would tell her all he had seen, all he had done, though it were nothing worth relating. He seemed to have come back to her, and to be talking to her now he sat there in the old house” (252). 26 Once again, it becomes clear that the exceptional intimacy between Waldo and Lyndall is based not on being literally in each other’s presences, but rather on the ability to communicate imaginatively, to see the world through each other’s eyes. Waldo’s writing is significant less for the actual content of the experiences he narrates than for the process of selecting for and speaking to Lyndall, for the mere act of composing the letter to call her into being, despite her physical absence and even her as yet undisclosed death. Describing the ideal relationship expressed in the phrase “I love to you,” Irigaray suggests the need for new modes of communication that are capable of maintaining the space and freedom implied by the “to” inserted in the more familiar phrase: “I love to you means I maintain a relation of indirection to you. I do not subjugate you or consume you. I respect you (as irreducible). I hail you: in you I hail. I praise you: in you I praise. [ . . . ] I speak to you, not just about something; rather I speak to you. I tell you, not so much this or that, but rather I tell to you” (109). 27 Although the relationship between Waldo and Lyndall is never represented as sexual, it does serve as an alternate model of love and respect between individuals that embodies the sense of “indirection,” distance, and ethical communication Irigaray imagines. Waldo’s letter enacts this relationship within the plot, as he is entirely focused on the substance of their connection that sustains him even when he is utterly alone, and for the reader, who both witnesses the scene of writing and enters into the relation as a reader of the letter. That Waldo immediately takes up the pen to write to Lyndall also reinforces her role in creating a space of home. Although it is Em who has opened the door for Waldo, giving him shelter from the storm and offering to share her food with him in the middle of the night, Waldo associates his homecoming only with the connection to Lyndall. Whereas Em’s physical presence seems unimportant, Waldo’s mere thoughts of Lyndall are enough to transform the cottage into a place where he feels safe and at home, and can freely reflect on his recent experiences. This represents another aspect of the altered conception of gender that seems to inform Waldo and Lyndall’s connection; although Em performs the traditional domestic duties of

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


a woman, creating a warm and nourishing retreat in the space of the home, Waldo is only comforted by the more unconventional sense in which he and Lyndall share the farm, even when they are not both present.28 Traditional hospitality is thus supplanted by Waldo and Lyndall’s “unhomely” intimacy. As if emphasizing this distinction, the reader seems to enter Waldo’s head as he composes the letter, and no reference is made to Em’s presence as he writes. Since the reader does not yet know that she has died, we are cast in Lyndall’s place, reading the words that are addressed to her, rather than sitting with Em and watching Waldo write. Interrupting his story to comment on the content of the letter itself, Waldo acknowledges “‘I am writing to you of very small things, but there is nothing else to tell; it has been all small and you will like it. Whenever anything has happened I have always thought I would tell it to you. The back thought in my mind is always you’” (254). As if aware of the narrator’s earlier critique of his attempt to tell his life story to the stranger—particularly the charge that the “little” is “made large”—here Waldo agrees that he can only tell of “very small things,” but he defends this choice, insisting that Lyndall “will like it.” Allowing Waldo to take over the narration of the novel, Schreiner endorses this assessment, and clearly validates his ability to tell his own story to Lyndall and, indirectly, to the reader. Self-consciously calling into question conventional ideas about the events that are worthy of being told, the novel enacts a wide variety of narrative modes, from the third-person narrator who exposed Bonaparte’s true motives, to the stranger’s extended allegory, to Waldo’s fi rst-person and deliberately subjective letter. Refusing, fi nally, to privilege any one of these stories or storytelling methods above the others, Schreiner suggests that no single form is adequate to approach the truth of the unhomely lives of her characters. Waldo’s commentary on his own letter also suggests that this act of writing does not constitute the fi rst time that Waldo has shared these experiences with Lyndall. While they have not actually been together since Waldo left the farm, he implies that he has been imagining Lyndall’s response to his experiences as they are occurring. Thus the letter represents not a translation from fi rst-hand participation to a story told for another, but rather shows that Waldo has been living in some sense as and for Lyndall throughout. This blurring of identities reinforces the receptivity within their relation to each other, despite their differences. It also helps to explain Waldo’s urgency in writing the letter; he is not remembering for the fi rst time events that have taken place, but rather recording a narrative that in some sense has already been composed within his head, so that the writing of the letter can be said to complete or remain a part of the original experiences. To conjure Lyndall by addressing his story to her is only to concretize her virtual presence in his life all along. A striking example of Waldo’s mindset is revealed by his account of his decision to stop drinking: “‘I remembered my old life, and I remembered you. I saw how, one day, you would read in the papers—“A German


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

carrier, named Waldo Farber, was killed through falling from his waggon [sic] [ . . . ]” [ . . . ] I never drank again’” (257). The thought of Lyndall is enough to spur Waldo to give up alcohol for good, not because he thinks she would judge him in any conventional sense, but because he cannot bear the thought of being responsible for her distress on learning of his senseless death. Indirectly, she has influenced his choices and experiences as he lives them. Furthermore, this passage in the letter constitutes an odd inversion of their present relationship; imagining Lyndall reading of his death, Waldo unknowingly comments on his own situation, as he addresses his letter to Lyndall while unaware that she has died. In both instances of reading and writing, the strength of the relationship between the two characters persists despite the death of one, and perhaps exists within the acts of communication themselves, rather than between two material consciousnesses. The problem of communicating across death (a scenario that Waldo only imagines for Lyndall, but which is actually true of his own letter) is only the most extreme form of the temporal disjunction that has differentiated Waldo and Lyndall from the beginning. Just as they earlier seemed to fi nd a sort of meeting place between his fractured relationship to history and her dreams of a radically altered future, so they are now seen to engage in a form of intimacy and communication despite the fact of her complete non-existence in the present. Critiquing the conventional temporal structures of marriage and reproduction, in which the future is constrained by social expectations, Irigaray also suggests the need for lovers to reconceive the relationship between intimacy and time: “All too often, sacramental or juridical commitment and the obligation to reproduce have compensated for this problem: how to construct a temporality between us? How to unite two temporalities, two subjects, in a lasting way?” (I Love to You 111). Through Lyndall, Schreiner anticipates this critique, as the nonsexual relationship with Waldo is clearly more substantive than the romantic attachments in the novel, and as Lyndall rejects marriage altogether. Deeply aware of temporal constraints on women, Schreiner suggests in Waldo and Lyndall both the difficulty and potential of an altered relation to colonial pasts and feminist futures. The last lines of the letter that we read (because our perspective switches back to Em, although Waldo continues to write for a short time) reconfirm the intimacy that exists between Waldo and Lyndall, despite physical distance: “‘Sometimes such a sudden gladness seizes me when I remember that somewhere in the world you are living and working. You are my very own; nothing else is my own so. When I have finished I am going to look at your room door—’” (263). The abrupt break in the text of the letter anticipates the psychic and narrative break to come, as Em wakes up and brings back into the scene her knowledge of Lyndall’s death. This news comes to both Waldo and the reader for the first time at this moment, although it actually occurred earlier, and thus causes us to reassess the meaning of his letter. By including the letter in the novel, Schreiner allows the exceptional relation between

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


Waldo and Lyndall to keep her alive throughout this chapter, and suggests that their intimacy may exceed the limits of physical existence. Waldo’s ability to conjure the presence of his only friend by addressing her in writing, in spite of her physical death, suggests an alternative model of intimacy and proximity, in which traditional boundaries are called into question by a radical hospitality. Waldo’s letter constitutes an alternative world in which he and Lyndall are constantly in each other’s presence, and in which awareness of this presence provides the substance of home and selfhood.


Gregory Rose and Lyndall

In a surprising turn, and in contrast to Waldo’s autobiographical letter, the story of Lyndall’s time away from the farm is narrated in the next chapter neither by her nor by Em, but instead by their mutual suitor, Gregory Rose. When Gregory first appears at the farm, he most resembles Bonaparte Blenkins, as he is willing to lie and exaggerate in order to get what he wants, and misrepresents even his own thoughts and intentions in letters to his sister and in his interactions with Lyndall and Em. He seems particularly blind to Lyndall’s feelings, as he tries to win her affection and respect by claiming to share her way of thinking about everything, an assertion that is blatantly unconvincing. After Lyndall’s extended and complex discourse on the nature of love, Gregory replies: “‘Oh, yes,’ [ . . . ] ‘That is what I have already thought. We have the same thoughts about everything. How strange?’” (229). Lyndall, of course, is never taken in by his pathetic efforts (just as she was the first to see through Bonaparte’s ruse), and tolerates his presence only to manipulate his desire for her own purposes. Gregory’s pose is not only childish and ineffective, it also casts him in direct opposition to Waldo, since the intimacy Waldo shares with Lyndall is associated with their differences, with the ways in which they think and speak about the world in opposed terms. Thus even if Gregory’s claims to resemble Lyndall were plausible, they would not imply the possibility of a true friendship between them. For Gregory to become the narrator of Lyndall’s story thus requires a radical transformation, one that takes place only after Lyndall has left the farm to be with her lover. Although the novel never makes explicit a connection between Gregory’s cross-dressing and his changed relationship to Lyndall, it is immediately after he discovers and tries on Em’s mother’s clothes in the attic that he declares his intention of setting out to fi nd her. And while Gregory’s desire to track Lyndall down might simply be a continuation of his earlier attempts to woo her, he indicates that he has already realized that he cannot be with her in any conventional romantic sense. In response to Em’s reminder that Lyndall has written to instruct them not to follow her, Gregory clarifies his intentions: “I know what you think,” he said, turning upon Em. “You think that I am mad; you think I am going to see whether she will not like me! I am


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction not so foolish. I should have known at fi rst she never could suffer me. [ . . . ] It was right that she left me; right that she should not look at me. If any one says it is not, it is a lie! I am not going to speak to her,” he added,—“only to see her; only to stand sometimes in a place where she has stood before.” (247–48)

With this declaration, Gregory imagines a relation to Lyndall that comes much closer to the unconventional closeness she shares with Waldo, in which not all communication takes the form of speech, and where physical proximity is not a prerequisite for feelings of intimacy. While the motives and implications of Gregory’s cross-dressing are obviously complex and varied, I am particularly interested in the ways in which his shift of gender identification enables a changed relation to Lyndall, and especially the capacity to witness and relate her story faithfully. 29 We do not see Gregory again until he returns to the farm, and agrees to tell Em and Waldo what has happened to Lyndall: “‘Do you wish to hear anything?’ he asked. [Em] whispered, ‘Yes, if it does not hurt you.’ ‘What difference does it make to me?’ he said. ‘If I talk or am silent, is there any change?’” (265). While the unchangeable event he refers to is most obviously Lyndall’s death, the juxtaposition of “talk” and “silence” also seems significant. Just as Waldo’s letter recorded a story that he had already in some sense told to Lyndall, so Gregory claims that to narrate Lyndall’s experiences out loud is extraneous, a supplement to a pre-existing tale. Nevertheless, Gregory’s story is included in the text of the novel, as the reader joins the characters as listener, and as the narrator asserts the possible therapeutic value of Gregory’s account: “Perhaps it was a relief to him to speak” (265). Significantly, Gregory’s story is not transcribed in the novel in the fi rst person, but is instead told in the third person by the narrator, although the perspective is limited to Gregory’s. Unlike Waldo’s letter, which was addressed directly to Lyndall, this more distanced mode of narration reflects the nature of the relationship between Gregory and Lyndall, which is generally unequal and becomes intimate only in a highly mediated sense. The third-person voice also allows the reader to witness Gregory’s continued development from an outside perspective, and emphasizes the extent to which he tells a story both of himself and of Lyndall. Early in Gregory’s tale it becomes clear that the initial temporary act of cross-dressing, which seemed to enable his journey to fi nd Lyndall, must be repeated and extended to allow Gregory to be with and possibly even help Lyndall in her weakened state. Transforming himself into a female nurse, he radically changes not only his own identity and perspective, but also the possible modes of relation between him and Lyndall, as his “femaleness” effectively precludes his role as husband or conventional lover, while the position of nurse implies a selfless care for her needs. The extent of Gregory’s change is confi rmed by both Lyndall and her doctor, as each comments on an aspect of his newfound capacity for gentleness and care.

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


After he lifts her for the fi rst time, Lyndall contrasts Gregory’s touch with others’: “‘Thank you! that is so nice. Other people hurt me when they touch me’” (273). As a shift from his earlier blindness to Lyndall’s feelings—his seeming inability to intuit what behavior of his own might possibly please her—this physical sensitivity to her needs is remarkable. The doctor reinforces and extends the evidence of a profound change as he praises Gregory’s nursing skills: “The doctor said of Gregory four days after, ‘She is the most experienced nurse I ever came in contact with’” (273). This characterization is striking, of course, because it implies that Gregory’s skills are the result of experience, of having been a nurse for an extended period of time and in a variety of circumstances, in stark contrast to the reality that this is the only occasion of nursing in his life. In response, Gregory attributes the apparent effects of “experience” to his feelings for Lyndall: “Gregory [ . . . ] laughed in his heart. What need had he of experience. Experience teaches us in a millennium what passion teaches us in an hour” (273). The idea that we learn from the relation to another person, even or especially when that person is distant from us and the emotional connection is one-sided, recalls Levinas’s suggestion that in the ethical relation the other teaches the self. Once Gregory acknowledges Lyndall’s otherness, their relationship becomes one of ethical receptivity. Describing his passion for Lyndall as an emotion with the capacity to teach, Gregory suggests that his love for her now expresses itself in terms of openness and the possibility of learning and change, in direct contrast to her earlier characterization of him as “‘[ . . . ] a little tin duck floating on a dish of water, that comes after a piece of bread stuck on a needle, and the more the needle pricks it the more it comes on’” (231). No longer stubbornly and blindly imposing himself on Lyndall and thus subjecting himself to repeated punishment, Gregory now allows his behavior and perhaps even his entire sense of self to be shaped by her needs and desires. His exterior presentation as a nurturing female figure is thus revealed as a sign of a much deeper transformation, as his actions seem to betray the effects of years of experience, to be the result not of acting a role but rather of an extended period of learned responses. In fact, of course, this learned compassion has occurred not through the passage of time but rather as an effect of Lyndall’s presence, and of Gregory’s newfound capacity to subjugate his own needs to hers, a capacity associated with his recently acquired identity as a woman. Gregory’s nurturing selflessness does not, however, conform to the traditional female role of “angel in the house.” Most crucially, he cares not for a man but for another woman, thus immediately destabilizing any easy assumptions of gender roles and power dynamics. And this care does not take the form of an overbearing control or even a conventional sympathetic response, but is rather expressed in scrupulously passive and respectful terms: “In that quiet room Lyndall lay on the bed with the dog at her feet, and Gregory sat in his dark corner watching. [ . . . ] What


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

thoughts were in those eyes? Gregory wondered; he dared not ask” (273). Sitting in the dark, thus refusing to impose even his visual image on Lyndall, Gregory observes without making any demands, helping to create a space within which Lyndall may peacefully and freely experience her own needs. He is no longer the same man who tried to woo her by claiming that they shared the same thoughts, as here he refrains even from asking what those thoughts may be. Gregory’s act of nursing therefore represents an ethical care of and responsibility for the other, a mode of relation that seems to blend a traditionally feminine capacity for nurturing with a radical restraint, a consciousness of Lyndall’s status as separate and not fully knowable. And it is this same balance of care and respect that enables Gregory to bring her story faithfully back to Em and Waldo in an act of narrative hospitality, as he has opened himself to Lyndall’s experiences and desires, and can thus recount them accurately, as a passive yet responsible witness to her fi nal days. Representing an odd combination of the same-sex desire between Waldo and his stranger and the non-physical intimacy between Waldo and Lyndall, Gregory’s attitude towards Lyndall most clearly enacts the restraint and receptivity Irigaray prescribes for an ethical relation between lovers: “I am listening to you, as to another who transcends me, requires a transition to a new dimension. I am listening to you: I perceive what you are saying, I am attentive to it, I am attempting to understand and hear your intention. Which does not mean: I comprehend you, I know you, so I do not need to listen to you and I can even plan a future for you” (I Love to You 116). Having made a dramatic “transition to a new dimension” as woman and nurse, Gregory is able to establish a relation to Lyndall that is entirely different from any of the earlier connections, and that functions as an alternative to both the formal marriage she once proposed to him, and to an unmarried alliance with the father of her baby. While this new relationship cannot save Lyndall from the deaths of her baby and herself, it does serve to place those deaths in an alternative context, as Gregory creates a space of relative safety and freedom for Lyndall’s final days. Gregory’s passion-fueled abilities as a selfless nurturer stand in stark contrast to Lyndall’s brief experience of motherhood, which is slowly revealed in the course of Gregory’s story. It is important to acknowledge that Lyndall’s resistance to embracing the child fully is rooted in her deeply ambivalent feelings towards the baby’s father, a character identified only as “Lyndall’s stranger,” and whose single visit to the farm is represented in terms of conflict and hesitation. Housed in Otto and Waldo’s unoccupied cabin, the stranger complains of being “outlawed,” given a “cold reception” despite Lyndall’s invitation to him to “‘come if you wish’” (235). From the beginning, then, Lyndall’s welcome to her lover is fraught with second thoughts, as she invites him into the farm and allows him to sleep in the place she once considered home, but refuses to play the role of hostess, keeping him isolated from Em and Gregory. Although she acknowledges a strong physical

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


bond between them, Lyndall is extremely reluctant to agree to marry the stranger, or to enter into any conventional relationship with him: “‘[ . . . ] if I had been married to you for a year, I should have come to my senses, and seen that your hands and your voice are like the hands and the voice of any other man,’” (237) and she claims that his attraction to her is based at least in part on her “indifference” to him. This feminist critique of marriage, and Lyndall’s willingness to resist the stranger’s offer in spite of her pregnancy, is quite radical, and anticipates the new woman debates only just beginning to emerge in England and the United States. As with Lyndall’s earlier speeches, however, Schreiner is finally more concerned with probing women’s immediate responses to their immanent constraints than with imagining distant and perhaps utopian alternatives to these limits. Lyndall’s possibilities lie in her relations with others and in the stories she herself imagines, rather than in a new location or a new life that would enable a more material freedom. And although she finally agrees to leave the farm with her lover, they are no longer together when the baby is born. This unnarrated break-up (since Gregory does not witness the event, he cannot include it in the story) seems to influence Lyndall’s confl icted response to the child. Just as her intimacy with the stranger is cast as simultaneously comforting and limiting, a desire that threatens Lyndall’s freedom as a woman, so she speaks of the baby in similarly contradictory terms.30 Having asked Gregory to cover the child’s grave, to protect it from the rain, she begins to recount the baby’s short life: “It was so small,” she said; “it lived such a little while—only three hours. They laid it close by me, but I never saw it; I could feel it by me.” She waited; “Its feet were so cold; I took them in my hand to make them warm, and my hand closed right over them they were so little.” There was an uneven trembling in the voice. “It crept close to me; it wanted to drink, it wanted to be warm.” She hardened herself—“I did not love it; its father was not my prince; I did not care for it; but it was so little.” (278) Referring to the child only as “it,” Lyndall both recognizes and resists the impulse to care for her baby. As she begins to talk about it, she emphasizes the baby’s physical proximity and her own inability, or refusal, to see it. This may suggest that Lyndall is reluctant to acknowledge the baby as a separate entity, no longer contained within her own body, since pregnancy is the time of feeling but not seeing the baby. Thus one problem with the child is the dilemma of whether it constitutes an extension of Lyndall’s own life and possibilities (and thus might share her aspirations just as it shares her small feet) or is instead associated with its father and therefore with constraints on the self. Vacillating between these two extremes, Lyndall seems unable to acknowledge the child as a being external to herself for which she nevertheless bears full responsibility.


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

The attempt to understand Lyndall’s feelings about her child is deeply complicated, however, by the lack of a reliable witness of these events. Instead, we are given only Gregory’s transcript of her own telling of the birth, and that telling itself bears marks of trauma and uncertainty. The short, broken sentences suggest that Lyndall has been unable fully to comprehend or accept the death of her child, and is thus unable to present a coherent account of it to Gregory. And the concern for the rain on the grave also, of course, indicates a blurring of the distinction between life and death, as well as a kind of limitless responsibility for the baby. Even the relationship between the original event and this fi rst telling of it is called into question, as the phrase “She hardened herself” seems to refer both to Lyndall’s actions towards her baby and to the resolve or emotional indifference required to tell the story. The unreliability of the account of this episode, and the narrator’s refusal to step in and give a fuller picture of Lyndall’s feelings, suggests the complexity and ultimate inaccessibility of this moment of maternal ambivalence. It therefore resists absolute judgment or assimilation into a political interpretation, standing instead as an acknowledgement of the inherent contradictions, divided responsibilities, and limitations that define women’s lives. Refusing to speak for Lyndall, the narrator herself engages in ethical restraint, and thus leaves a gap in the substance of the novel that marks its hospitality to female experience. This sense of limitation and the impossibility of viable alternatives also characterizes the scene of Lyndall’s own death, and has led some critics to compare Schreiner and Eliot, as writers whose heroines are too often punished or killed for expressing the very ambitions enacted by their authors.31 And while it is certainly true that Lyndall does not live “happily ever after,” this end is actually consistent with her own earlier declaration to Waldo that true freedom for women can only be achieved in a discontinuous temporality, by being “born in the future” (188). Even had her baby lived, it would have carried all the same burdens as Lyndall, being born in her present, rather than in a time beyond in which the underlying structures that determine gender roles might be radically transformed. That Gregory returns to the farm, however, and tells the story of the death of both baby and mother, does seem to imply the importance of a narrative future, of the possibility of reanimating Lyndall’s existence in a radically new world. 32 Just as Waldo’s act of writing contains the power to conjure Lyndall’s presence despite her physical death, so Gregory’s paired acts of nursing and narration may effectively allow her story to challenge the limitations that structure her biological lifespan. Although writing and reproduction are often linked in complex ways for woman authors, Schreiner’s deliberate performance in this novel of a variety of narrative modes and of unconventional models of intimacy sets it apart as a radical feminist response to her time. Without diminishing or overlooking important questions of Schreiner’s complicity in colonial and racial power structures, I have tried to show how The Story of an African

Unhomely Ethics and Radical Intimacy


Farm also stages the intervention of alternative understandings of national identification, gender, and the encounter between self and other. Written at a historical moment on the verge of profound rethinkings of women’s roles and European responsibility, the novel accommodates strikingly radical possibilities of social relations and narrative hospitality, explorations that render this text remarkably resonant with contemporary negotiations of the relationship between ethics and politics.


Homeless Modernity in Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room

Virginia Woolf famously refers to Olive Schreiner as a “diamond marred by a flaw,” and in many ways it is not surprising that the later writer would ambivalently praise and criticize her feminist predecessor (“Review” 183).1 Although the Futurists proudly defi ne modernism as a complete break with the past, the relationship between the early twentieth-century novel and the Victorian is as complex and ambivalent as Woolf’s assessment of Schreiner. In the wake of the exceptional moments of narrative hospitality examined here, Woolf’s fi rst post-war novel, Jacob’s Room, can seem bleakly cynical, a meditation on homelessness rather than hospitality that forecloses spaces of possibility seen in the earlier writers. At the same time, however, the appreciation of the limits of knowledge staged by the late Victorian texts also allows us to recognize the ethical and political significance of Woolf’s novel, a significance that modernism is sometimes accused of lacking. A new “didacticism” emerges from her sustained engagement with the impossibility of understanding and connection. Turning on its head the model of literature as a means of engendering sympathy, Woolf’s novel instead teaches the dangers of sympathy, stressing the necessity of recognizing the inaccessibility of all others. Having achieved an exceptional balance between openness and intimacy, the late Victorian moment of narrative hospitality allows us to reassess the shift to modernism in terms of both break and unexpected continuity with that which comes before. Published in 1922, a crucial year for modernist literature in which T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and James Joyce’s Ulysses also appeared, Jacob’s Room represents Woolf’s self-conscious break from the conventions of realism. At the onset of its composition, in January 1920, she declares in her diary that she has: “[ . . . ] arrived at some idea of a new form for a new novel. [ . . . ] For I figure that the approach will be entirely different this time: no scaffolding; scarcely a brick to be seen; all crepuscular, but the heart, the passion, humour, everything as bright as fi re in the mist” (13–14). This frequently cited statement seems to verify the self-aware nature of a turn to a new aesthetics following World War I, as Woolf declares that she will radically revise the structure (“scaffolding”) of the realist novel. Thus in contrast to the late Victorian writers of this study—who work in a

Homeless Modernity


combined mode as they open the realist novel to fleeting moments of narrative hospitality—Woolf responds to the Great War by constructing a wholly new literary form, one that casts aside mid-Victorian ideals of sympathy and home to confront head-on a newly pervasive sense of homelessness. If the debates about the novel in the 1880s reflect a growing sense of anxiety about national identity, gender roles, and public morality, World War I explodes these tensions, as Europe experiences the shock of a “civil war” and the consequences of bringing modern technology to the battlefield. 2 With Jacob’s Room, Woolf writes a war novel that captures the disorienting effects of this national trauma, at the same time that she self-consciously distances herself from the moral and epistemological assumptions that underlie realist fiction. 3 Beginning in mid sentence (“‘So of course,’ wrote Betty Flanders, pressing her heels rather deeper in the sand, ‘there was nothing for it but to leave’”[3]), the text paradoxically rests on a foundation of homelessness and unknowability, as it traces the early life and premature death of Jacob Flanders. Reading excerpts from her diary alongside the novel, this concluding chapter addresses the urgency of Woolf’s attempt to rethink the relationship between literature and ethics in the wake of war.4 As noted by many critics, Jacob’s Room gestures towards the conventional form of the Bildungsroman only to undermine it deliberately, as Jacob’s childhood, education, and fi nally death reflect not development but rather a series of random and potentially meaningless experiences. 5 The novel explicitly challenges the value of shared understanding, as it demonstrates that the attempt to comprehend the other in terms of the self only leads to increased confusion and ignorance. Spending a significant amount of time in London, Jacob’s Room suggests that the alienation of the modern city is pervasive, and that the density of urban spaces results in fewer opportunities for significant contact between individuals, rather than more. Woolf also builds on and extends the critique of traditional gender roles suggested by the earlier novels. While George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Schreiner gesture towards new opportunities for women, their novels stop short of fully representing or committing to these possibilities. Over thirty years later—reflecting a national moment in which women have recently been granted a limited right to vote—Woolf’s intervention in these questions is fully integrated into the narrative structure of her novel, rather than taking the form of a utopian, fleeting, or disruptive element in the context of realist restraints.6 Arguing that Woolf anticipates Luce Irigaray’s writings on the relationship between ethics and eros, my analysis complicates previous feminist readings of the novel, as I suggest that the representation of Jacob’s education is more ambivalent than these critics have acknowledged. Rethinking the various modes of pedagogy imagined in Jacob’s Room through Irigaray’s critique of Emmanuel Levinas’s ethics, I conclude that a radical vision of feminist exchange is privileged both within the plot of the novel and in its experimental formal strategies.

156 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction Thus in contrast to the late Victorian eruptions of narrative hospitality— moments that tested the limits of the structures of sympathy and realism, and that crystallized new possibilities for nineteenth-century ethics—Woolf establishes a self-conscious revision of novel form. She both thematizes and enacts a critique of modes of knowledge, gender construction, and pedagogy, ushering in and consolidating modernism’s skeptical literary innovations. At the same time, Woolf insists on the ethical urgency of literary representation, despite the depth of epistemological and linguistic uncertainty, and forces her readers to attune themselves to this very paradox. Even as she registers the loss of a late Victorian experience of hospitality to the post-war feeling of homelessness, then, Woolf preserves an altered commitment to an ethics of the other.



Before turning to the novel, which was composed in the years between the end of World War I and 1922, examining Woolf’s diary during the war allows us to consider her immediate written response to this transformative event. While the diary is obviously a mediated and self-consciously composed document, it can help to shed light on the development of Woolf’s writing, as ideas and observations appear in diary and novel in different forms. Because her fictions draw on the diary as source material, each text implicitly refers to the other, and reading them together complicates our understanding of the relationship between fiction, experience, and history. Although the war-time diary entries are less concerned with politics than one might expect, they are occasionally punctuated by striking reflections on the effects of the Great War. Such moments are especially relevant to a consideration of literary ethics, since World War I is often seen as inspiring a kind of general soulsearching in England and throughout Europe. As automatic weapons and trench warfare raise the moral stakes of the confl ict, with unprecedented numbers of soldiers dying in combat, Woolf is not alone in reconsidering the efficacy of existing ethical models in wartime encounters between self and other. Just as Levinas’s philosophy comes in the wake of the trauma of the Holocaust, so the Great War inspired a rethinking of the morality of murder. In an entry dated August 1918, Woolf comments on an episode in which her brother speaks to a German prisoner of war: [ . . . ] the existence of life in another human being is as difficult to realise as a play of Shakespeare when the book is shut. This occurred to me when I saw Adrian talking to the tall German prisoner. By rights they should have been killing each other. The reason why it is easy to kill another person must be that one’s imagination is too sluggish to conceive what his life means to him—the infi nite possibilities

Homeless Modernity


of a succession of days which are furled in him, & have already been spent. (186) 7 At fi rst glance, this might appear to be a plea for sympathy with others; “imagining” the experience and life of another person is often seen as the basis for a morality of common feeling. Upon further examination, however, it quickly becomes evident that Woolf is fully aware of the limits, and even impossibility, of understanding the other in terms of the self. She begins by comparing the “realization” of another’s life with the difficulty of retaining a Shakespeare play after one has read it. The analogy between text and identity will reappear in Jacob’s Room, and in each instance it implies that both books and people are impossible to know or “realize” completely. In contrast to Eliot, who argues that the realist novel strives to describe character accurately enough to stimulate our sympathy (and thereby our moral behavior), Woolf emphasizes the inaccessibility of a deep understanding of another’s consciousness. To realize even the existence of the life within the other person is difficult, which implies that a complete knowledge of the meaning of that life lies beyond our reach. Woolf goes on to associate the failure to grasp the conscious life of the other with the ability to kill. Even here, however, she does not contrast the lack of imagination with a full understanding of the other person; rather, she suggests that at best we might be able to conjure up an image of “the infi nite possibilities of a succession of days” and to estimate the importance of those “possibilities” to that person. To fail to try to imagine the life of the other is an ethical failure; it allows one individual to kill another “easily” and, by extension, allows nations to wage war on each other. At the same time, however, the ethical recognition of the other person does not imply full comprehension of his or her consciousness. We are limited to imagining an idea of the other’s life that is infinite just as we imagine our own to be. In this recognition of the “infi nite possibilities” that characterize the other, Woolf’s understanding of ethics relates clearly to that of Levinas. For Levinas, the question of the self’s ability to kill the other creates a complex dilemma. To kill as Woolf describes, without acknowledging the self’s responsibility for the other, is not to kill the other at all, but merely to fail to distinguish between same and other. Such an action therefore lies completely outside the realm of ethics itself. The idea of murder, for Levinas, implies the recognition of the infi nite otherness of the other. Therefore, the other (acknowledged as such) is the only being I can possibly wish to kill. At the same time, however, to recognize the responsibility for the other is also to experience an ethical restriction against murder. As Levinas states: “[The other] thus opposes to me not a greater force [ . . . ] not some superlative of power, but precisely the infi nity of his transcendence. This infi nity, stronger than murder, already resists us in his face, is his face, is the primordial expression, is the fi rst word: ‘you shall not commit murder’”

158 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction (T and I 199). To open oneself to the other is to be transformed by the “infi nity of his transcendence.” The infi nity of the other is not quantifiably “greater” than the self, but serves instead to remake the self’s relation to the other and to ethics. Responsibility for the other paradoxically enables and simultaneously precludes murder. The mass killings that characterize World War I and especially the Holocaust thus constitute a complete failure to acknowledge otherness, and unfold in a space that is devoid of ethics. Levinas and Woolf share a belief that the imaginative recognition of the infi nite possibility represented by another person is incompatible with the ability to kill that person easily. In her fi rst major literary work following the war, Woolf struggles to portray both the necessity and difficulty of recognizing the “infi nite possibilities” of the other.

II. “I CAN’T SAY WHAT ‘IT’ IS”: LONDON AND THE LIMITS OF KNOWLEDGE The diary entries that Woolf writes while working on Jacob’s Room are often more directly related to text in the novel, and thus open up a productive space for analyzing the translation of experience into literature. In these passages, Woolf stresses the inscrutability of the city in the aftermath of the Great War. She suggests not only that it is impossible to know others completely, but also that the very attempt to understand may paradoxically lead to further confusion rather than greater comprehension. In June of 1920, Woolf writes of seeing a blind beggar woman singing in London. A similar image appears in Chapter 5 of the novel. The description in the diary helpfully reveals one aspect of Woolf’s understanding of the ethical effect of war, for it suggests a substantive connection between an inability to know a particular other person and the more generally alienating atmosphere of post-war London. If the earlier diary passage highlights an imaginative failure as a precondition of war, this one suggests that a lingering consequence of this recent national trauma is a deep consciousness of the difficulty of understanding another’s—or even one’s own—experience. Woolf writes of the woman: “There was a recklessness about her; much in the spirit of London. Defiant—almost gay, clasping her dog as if for warmth. How many Junes has she sat there, in the heart of London? How she came to be there, what scenes she can go through, I can’t imagine. O damn it all, I say, why can’t I know all that too?” (47). Woolf’s initial impulse, on seeing the woman, is to create for her a specific history capable of explaining her presence and motives. Closely associating her with the life of the city, Woolf attempts to read the superficial details (of how she holds the dog, for example) in order to flesh out her identity, to bestow depth and a past on the woman’s identity. Just as Woolf’s own diary documents a succession of “Junes,” allowing her to transform everyday experience into narrative, so she yearns to have access to a comparable accounting of the

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beggar woman’s development. Rather than inventing a story for the beggar woman, however (as she does for Mrs. Brown in “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown”), Woolf instead laments her inability to know the truth of the woman’s life, to penetrate successfully beyond her external appearance. The intensity of her frustration suggests that the opacity of the beggar woman’s existence serves as a reminder of the many things one “can’t” imagine or know. Woolf seems to acknowledge the ethical paradox suggested earlier; one is required to acknowledge the full life, the “infi nite possibilities” of other people, yet to presume the ability to imagine the content of those lives is to reduce the other to the terms of the self. In lieu of this information, Woolf goes on in the diary to try to account for her own motives, to identify why she fi nds the spectacle so provocative: Perhaps it was the song at night that seemed strange; she was singing shrilly, but for her own amusement, not begging. Then the fi re engines came by—shrill too [ . . . ] Sometimes everything gets into the same mood; how to defi ne this one I don’t know—it was gay & yet terrible & fearfully vivid. Nowadays I’m often overcome by London; even think of the dead who have walked in the city. [ . . . ] The view of the grey white spires from Hungerford Bridge brings it to me: & yet I can’t say what “it” is. (47–48) Having conceded that she is unable to know much about the woman’s life, Woolf here persists in trying to rule out some possible motives, stating with assurance that she sings “for her own amusement, not begging.” Rather than solve the mystery of the blind woman’s existence, however, this observation only seems to reinforce it; if it is not for the purpose of soliciting passersby, the “strange” song can mean almost anything. The attempt to understand only exposes the impossibility of so doing. As if in acknowledgement of this conundrum, Woolf returns to her initial perception that the incomprehensible woman represents just one manifestation of a pervasive urban inscrutability. And as with the song, attempts to characterize the overall “mood” of the city only seem to render it more contradictory and elusive, as it is both “gay” and “terrible,” “vivid” and yet essentially indefi nable. Striking about this passage is the extent to which each of its elements—the old woman, the “mood,” London itself—evokes mystery and the limits of description. The simultaneity and chaos of urban life, in which the beggar’s song is echoed in the fi re engines’ sirens, and in which the ghosts of the war dead walk among the living, make it impossible for even as keen an observer of modern life as Woolf’s persona in her diary to say what “it” is. And if the attempt to know only results in further mystery, then in some sense all imaginative ventures, novels included, must contain the seeds of their own failure. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the character of the beggar woman appears abruptly in Jacob’s Room, and disappears again after one paragraph


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consisting only of a single sentence. Although Woolf is in some sense free to invent within the fictional pages of the novel (and she does, in fact, give the woman an illegitimate daughter in the novel who is not mentioned in the diary), she chooses not to explain away the mystery that surrounds the woman’s presence in both diary and fiction. Even the addition of the child serves to render the woman less transparent, not more: “[ . . . ] singing out loud, not for coppers, no, from the depths of her gay wild heart—her sinful, tanned heart—for the child who fetches her is the fruit of sin [ . . . ]” (89). Although the narrator opens the possibility of harsh judgment of the woman’s “sin,” she seems to refrain from full condemnation, leaving it to the reader to reconcile the “gay and wild heart” with the evidence of immoral behavior. Like her forebear in the diary, this blind woman too contains contradictory elements that seem to confound characterization. The refusal to defi ne the beggar woman’s existence, to make her represent some specific feeling or concept, allows the character to embody the problem of knowledge itself. The presence of the beggar woman in both texts helps to refi ne a sense of Woolf’s understanding of ethics and otherness. Our desire to imagine the depth of another’s interior life only brings us face-to-face with our inability to know, and thus to an ethical restraint through which we encounter our responsibility for the other as absolutely other. If the beggar woman becomes a figure for absolute inscrutability, however, this raises the question of her status in more material terms. In both diary and novel, the focus on the inability to understand the woman’s story seems to supersede the issue of whether one is able or obligated to help the woman, to take some concrete action even if it appears that she is not explicitly requesting money. These options represent competing ethical claims, as Woolf suggests that to respect the otherness of the other is incompatible with the more conventional moral duty to feed the hungry or house the poor. And one possible reading of both scenes is that Woolf, unable or unwilling to confront the pervasive class inequalities of London, chooses instead to universalize the woman’s experiences, to transform the homeless woman from a crisis of poverty and politics to one of epistemology. While this is a familiar critique, I would argue that the novel acknowledges the problem of responsibility at many levels, and that the refusal to narrate the beggar woman’s experience can be seen as a humanizing gesture, one that attempts to grant her the same qualities of complexity and selfhood as the upper-class characters. This is one of several moments in the novel that help to highlight the difference between sympathy and Levinas’s radical rethinking of the relation between self and other. He does not locate ethics in the sincere attempt to know the other, but rather in the self’s responsibility for the absolute unknowability of that other. Although the text does not claim to have answers to the question of poverty, it does acknowledge the depth of the problem by resisting the temptation to draw the beggar woman into a comfortably familiar story. Instead, her presence serves to disrupt the surface of the text, to remind the reader of the limits

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of both perception and politics, of the existence of responsibilities that can never be completely fulfilled. The (possibly) homeless woman is both a symbol and a concrete example of the generalized sense of homelessness in post-war England. The ethical significance of this scene becomes especially clear if we contrast the brief mention of the beggar woman in Jacob’s Room with a more extended episode in a slightly later Woolf text.8 Also a novel that tries to do justice to the particularity of post-war London, Mrs. Dalloway (1925) famously stages several encounters with an apparently homeless woman who sings. In addition to transcribing the actual text of her song (“ee um fah so / foo swee too eem oo” [80]), the narrator engages in a protracted digression on the significance of her lament, ultimately attributing to the woman a kind of universal timelessness, as she is imagined to mourn a longlost love through an eternity of seasons and ages. We also view the woman through the perspectives of both Peter Walsh and Lucrezia Smith, as Peter rather off-handedly gives her a coin, and Lucrezia more actively sympathizes with her by imagining herself in the woman’s place, and wondering: “Suppose one’s father, or somebody who had known one in better days had happened to pass, and saw one standing there in the gutter?” (82). While this scene can be read as another attempt to widen the scope of Woolf’s fictional world, to acknowledge the potential significance of the most marginalized urban residents, it in fact serves to downplay the ethical demand that one take responsibility for the other. In Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf’s narrator romanticizes the woman’s plight, in effect placing the reader at an even greater distance from the urgent demands created by her material circumstances. Peter and Lucrezia each represent an inadequate response to her needs; Peter gives her money, but Woolf clearly suggests that this act has much more to do with Peter’s own narrative than the woman’s, while Lucrezia’s sincere attempt to sympathize only recapitulates the narrator’s futile effort to translate her incoherent singing, and fi nally serves to flesh out Lucrezia’s character rather than the beggar’s. Although the attentive reader might be aware of the ineffectual and even appropriative nature of these reactions to the woman’s plight, that reader is not directly confronted by the beggar’s absolute resistance to comprehension as in the much briefer scene in Jacob’s Room. The fleeting nature of the beggar’s appearance in the earlier novel emphasizes how easy it is to overlook that which falls outside of the immediate sphere of the self. Just as most pedestrians may pass the beggar on the sidewalk without really seeing her, so the reader of Jacob’s Room may skim over or ignore this paragraph of the novel. In both cases, however, pausing to notice the woman’s existence forces the passerby/reader to confront the presence of the unknowable. In these fleeting, almost raw glimpses of the urban population, the novel radically jars the reader into an awareness of the limits of understanding and action. Significantly, it is not merely the beggar’s poverty or eccentric behavior that renders her other. In Jacob’s Room, Woolf explicitly attempts to


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represent the extent to which all individuals—regardless of material differences of gender, race, or class—are inscrutable to each other. In this respect, the novel reflects a pervasive commitment to Levinasian ethics, since for him every other is absolutely other: “The Other is not other with a relative alterity [ . . . ] The alterity of the other does not depend on any quality that would distinguish him from me, [ . . . ] The Other remains infinitely transcendent, infi nitely foreign [ . . . ]” (T and I 194). Each “other,” or every person one encounters, is infinitely other, and this alterity is not qualified by superficial similarities between self and other. Thus, in contrast to the late Victorian novels of this study, the appearance of the woman begging does not represent an exceptional moment of illegibility in an otherwise knowable fictional world, but rather serves as a reminder or particular instance of the general unknowability of others. Specifically, the woman is not a character who disturbs an otherwise realist novel, like Mordecai, but is rather one of many such figures and encounters that make up the content and structure of Jacob’s Room.



The Levinasian insistence on the ethical dimension of the inaccessibility of others suggests a new reading of the familiar early twentieth-century representations of the alienating modern city. Just as attempts to understand the beggar woman have the effect of widening the gulf between self and other, so too the crowds that might represent opportunities for community or even intimacy in the city foster instead an even greater sense of anonymity and separation. In Jacob’s Room, Woolf highlights the dynamics created by new modes of public transportation: The proximity of the omnibuses gave the outside passengers an opportunity to stare into each other’s faces. Yet few took advantage of it. Each had his own business to think of. Each had his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart; and his friends could only read the title, James Spalding, or Charles Budgeon, and the passengers going the opposite way could read nothing at all—save “a man with a red moustache”, “a young man in grey smoking a pipe”. (85) Obviously, “proximity” between individuals does not necessarily produce connection. And Woolf moves subtly in this passage from a specifically urban phenomenon—no one can possibly know or engage with the hundreds of people one encounters every day—to the more profound question of human relationships. The essence of the self is “shut” like a book, and even to one’s friends only the title, or name, is legible. 9 By focusing closely for a moment on two of the myriad buses that constantly criss-cross London, Woolf presents a de-romanticized glimpse of the post-war life of the

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city. The fact that others cannot be understood fully is not unusual or startling, as it is when Hardy’s Grace Melbury returns to Little Hintock, but is rather a part of everyday experience, and Woolf self-consciously records this new fact of urban life. Jacob’s Room thus documents the inaccessibility of the truth of individual experience in the city but without implying the existence of some alternate community in which relations with others are transparent or communication complete. More importantly, the claim for the impossibility of full knowledge is not confi ned to the characters within the novel. By employing the metaphor of reading and extending the image of the book or text to one’s own memory, Woolf implies that every reader of the novel is also a divided subject who lacks access to others or even the self. The problem of knowledge and thus communication does not emerge as an interruption within an otherwise realist narrative; rather, it is both the subject and the underlying condition of the novel itself. In a second observation of public transit in the modern city, Woolf again associates an act of reading, in this case literal, with an image of disconnection. Following a familiar modernist trope of urban office workers as automatons, Woolf’s narrator accompanies these commuters into the darkness of the London underground: Beneath the pavement, sunk in the earth, hollow drains lined with yellow light forever conveyed them this way and that, and large letters upon enamel plates represented in the underworld the parks, squares, and circuses of the upper. “Marble Arch—Shepard’s Bush”—to the majority the Arch and the Bush are eternally white letters against a blue ground. Only at one point—it may be Acton, Holloway, Kensal Rise, Caledonian Road—does the name mean shops where you buy things, and houses, in one of which, down to the right, where the pollard trees grow out of the paving stones, there is a square curtained window, and a bedroom. (88–89) Here we move from the anonymous city offices to the intimacy of “your” particular bedroom, but the journey is one of estrangement and disconnection. In a description that still rings true to anyone who has ridden a subway, Woolf highlights how the bustling, distinct districts of London are reduced to mere nameplates, robbed of meaning and even invisible to all but their inhabitants, serving for others only to mark the general passage of time and space within the underground tunnels. As with the passengers on the omnibuses, the act of reading does not solve the problem of the unknown; instead, it emphasizes the distance between the label and the infi nitely more complex reality. And even when one reaches one’s destination, and takes refuge in the familiar shops, trees, and bedroom, the sense of home is cut off from the larger city, separated from it not by an orderly, knowable route but by a

164 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction maze of contentless nameplates. The association of a particular subway stop with one’s own routine (“[ . . . ] the name mean[s] shops where you buy things [ . . . ]”) reinforces the dependence of comprehension on the particularity of the individual’s perception. Not only do the passengers on the subway only know one stop along the route, but even two passengers who exit at the same station will attribute two different meanings to its name. Somewhat paradoxically, then, this passage emphasizes both the universality of the urban experience and the particularity of individual perception, a particularity that serves as a warning against the assumption that another’s experience can be known, even as individuals bump up against each other in a crowded subway car. And, as in the bus passage, the reader is implicated in this epistemological conundrum, as he or she is directly addressed by the narrator and thus asked to recognize the commonality of the problem of knowledge. Despite, or perhaps in response to, the depth of this gap between selves, Woolf is extremely interested in attempts to bridge the chasm, to communicate sincerely in the face of separation.10 The analogy between individuals and books, invoked in both the early diary entry and again to describe the passengers on the bus, raises the issue of identity and language. Woolf explores this relationship further through a consideration of personal letters. The impossibility of fully understanding others is amplified and complicated by the limitations of language. Many critics have noted that Jacob’s Room opens with Betty Flanders in the act of writing a letter, and Woolf’s characterization of letters as “the unpublished works of women” has rightly been seen as evidence of her feminist politics (123).11 But the narrator’s long digression on the rewards and pitfalls of letter writing highlights Woolf’s importantly ambivalent attitude about the value and futility of self-representation and communication. In contrast to Waldo’s letter to Lyndall, which emphasized their physical separation but was granted the power to conjure her presence even after her death, Woolf is much more skeptical about the potential for writing to bridge the gap between individuals. Thus rather than allowing the reader access to the content of these documents, Woolf tends to quote only fragments and then to comment on them, self-consciously highlighting both their potential and their limitations. Letters become another instance of how a movement towards intimacy between individuals tends to result in a heightened awareness of the inaccessibility of the other. In Chapter 8, the narrator pauses to reflect on the nature of written correspondence in general: Let us consider letters—how they come at breakfast, and at night, with their yellow stamps and their green stamps, immortalized by the postmark—for to see one’s own envelope on another’s table is to realize how soon deeds sever and become alien. Then at last the power of the mind to quit the body is manifest, and perhaps we fear or hate or wish annihilated this phantom of ourselves, lying on the table. (125)

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Here letters highlight the problem of the continuity of identity. The dated postmark “immortalizes” the content of the letter, allowing the particular—perhaps fleeting, perhaps insincere, certainly partial—self-representation within to outlive the writer, and thus to defi ne him or her long after the ability to speak back is lost. Letters are dangerous because they deny the possibility of development or self-contradiction—the ability to take back what has been thought or said. They also have the power to remind us of the separability of self and action, of how quickly our own thoughts “sever and become alien.” Woolf stresses the intensity of the split here, asserting that our envelope on another’s table is not merely startling evidence of once current sentiments that are now dated, but rather is “alien.” Just as our own past is imagined as a book whose pages we know by heart (thus implying that we only read and do not write them), so our letters, once sent and received, represent not a past self that is contained within or even understood by the present one, but rather a deed which has been “severed” from the self, and cannot be fully recognized by it. And in case we have overlooked the profundity of this self-alienation, the narrator places it in the much larger context of the mind-body split, and declares letters the only evidence necessary to prove that we are not one but many selves, who often behave in contradictory ways. Thus it is possible to “fear,” “hate,” or even wish to do away with the version of oneself represented by the mailed letter. Even, perhaps especially, when letters do say what we mean, they betray our fundamental inability to know what we mean, or to mean the same thing from moment to moment as the individual extends through time. And even if our thoughts didn’t betray us, the problem of expressing those thoughts in words is unavoidable: Masters of language, poets of long ages, have turned from the sheet that endures to the sheet that perishes [ . . . ] and addressed themselves to the task of reaching, touching, penetrating the individual heart. Were it possible! But words have been used too often; touched and turned, and left exposed to the dust of the street. The words we seek hang close to the tree. We come at dawn and fi nd them sweet beneath the leaf. (126) The analogy between words and fruit suggests that the ideal of a fresh perfectly expressive language is an Edenic one, no longer possible in an England reeling from the effects of the war. And of course the problem of language, the difficulty of investing old words with true meaning, is a problem for both novel writers and letter writers, and thus has implications not only for the characters within the text but for the readers of Jacob’s Room as well. Invoking the perhaps idealized image of the letters of past poets, Woolf suggests that while the gap between language and meaning might be universal, it is felt acutely by contemporary authors as they try in vain to understand and represent a newly disillusioned society.

166 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction IV. ENCOUNTERING THE OTHER: ETHICS OF THE ROAD NOT TAKEN Given the futility of trying too hard, the extent to which Woolf suggests that a mid-Victorian faith in the accumulation of knowledge is misplaced and indeed only leads to knowing less about the world rather than more, a question arises about the possibility of any meaningful understanding between selves. In the answer to this quandary, the novel seems to come closest to embracing a Levinasian understanding of ethics, of the asymmetry and radical passivity that is entailed in the encounter with and responsibility for the absolute otherness of the other. Most importantly, one must not reach out to the other; the ethical encounter takes place not in response to the self’s action, but rather as a calling into being of the self. The coming of the other is thus most likely to happen when it is least expected, when the self is in a state of general receptivity rather than a mode of direct inquiry. In an urban setting, Woolf suggests, the potential for such moments lurks around every corner, if we are able or willing to let go of our particular goals. Documenting Jacob’s experiences as a London clerk, the narrator points to the unpredictability of the city itself: “The strange thing about life is that though the nature of it must have been apparent to everyone for hundreds of years, no one has left any adequate account of it. The streets of London have their map; but our passions are uncharted. What are you going to meet if you turn this corner?” (129). Woolf begins by calling attention to the difference between perception and representation; although the “nature” of life has been universally “apparent” for several centuries, no one has “account[ed]” for it successfully. It is not clear exactly what kinds of accounts are deemed inadequate, but it is tempting to read this statement as a critique of a variety of attempts to represent the nature of life, including history, philosophy, and even—or perhaps especially—the novel itself. In contrast to Eliot, Hardy, and even Schreiner, Woolf self-consciously calls attention to the potential failure of her own text. Given the impossibility of accurately recording or sharing one’s understanding of existence, the benefits of perception are rendered negligible, as each individual must face the mystery anew, without the advantage of the insights of others.12 The passage goes on to associate the problem of accountability with the value and shortcomings of city maps. While the “streets of London” may in theory be mapped, such partial guides are insufficient when confronted by “uncharted,” and perhaps unchartable, “passions.” The individual’s movement through the cityscape, Woolf suggests, is not confi ned to a physical body maneuvering through paved streets and stable architecture. Instead, these journeys are mental as well as corporeal, and the distances travelled cannot always be measured in blocks or miles; as when the workers emerge from the underground, the city is determined by the particulars of one’s own experience, and urban existence is never fully knowable or predictable: “What are you going to meet if you turn this corner?”

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One of the elements that make the city so difficult to navigate with confidence is the sheer number of choices that confront the individual in the urban sphere. Although we may routinely ignore these diversions, the fact of their existence lies just under the surface of our purposeful lives: “‘Holborn straight ahead of you,’ says the policeman. Ah, but where are you going if instead of brushing past the old man with the white beard, the silver medal, and the cheap violin, you let him go on with his story [ . . . ]” (129). Here, Woolf takes a moment to explore the consequences of allowing those seen on the street—the blind beggar woman or the old man with a beard—to narrate their own stories. What happens, she asks, when we open ourselves to these experiences that seem to lie so far outside our own, when we subordinate our personal agenda to the demands of another? One answer implied by this passage is that life can be utterly transformed by such random encounters with others. Accompanying the stranger to his room, where he shows you his prized possessions, may ultimately result in you sitting “[ . . . ] on the verge of the marsh drinking rum-punch, an outcast from civilization, for you have committed a crime, are infected with yellow fever as likely as not, and—fi ll in the sketch as you like” (130). In this brief and exaggerated digression, the narrator stresses the unpredictability of both life and narrative, as each small decision may lead to an infi nite number of new possibilities, and the story of the accumulation of hundreds of such decisions creates the individual’s identity. If you speak to the man on the corner, you may become a different person. It is as if such ghostly “roads not taken” haunt our seemingly straightforward lives at every turn.13 One must not, however, overlook the mocking tone of this episode. In a parenthetical aside, the narrator admits to “skipping the intermediate stages” that would explain the transformative journey from London street corner to yellow fever and crime, thus rendering the supposed events implausible and even absurd, and again highlighting the process of composing the novel itself (130). And by concluding with directions to the reader to “fill in the sketch as you like,” Woolf leaves the impression that the dire consequences she describes are just one of many potential stories, and that anyone may imagine an alternate scenario, however fantastic. Ultimately, then, the importance of this passage lies less in the specific outcome of yellow fever and crime than in the larger purpose the fantasy serves of reminding every reader of the vast variety of alternative lives that are overlooked at every moment. Just because one goes about daily life with a feeling of control, unperturbed by these constant, miniscule choices, it does not mean that they do not exist, and with them, the risk of upsetting all that we think we know: “As frequent as street corners in Holborn are these chasms in the continuity of our ways. Yet we keep straight on” (130). By simultaneously invoking and mocking the possibility of a radically other life lurking at every corner, Woolf acknowledges both the limits of conscious existence—the underlying potential that we strive to keep at


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bay—and the necessity of “keep[ing] straight on,” the impossibility of constant openness to all others. What is most important, she suggests, is that we remain aware of the myriad paths we refuse each moment, that we resist being lulled into the illusion that our relatively straightforward lives are inevitable or immune to the unpredictable effects of these constant choices. Only such awareness allows for occasional moments of connection or true reflection, as we permit that which is outside to interrupt or even reshape the self. In contrast to Daniel Deronda, in which Daniel’s openness to Mordecai radically and earnestly changed the direction of his life, Woolf presents a distanced and knowing reference to such possibilities, and suggests that they are paradoxically both universal and rare. Jacob’s Room acknowledges the difficulty—even impossibility—of full receptivity to the other, while nonetheless insisting in both its content and formal innovations on the value of calling into question the complacency of the self. I do not claim that one novel is “more ethical” than the other, only that each engages with the problems of knowledge and connection in distinct, historically specific ways. The passage implies that what is true of individual lives may also apply to the novel itself. The consequences of allowing the old man with a beard to “go on with his story” are not only a shift in location and life choices, they also entail a shift in genre. The resulting scenario—“Where the little boat makes off to the ship, and the ship sails and you behold on the skyline the Azores; and the flamingoes rise [ . . . ]” (130)—belongs to the world of the colonial adventure novel by Robert Louis Stevenson or H. Rider Haggard. It is a digression not only in “your” life but also in Jacob’s novel, and Woolf must, if she is going to complete that novel, leave this particular “chasm” unexplored in order to “keep straight on,” to return, in the next sentence, to the world of Mrs. Durrant’s “evening party a few nights back” (130). By the same token, the text is itself haunted by the many stories it does not tell, as we are reminded of the partial nature of representation as well as consciousness, novels as well as lives, and of the ethical responsibility to acknowledge these others even as “we keep straight on.”

V. THE “LIGHT OF LEARNING”: IRIGARAY, LEVINAS, AND THE ETHICS OF INTIMACY While the ethical encounter with the old man is only imagined by the narrator, and not actually experienced by a character in the novel, Woolf also questions whether a deeper connection between individuals is possible. And surprisingly, despite the novel’s profound skepticism about the accessibility of knowledge, it is during Jacob’s education that the most significant ethical encounter between individuals is portrayed. As a kind of anti-Bildungsroman, Jacob’s Room spends a significant amount of time describing Jacob’s experiences at Cambridge, which begin in 1906. This section of the novel

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has understandably drawn its share of feminist commentary, as Woolf uses Jacob’s story, in part, to point out the ways in which his entire generation was educated in a system that enables violence and war.14 While these readings have been valuable, I’d like to suggest that Jacob’s time at Cambridge also represents a complex consideration of the questions of knowledge and ethics that saturate the novel as a whole. In particular, Woolf distinguishes between a domineering and economic pedagogical mode, in which knowledge is treated as a commodity to be mindlessly ingested, and a much more fleeting but rich and mutual exchange of ideas and understanding. Although Woolf is highly critical of the educational institutions of her time, she is also deeply invested in questions of pedagogy and ethics, as she suggests how both Cambridge and the novel itself may sometimes be the locus of a certain “light of learning.” In contrast to the late Victorian novelists of this study, who represent alternative possibilities for women as utopian and largely inaccessible visions of the future, Woolf’s engagement with feminist ethics is literally housed within the walls of Cambridge. By locating the critique of patriarchy in an exceptional instance of sexual intimacy between men, Woolf is able to incorporate a libratory moment of radical gender relations that speaks to her post-war historical reality. Reading this scene in dialogue with Irigaray’s critique of Levinas, and in light of the importance of education in Woolf’s feminist essays, including Three Guineas, I argue that she complicates the relationship between the university’s exclusion of actual women and its potential for alternative models of feminist ethics. Jacob’s Room simultaneously gestures towards a more liberated future and brings this ideal possibility down to earth. It is not difficult to fi nd negative examples of traditional modes of education in the novel. At some moments, the act of teaching itself is compared to giving communion, as: “Sopwith went on talking. Talking, talking, talking—as if everything could be talked—the soul itself slipped through the lips in thin silver disks which dissolve in young men’s minds like silver, like moonlight” (51). The professor is cast as priest here, but the wafers are not even sacred objects, as they are instead associated with silver coins, and the male student’s role is purely passive, as he receives the knowledge that will lead to a profession, power, and ultimately war. As the narrator bitingly comments, “It is not simple, or pure, or wholly splendid, the lamp of learning, since if you see them there under its light [ . . . ] how priestly they look! How like a suburb where you go to see a view and eat a special cake!” (50). Rather than being an opportunity for intellectual development, the experience of university is reduced to a mandatory and trivial stop on a young man’s life journey, during which the requisite information is purchased and consumed. If the priestly professor represents a process of knowledge acquisition that is predetermined and timeless—and therefore ethically inert—a quite different mode of academic engagement exists within the students’ rooms,

170 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction as they gather in small groups or especially pairs later in the evening. And in contrast to the work of the professor described earlier, the scenes set in the student rooms seem to illustrate the values of spontaneity, discovery, and the absence of full mastery. Although the “sense of concentration in the air” (54) might be attributable to reading or studying, according to the narrator: “[ . . . ] it would be dangerous on a hot spring night—dangerous, perhaps, to concentrate too much upon single books, actual chapters, when at any moment the door opened and Jacob appeared [ . . . ]” (55). Unlike the rooms of the professors devoted to “Greek, science, and philosophy,” the residence halls contain a more random assortment of interests, personalities, and relationships, and thus imply the possibility of the surprising and the new. The “danger” of specialization, of allowing everything to be reduced to a silver coin or a piece of cake, is counteracted by receptivity, by allowing the unexpected to happen. The narrator goes on to suggest that, as the groups of young men congregate in the rooms, something happens, or is created, although it is not easy to say exactly what: “The laughter died out, and only gestures of arms, movements of bodies, could be seen shaping something in the room. Was it an argument? A bet on the boat races? Was it nothing of the sort? What was shaped by the arms and bodies moving in the twilight room?” (56–57). While this passage is sometimes read as evidence of the narrator’s exclusion from the all-male society of Cambridge, I argue that the uncertainty of this moment has a deeper significance. At times, after all, the narrator seems to have full access to all-male spaces (as in the scene between Jacob and Simeon I will discuss below). Here, the narrator’s inability to fill in the outline of the “shape” created by the young men serves to emphasize the indefi nable nature of conversations like this one. There is something of value produced by the unplanned congregation of bright young men, but its substance cannot be fully known or represented from outside. This experience exists only in the randomly produced interactions of a particular moment, and it is important precisely because its content cannot be reproduced. Woolf’s devastating criticisms of the British educational system and its exclusion of women, perhaps most fully realized in Three Guineas, must not of course be overlooked. At the same time, however, she also writes in the 1921/22 essay “Old Bloomsbury” of the value of her and her sister’s participation in the Thursday evening gatherings at 46 Gordon Square: “Never have I listened so intently to each step and half-step in an argument. Never have I been at such pains to sharpen and launch my own little dart. And then what joy it was when one’s contribution was accepted. [ . . . ] From such discussions Vanessa and I got probably much the same pleasure that undergraduates get when they meet friends of their own for the fi rst time” (190).15 This passage helps to shed light on Woolf’s ambivalence in Jacob’s Room, as she critiques the exclusivity and resulting complicity of the university with existing power structures, but is simultaneously aware of the value of what these institutions can provide. If universities were only

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a means to bureaucracy and war, after all, then it would not be so important to allow women to attend them. Almost immediately, the narrator calls attention to the fragility of these moments of intellectual discussion: “Meanwhile behind [Jacob] the shape they had made, whether by argument or not, the spiritual shape, hard yet ephemeral, as of glass compared with the dark stone of the chapel, was dashed to splinters, young men rising from chairs and sofa corners, buzzing and barging about the room [ . . . ]” (58). The explicit opposition between the young men’s “shape” and the Cambridge chapel is extremely significant, as the chapel in Jacob’s Room is associated with many of the worst aspects of the university. Just as Sopwith’s least ethical moments are priest-like, so an earlier scene of the students filing into the church service emphasizes misogyny, militarism, and the drag of tradition. In the room, by contrast, the men seem quite removed from the “dark stone” of the chapel as their “spiritual shape” is neither rule-bound nor passed on through the generations, but is rather clear, light, and “dashed to splinters” as soon as the particular moment in the conversation passes. 16 Just as the exceptional instance of communication cannot be fully described, neither can it last; by its very nature it is fleeting and delicate, and although many small moments like it may occur, each is unique. Again remembering the Thursday evenings in “Old Bloomsbury,” Woolf emphasizes their impermanence: “They deserve to be recorded and described. Yet how difficult—how impossible. Talk—even the talk which had such tremendous results upon the lives and characters of the two Miss Stephens [Virginia and Vanessa]—even talk of this interest and importance is as elusive as smoke. It fl ies up the chimney and is gone” (186–187). The experience of education is most valuable precisely when it cannot be reproduced or preserved, when it takes the form of a fleeting encounter with otherness. It is not until still later in the evening, however, when Jacob alone remains in Simeon’s room, that the most profound instance of intellectual communion occurs. In the midst of a discussion of Julian the Apostate, Jacob and Simeon experience an intense sense of connection to each other: “And perhaps Jacob only said ‘hum,’ or said nothing at all. True, the words were inaudible. It was the intimacy, a sort of spiritual suppleness, when mind prints upon mind indelibly” (59).17 The “inaudibility” of the scene opposes Professor Sopwith’s belief that “everything could be talked.” Instead, the bond between Jacob and Simeon takes place in silence, and implies a mode of communication that is not dependent on talk or even language. Perhaps only in a mode like this is it possible for “mind [to] prin[t] upon mind indelibly,” an image of a mutual intellectual exchange, in which it is unclear who might be the giver of knowledge and whom the receiver. This ideal communication may go beyond the fleeting creations of the larger group, as well, for the effect on each mind, if not the experience itself, is permanent, “indelible.” The language recalls the passage in the diary about the ability to imagine the life of another, including “the infi nite possibilities of a


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succession of days which are furled in him.” Here, Jacob and Simeon seem fully aware of the depth of each other’s existence. In the next moment, it seems possible that the connection between the two men is physical as well as cerebral: “‘Well, you seem to have studied the subject,’ said Jacob, rising and standing over Simeon’s chair. He balanced himself; he swayed a little. He appeared extraordinarily happy, as if his pleasure would brim and spill down the sides if Simeon spoke” (59). This ejaculatory language is followed by a passage in which the gender associations of the sexual imagery seem much less clear. “Simeon said nothing. Jacob remained standing. But intimacy—the room was full of it, still, deep, like a pool. Without need of movement or speech it rose softly and washed over everything, mollifying, kindling, and coating the mind with the lustre of pearl [ . . . ]” (59). Here, the sense of fluidity and existence of a “deep pool” of intimacy imply traditional images of female sexuality, while the “lustre of pearl” might be both vaginal and a reference to semen. The androgyny of the connection reinforces the sense that Jacob and Simeon have achieved a kind of other-worldly (or “spiritual”) communion, one that may have the potential to subvert Cambridge’s traditional strictures of gender, class, and genealogy. The possibility of physical intimacy in this scene, and its association with a non-appropriative ethically significant moment of communication between individuals, also recalls the debate between Levinas and Irigaray on the ethics of eros. In the section of Totality and Infinity devoted to the question of love and intimacy, Levinas suggests that the relation between lovers, although related to the ethical encounter between self and other, is fi nally secondary to the ethical, and is most significant for its element of “fecundity,” the production of a son. This aspect of Levinas’s writings on ethics has been widely criticized by feminist theorists, as he also tends to assume a masculine “self” and a feminine “other,” and seems to perpetuate familiar stereotypes of woman as childlike and virginal: “The beloved is opposed to me not as a will struggling with my own or subject to my own, but on the contrary as an irresponsible animality which does not speak true words. The beloved, returned to the stage of infancy without responsibility [ . . . ] has quit her status as a person” (263). Irigaray challenges not just Levinas’s conventionally sexist language, but the underlying logic by which women are relegated to the role of object in the primary ethical relation. In contrast to her I Love to You, the almost literary imagining of an ideal heterosexual relation discussed alongside Schreiner in the previous chapter, Irigaray’s reading and revision of Levinas represents a more analytical mode of discourse, one that helps to illuminate Woolf’s deliberate rewriting of both pedagogy and sexuality in this scene. The complex interplay of erotics and intellectual exchange in the encounter between Jacob and Simeon serves to complicate productively the relationship between eros and ethics. In many ways, the scene in the novel evokes Irigaray’s critique of Levinas in “The Fecundity of the Caress,”

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where she envisions an alternative model of sexual intimacy, one that gives birth not to a child but instead to a renewed life for the lovers themselves: In this moment of ultimate sympathy, the feeling and the felt go so far as the vertigo of “getting in over their heads,” of immersion in that which does not yet have an individualized form, until they are returned to the deepest level of elementary flux, where birth is not yet sealed up in its identity. [ . . . ] Causing the possibles to recede, thanks to an intimacy that keeps unfolding itself more and more, opening and reopening the pathway to the mystery of the other. Thus a new birth comes about, a new dawn for the beloved. And the lover. (Ethics 189) Woolf and Irigaray employ strikingly similar imagery as each attempts to envision a radically different mode of intimacy, one that stresses the preservation of otherness even in the midst of an intense connection, and that emphasizes the lovers’ mutual immersion in the power of the moment, rather than one individual’s domination of the other. And for both writers, this ethically aware moment of intimacy is associated with an alternative sense of discovery and enlightenment, one that escapes the negative connotations of penetration: “[ . . . ] an efflorescence that detaches itself from its immersion and absorption in the night’s most secret place. Not without sparkling. The light that shines there is different from the one that makes distinctions and separates too neatly” (Ethics 189). Irigaray’s feminist revision of Levinas allows us to appreciate the ambivalence of Woolf’s critique of Cambridge, as Jacob’s Room explores many possible manifestations of the “light of learning.” Unlike Irigaray, however, Woolf seems to exclude women from these intimate and intensely connected encounters. Indeed, the heterosexual relationships portrayed in Jacob’s Room, as many critics have pointed out, tend to relegate Jacob’s lovers to subservient and stereotypical roles. The intimate moment between Jacob and Simeon is in some ways parallel to the kiss shared by Clarissa Dalloway and Sally Seton in Mrs. Dalloway; in each novel, Woolf represents same-sex relations as fleeting and precious, untainted by the social expectations and constraints of courtship and marriage.18 In “The Fecundity of the Caress,” however, the relation imagined by Irigaray is an importantly heterosexual one, as she challenges the reader to preserve a sense of difference between male and female lovers without privileging one term of the pair over the other. Her reading of Levinas is motivated by his failure to incorporate sexual difference into his description of ethics without assuming a male self and an always secondary female other. For both Woolf and Irigaray, however, these scenes of alternative sexuality serve as provocative attempts to reconcile an ethics of otherness with the feminist values of reciprocity and intimacy. Woolf embraces the radical French feminist critique of sexuality by exploring the tension between the sameness—even identity—of young men like Jacob

174 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction and Simeon and the simultaneous energy and singularity of the connection forged in a particular unpredictable moment of intimacy, of selves opening themselves to the other. Equally important is the extent to which intimacy is linked to stillness and lack of movement. In contrast to the busyness and implied productivity of the rest of Cambridge (even the residence halls are compared to a beehive), the experience between Jacob and Simeon does not produce anything, either literally—sexually—because they are both men, or in an economic sense. Its value cannot finally be quantified or grasped, but it does exist: “[ . . . ] so that if you talk of a light, of Cambridge burning, it’s not languages only. It’s Julian the Apostate” (59). This suggests that the moment must be read as a break, one that lies essentially outside the more regular stream of progress that would carry these young men from childhood to Cambridge to an official position in society, thus enabling the making of more wars. Placing a scene of sexual intimacy between men in the heart of the university, Woolf joins a utopian feminist revision of ethics with the more concrete political movement to expand opportunities for women. In the process she self-consciously opens the modernist novel to new possibilities. I have emphasized the complexity and ambivalence of Woolf’s representation of Jacob’s education at Cambridge because the questions of pedagogy, authority, and intimacy raised in this section extend to the form of the novel itself. While the force of the feminist critique must not be ignored, readings of the novel that focus only on Woolf’s criticisms of Cambridge risk overlooking the complicated interplay of revulsion and attraction that marks the narrator’s response to many aspects of Jacob’s experience. The issue of education in the text has crucial implications for the question of whether or how the novel might be said to teach its readers. And while the charge of didacticism is most often deployed to condemn a work of literature as heavy-handed or unrealistic, I’d like to suggest that Woolf, like Eliot before her, demonstrates a wide-ranging and subtle understanding of the many ways in which the relationship between reader and text is steeped in ethics and pedagogy. In the nineteenth century, Eliot challenged the simplistic idea of the novel as an extended moral example, suggesting instead that literature is ethical only insofar as it serves, through truthful representation, to stimulate the reader’s capacity for a sympathetic response to others. Although radical for its time, Eliot’s understanding of the relationship between the novel and morality is crucially dependent on the possibility of shared understanding that forms the basis of sympathetic ethical behavior. In Daniel Deronda, The Woodlanders, and The Story of an African Farm, I have suggested, Eliot, Hardy, and Schreiner interrupt and distort the conventions of Victorian realism, presenting their readers with fleeting but significant moments of an ethical encounter with otherness that has the capacity to transform the self. In Jacob’s Room, Woolf confronts a distinct ethical landscape, as she struggles with the question of the role of the novel once faith in a literature

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capable of speaking in a common language to a known audience has been completely destroyed by the experience of war. Woolf does not just startle her reader into a temporary recognition of otherness, she remakes the text into both an example of and commentary on the impossibility of sympathy and the ethical acknowledgement of that which cannot be known. For her, an easily communicated or common experience can only be an empty one, like the silver coins Sopwith passes to the eager undergraduates. For the novel to have ethical relevance, it cannot be easily digestible, like the suburban cake; it must rather reflect and reinforce the resistance of experience to complete comprehension. In Jacob’s Room, Woolf engages questions of ethics, pedagogy, and aesthetics head-on. In the midst of her warnings against the passive ingestion of ideas, she also represents occasional moments of a less predictable but more substantive connection or intimacy between individuals. And just as Jacob’s time at Cambridge is punctuated by such moments within the plot, so the novel itself reflects, formally, the sense of understanding as problematic and incomplete, fully accessible to the reader only in fleeting flashes of connection. Most importantly, this feeling of authentic communion is only possible, and valuable, because it occurs in the context of an assumption of the impossibility of such a convergence. Communication, teaching, and learning happen, but they cannot be anticipated by the individual. These ethically significant moments can only occur from within an awareness of the conditions that should render them impossible. As the narrator says of the attempt to know Jacob: It seems that a profound, impartial, and absolutely just opinion of our fellow-creatures is utterly unknown. [ . . . ] life is but a procession of shadows, and God knows why it is that we embrace them so eagerly, and see them depart with such anguish, being shadows. And why, if this and much more than this is true, why are we yet surprised in the window corner by a sudden vision that the young man in the chair is of all things in the world the most real, the most solid, the best known to us—why indeed? For the moment after we know nothing about him. Such is the manner of our seeing. Such the conditions of our love. (96) Jacob’s Room cannot teach ethics through example or by engendering sympathy. Instead, by continually warning the reader of the impossibility of easy sympathy, by confronting him or her with the limits of knowledge and representation, the novel lays the groundwork for a different kind of receptivity. Not an understanding of the other built on knowledge and talk, a gradual process of bringing self and other closer together, but rather the unpredictable and almost indescribable moment of intimacy, of an unprecedented and unrepeatable event, of “Julian the Apostate.”19 Jacob’s Room thus represents one possible response to the problem of how the novel engages ethically with its subject in the early part of the


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twentieth century. Rather than attempting to overcome or ignore the prevailing skepticism and uncertainty of her post-war moment, Woolf instead embraces these limitations, making them both the subject matter and mode of her literary representations. Emphasizing the impossibility of full knowledge and the fleeting and unpredictable nature of intimacy between individuals, she attempts to renegotiate the politics of the relationship between reader and text. Woolf suggests that the role of “character in fiction,” so central to her understanding of the modern novel, may fi nally be to stimulate not sympathy but rather responsibility, to enact the complex relationship between alterity and insight, inaccessibility and intimacy. Exceptional for the depth of its post-war pessimism, Jacob’s Room nonetheless establishes new possibilities for defi ning an ethics of modernist form.

Afterword Hospitality of the “Post-”

I suggested in the Introduction that this study might be seen as building on and complicating the recent “turn to ethics” of literary criticism. Many explanations have been offered for this trend, most of which are plausible if also occasionally contradictory. Ethical criticism is either the logical outgrowth of post-structuralist theory or its necessary corrective, either underlies and deepens historicist approaches or supplements and corrects them. Most recently, a return to morality has been heralded as a defense of the beleaguered humanities, almost universally deemed to be in crisis. What all of these suggestions share is a focus on philosophers and literary critics as the origin of the development of new kinds of ethical readings or theoretical frameworks for understanding literature. In concluding this study, however, I would like to stress the idea that it is literature itself—particularly the novel—that produces new kinds of moral thinking and thus demands an analysis attuned to ethical relations within the narrative and between reader and text. As a genre, the novel has always been concerned with human interactions in social spaces. The origins of the form are often associated with the rise of capitalism and the nation-state, and its flexibility and openness enable it to engage receptively with contemporary cultural and political developments. Novels are thus an ideal platform for suggesting alternative modes of relating to the world, especially as that world shifts to accommodate new understandings of self and other. And while such shifts have taken place in many eras and locations, the rethinking of nation and home that occurs at the end of the nineteenth century in England speaks in particular ways to our own moment of globalization, social networking, and (gay) marriage debates. Just as the late Victorian novels I have discussed here establish an ethical orientation of hospitality in response to profound social changes in the understanding of home, so does much contemporary literature engage with the problem of hospitality in a thoroughly global world in ways that invite an ethically aware reading. And because the contemporary authors write in response to the theories of ethics I highlight here, the parallels to the earlier texts reinforce the extent to which the late Victorian novel is itself a site of ethical theorizing.

178 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction In particular, novels that fall simultaneously into the imprecise but nevertheless functional categories of “post-colonial” and “post-modern”—that emerge from the specific political conditions of the aftermath of European imperialism and that engage in self-conscious meditations on the production and significance of narrative—raise questions of home, identity, and the welcome of the other that by their very nature reinsert ethics into literary-critical commentary. While some versions of post-modern literature have been characterized as insular and apolitical, many post-colonial writers have embraced magical realism, meta-textual commentary, alternate histories, and other devices in their novels, producing a body of literature that engages with the history of both nations and narrative itself. These writers have inspired, and often participated in, productive critical interrogations of categories of national literature, post- and neo-colonialsm, and post-modernism itself. All of these discussions, about the language and location of “English literature,” about the author’s identity and status in relation to text, and about the interactions between discursive and material realities, establish these novels as a central locus for ethical questions of hospitality and the self-other relation. My exploration of late nineteenth-century literature as a locus of narrative hospitality allows us to reconsider the related ethical work being done in the novels of our own turn-of-century moment. If late Victorian fiction anticipates post-structuralist theories of hospitality and ethics, the contemporary novel may self-consciously incorporate these very theories into both its plot and self-deconstructing form, similarly participating in and even advancing the wider cultural and political renegotiation of identity, nation, and home. Just as the earlier writers tested the limits of and implicitly critiqued the conventions of the classic Victorian realist novel, so contemporary post-modern fiction both incorporates and undermines the linear plots and psychologically deep characters of late twentieth-century realisms. While much—even most—contemporary post-colonial literature includes post-modern elements, the works of South African writer J. M. Coetzee are treated as almost paradigmatic examples of both categories. Challenging the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction writing, and engaging with both literary and political history, his oeuvre is steeped in questions of hospitality clearly influenced by his own fraught relationship to home.1 Examining briefly the dynamics of narrative hospitality in his 1986 novel Foe, I conclude this study by considering how questions of home, nation, and gender emerge in and shape fiction a hundred years after Eliot, Hardy, and Schreiner. In Foe, Coetzee self-consciously takes up the history of English literature and the representations of colonialism within that canon by offering a rewriting of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719). This novel is thus an ideal text for addressing the ways in which contemporary fiction engages with the problems of representation, power, and literary responsibility in an era of globalization and new modes of communication. While the specific questions and contexts have undeniably



changed, our understanding of the current moment is deepened and complicated by recognizing that novelists may again, like their late Victorian predecessors, be challenging readers to imagine an orientation of openness and welcome to the other. 2 Like many of Coetzee’s other novels, Foe is not set in South Africa, but it does confront issues of race, power, and colonialism in ways that are extremely relevant to the struggle against apartheid and to the postcolonial condition in general. As a rewriting of Robinson Crusoe as well as Defoe’s Roxana (1724), it is immediately recognizable as post-modern, engaging in a parodic and sometimes playful commentary on the politics of the eighteenth-century novel, and indeed canonical literature itself as a category. As soon as Susan Barton is washed up on the shores of “Cruso’s” island and found by Friday in the opening lines of the novel, Coetzee challenges the reader to reconsider the role of women and slaves in both life and literature. Susan and Friday embody the missing stories and silenced others of the history of the English novel, and their appearance thus demands that we recognize and take responsibility for the power relations that underlie individual interactions and the production of narrative. As Susan then escapes the island and tells her story to an author, “Mr. Foe,” the meta-level questions of writing and authorship multiply dizzyingly, and the novel incorporates explicit debates on the ethics and politics of truth and storytelling. To suggest that the novel deals with the question of hospitality is thus an obvious statement but also a useful way of approaching the complex interweaving of plot, structure, and meta-commentary that constitutes Foe. Within the plot, the island itself is a site that offers some form of hospitality to Cruso, Susan, and possibly Friday, although the issue of who plays host to whom, or who is the stranger in whose land, is left deliberately murky. In this way, Foe recalls the unhomely South African setting of Schreiner’s African Farm. Susan and Friday go on to be guests both of the ship captain who rescues them from the island and of “Mr. Foe,” although they spend much of their time in his house while he is absent. Finally, a girl claiming to be Susan’s lost daughter appears and demands a welcome that Susan is unwilling or unable to give to her. At the level of form, Foe itself can be said to play the role of stranger or guest in relation to Robinson Crusoe, as the untold stories of women and Friday demand admittance into the history of English literature. And as the narrative begins to double back and question its own status and structure, the novel reveals and thematizes the incomplete and partial nature of all stories, the many ethical and political choices that underlie authorship and authority. Ending not once but arguably three times (Susan and Foe’s reunion is followed by an epilogue, which is itself composed of two different images of the future), the novel thus highlights the potential for narrative hospitality that defines literature in general. The novel’s most sustained consideration of the encounter between self and other unfolds in the relationship between Susan and Friday. In contrast


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

to the fleeting glimpses of otherness in the late Victorian texts, Friday’s status as other and unknowable is reiterated many times, and Susan’s attempts to understand, protect, or speak for him are repeatedly exposed as futile. Their relationship, like the novel as a whole, stubbornly resists a developmental structure as Coetzee writes a narrative that insists on the impossibility of knowing or reporting the truth. Particular episodes, however, recall the critique of sympathy of the earlier novels, as Susan discovers the limits of knowledge and identification. Having tried to communicate with the apparently mute Friday through music, by imitating and then varying the tune he plays on a recorder, Susan ultimately gives up in despair: So now I knew that all the time I had stood there playing to Friday’s dancing, thinking he and I made a consort, he had been insensible of me. [ . . . ] Tears came to my eyes, I am ashamed to say; all the elation of my discovery that through the medium of music I might at last converse with Friday was dashed, and bitterly I began to recognize that it might not be mere dullness that kept him shut up in himself, nor the accident of the loss of his tongue, nor even an incapacity to distinguish speech from babbling, but a disdain for intercourse with me. (98) Confronted by failure, by the impossibility of communicating with Friday effectively, Susan insists on maintaining a language of personal relationship and emotional connection. Her “elation” is “dashed,” and she attributes his resistance to “disdain for intercourse” with her. As an eighteenth-century character, Susan is unable to give up the premise of sympathy as the basis of interpersonal relations. For the twenty-fi rst- century reader, however, this episode serves as an example of the failure of human emotion to bridge absolute difference, as we can clearly see the futility of Susan’s repeated efforts to understand Friday in her own terms. The impossibility of knowing Friday is also presented as a physical limit. When Susan looks into Friday’s mouth, at Cruso’s request, to confi rm the story that his tongue was removed by slave traders, she is unable defi nitively to determine whether his tongue is present or not: “‘Look,’ said Cruso. I looked, but saw nothing in the dark save the glint of teeth white as ivory. [ . . . ] Gripping Friday by the hair, he brought his face close to mine. ‘Do you see?’ he said. ‘It is too dark,’ said I” (22). In this case, the “darkness” is shared by Susan and the reader, as Friday’s indeterminate tongue becomes a figure for his status in the narrative as a whole. As in Jacob’s Room, attempts to verify the truth or unravel the mystery only lead to a deeper level of ignorance and uncertainty. 3 Unlike Woolf, however, Coetzee comments explicitly on this conundrum. In a dialogue between Susan and Foe, the author she hopes will write and publish her story, the question of Friday’s place in the narrative is openly debated. At fi rst, Susan seems to acknowledge Friday’s status as absolutely other, referring to his story as: “[ . . . ] properly not a story but a puzzle or

Afterword 181 hole in the narrative (I picture it as a buttonhole, carefully cross-stitched around, but empty, waiting for the button)” (121). This might be seen as an image of narrative hospitality, the welcoming space for that which cannot be understood or described by the self, the acknowledgement of the limits of narration. At the same time, however, the images of “puzzle” and “buttonhole [ . . . ] waiting for the button” also imply the need to solve the mystery or fill this space. Indeed, later in the conversation both Susan and Foe suggest that it is the role of the novelist to translate these blank moments into narrative, to reveal the hidden meaning or significance of the other. Foe declares that: “‘In every story there is a silence, some sight concealed, some word unspoken, I believe. Till we have spoken the unspoken, we have not come to the heart of the story’” (141), and Susan concurs, “‘It is for us to open Friday’s mouth and hear what it holds: silence, perhaps, or a roar, like the roar of a seashell held to the ear’” (142). While acknowledging Friday’s resistance, Foe and Susan also imply that the writer has a responsibility to address that resistance in narrative, although in slightly different terms. Foe wants to “[speak] the unspoken”; as an author, he is accustomed to speaking for the other, and he also urges Susan to revise and add material to her own story. Susan, by contrast, is content merely to “hear” Friday’s own utterance, if it exists. This statement reflects her ambivalence in relation to Friday throughout the novel. Although she does not hesitate to “open his mouth,” to try to force him to express himself, she also wants to open herself to his modes of expression, to listen to his speech, even if it takes the form of silence or the sounds of nature. This difference, possibly a comment on male and female modes of authorship, is not clearly resolved in the novel, but it does bring many larger questions of the relationship between text and reality directly into the story. Beyond the particular difficulty of knowing Friday’s story, the argument about what version of Susan’s experience to transform into text recalls a more general tension between fiction and history, especially as the novel emerges as a genre in the eighteenth century. Robinson Crusoe, like many early novels, is framed as a true story based on the journals of its shipwrecked central character. While this is itself Defoe’s fictional conceit, the story is in fact more loosely based on actual historical cases. As Coetzee incorporates questions of racial oppression, feminism, and the status of fiction as a mode of discourse into Foe, he highlights this aspect of the history of the novel to pose urgent political questions about the relationship between experience and fiction in both the eighteenth century and today. Rather than trying to resolve these questions defi nitively, Foe suggests that Susan should teach Friday to write, so that he might tell his own story. Echoing Derrida’s famous argument for challenging the priority of speech over writing, Foe insists on the value of allowing Friday to wield pen and paper. The chapter ends with Susan’s attempts to teach him, an endeavor that produces extremely ambiguous results, as Friday writes not legible

182 Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction text, but pictures of eyes and rows of the letter “O.” Whether we see these actions as the outcome of Susan’s educational efforts or resistance to them, they seem to reinforce the impossibility of writing the truth of Friday’s story in conventional narrative forms. The novel ends not with this tentative scene of writing, however, but rather with an epilogue consisting of two enigmatic meta-fictional episodes. The present-tense fi rst-person narrator of these scenes is not named, and it may be implied that the voice speaking is Coetzee’s, although this is impossible to establish for certain. In both episodes, the narrator enters Foe’s house (in the second, it seems to be adorned with the blue and white sign that marks historical sites in England), and fi nds the bodies of Susan, Foe, and Friday. Susan and Foe are clearly dead, but Friday’s status is unclear in both cases. In the fi rst scene, Susan’s vision of the incorporation of Friday’s story into the narrative seems to be fulfilled, although with variations. The narrator attempts to open Friday’s mouth: “I press a fi ngernail between the upper and lower rows [of his clenched teeth], trying to part them” (154). The attempt fails, however, and it is “a long while” after this moment that Friday’s teeth part of their own accord: “At fi rst there is nothing. Then, if I can ignore the beating of my own heart, I begin to hear the faintest faraway roar: as she said, the roar of waves in a seashell; [ . . . ] From his mouth, without a breath, issue the sounds of the island” (154). The significance of this fi rst ending is difficult to establish with confidence. On the one hand, it would seem to be an instance of narrative hospitality, of “ignoring” one’s own life (in the form of a heartbeat) and making a space for the voice of the other. If Friday speaks the sounds of the island, it implies that he contains it, and may be recast in this scenario as the host who welcomed Cruso, rather than simply as his powerless slave. At the same time, however, this scenario echoes the story already told by Susan, and thus seems to reflect her image of the truth of Friday, rather than his own voice. Surely the utterance of that which is absolutely other cannot be predicted or interpreted so easily. The second scenario is even more resistant to defi nitive analysis. In it, the narrator again enters Foe’s house and sees the bodies of Susan, Foe, and Friday, although he does not interact directly with any of them. He then fi nds a letter from Susan to Foe, the text of which has appeared within the novel itself. Picking up this crumbling sheet, he seems to enter the fictional world of the novel, and suddenly finds himself diving into the ocean and discovering the wreck of Susan’s original ship. Here he sees a second dead Susan, and another version of Friday. The narrator tries to speak to Friday, asking: “‘What is this ship’” but the words are inaudible, and he concludes that “[ . . . ] this is not a place of words. [ . . . ] This is a place where bodies are their own signs. It is the home of Friday” (157). Again, in terms of narrative hospitality this is an extremely ambivalent moment. The lack of speech may be seen as either liberating or silencing, and while one could argue that Friday’s otherness is acknowledged by the statement that “bodies

Afterword 183 are their own signs,” it may also work to reduce him to a merely physical presence, to objectify him as a black body. The self-conscious invocation of the post-structuralist language of signs and signification may also risk reducing the novel itself to example rather than allowing it to participate actively in ethical theorizing. The fi nal lines of the novel, however, again throw open all possibilities. The narrator puts his fi nger on Friday’s closed teeth as before, “trying to fi nd a way in,” and again Friday responds: His mouth opens. From inside him comes a slow stream, without breath, without interruption. It flows up through his body and out upon me; it passes through the cabin, through the wreck; washing the cliffs and shores of the island, it runs northward and southward to the ends of the earth. Soft and cold, dark and unending, it beats against my eyelids, against the skin of my face. (157) Having been reinserted into the fictional world of the story, the narrator is perhaps able to experience a more “authentic” version of Friday’s otherness. Described simply as a “stream” that is neither voice nor breath, this utterance is infi nite in both time and space, and certainly seems to be an attempt to represent, or at least refer to, an incomprehensible and alien presence. Originating with Friday and extending to the “ends of the earth,” this mysterious stream seems to be a response to Europe’s imperial ambitions, as the native other asserts a presence throughout space and time that preempts or interrupts colonization and occupation, establishing a more pervasive image of the disempowered as host. Ending the novel with these words, Coetzee opens his text to the encounter with the absolutely other. At the same time, he may be asking the reader to question the very “authenticity” and representability of this moment. Having already posited the difficulty—perhaps impossibility—of telling Friday’s story, the novel calls into question any reading of its own ending, validating a more skeptical response on the part of the reader to this moment of infi nity and otherness. Just as Eliot’s Daniel Deronda ends with the tension between Daniel’s mission and Gwendolen’s newfound ethical potential, so Foe leaves the reader with a conclusion that raises many more ethical questions than it answers. Finally, then, it is the undecidability of this ending, rather than the content itself, that may represent the most radical instance of narrative hospitality in Foe. Concluding this study with Coetzee enacts my own version of an openended fi nale, as I argue both that narrative hospitality is specific to the late Victorian novel and that it marks an ethical orientation that remains urgently relevant to our own time. Reconsidering a literary moment that is too often subsumed by larger accounts of Victorian or modernist fiction, I have argued that Eliot, Hardy, and Schreiner intervene in the history of both literature and morality in late nineteenth-century England, and that


Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction

this distinctive challenge to realism and sympathy productively alters our understanding of the novels that follow, from Woolf to Coetzee. Recognizing the limits of knowledge and the possibilities of fiction, the late Victorian novel marks an exemplary moment of narrative hospitality.


NOTES TO THE INTRODUCTION 1. Recent critical anthologies on fi n-de-siècle English literature include: Gail Marshall; Anderson and Valente; Pykett (Reading Fin de Siècle Fictions); and Ledger and McCracken. Monographs include: LeeAnne M. Richardson, Andrew Smith, Chrisman, Arata, Daly, Feltes, Reilly, Sypher (Wisps of Violence), Scheick, and Keating. 2. See Bevir for a useful historiographical account of different ways of locating the end of the nineteenth century. 3. See Adam Smith (3–4) and David Marshall (4–5). 4. See Keen for a discussion of sympathy and nineteenth-century social reform movements (52). 5. For full-length studies of women and gender in Conrad, see Susan Jones and Krenn, as well as the anthology edited by Roberts. 6. Adam Zachary Newton and Andrew Gibson discuss Conrad in relation to Levinas, while Houen draws on Derrida’s late work on ethics in his study of literature and terrorism, and Erdinast-Vulcan examines Conrad’s short stories in relation to Derrida and Bakhtin. 7. In addition to countless articles, books on James and ethics include Jottkandt, Rowe, Pippin, and Buelens. 8. Moretti posits marriage as the classically English resolution to the nineteenthcentury Bildungsroman (in contrast to the French novel of adultery). General studies of marriage and the Victorian novel include: Foster, Nunokawa, Craig, Wendy S. Jones, and Corbett. Hager’s recent study of Dickens claims that unhappy Victorian marriage plots have been overlooked. 9. See especially Armstrong, Poovey, and Monica Cohen. 10. See Ablow and Jaffe (Scenes). For an alternate view of the persistence of sympathy in public debates through the end of the nineteenth century, see Lanzoni. 11. Ablow argues convincingly that in mid-nineteenth-century England, wives and novels were both seen as fostering the values of sympathy in the home. 12. See Richardson and Willis, “Introduction.” 13. Key examples of these trends include: J. Hillis Miller (Ethics of Reading); Wayne Booth; Nussbaum; Parker; Garber, Hanssen, and Walkowitz; and Oser. 14. In addition to Adam Zachary Newton, Andrew Gibson, and Harpham, these works include: Eide, Spargo, Harrison, and Strode. 15. See Marais on J. M. Coetzee, Rosello on hospitality and immigration in France, and Katz and McNulty on feminist responses to Levinasian hospitality.



16. Exceptions include three anthologies: New, Bernasconi, and Cohen; Wehrs and Haney (which includes a version of Chapter 2 of this book); and Astell and Jackson; and two monographs: Melville and Davis. 17. D. A. Miller’s now iconic 1988 study, The Novel and the Police, is often cited as both origin and exemplar of this trend. 18. These projects as well as my own owe a debt to Levine, whose seminal 1981study The Realist Imagination grants the Victorian novel precisely this kind of seriousness and ethical complexity. His recent essay, “Heartbeat of the Squirrel,” shares with my book an interest in realist representations of otherness. 19. See Levinas (Proper Names and “Reality and Its Shadow”). 20. While Levinas’s concept of the saying and the said is not central to my concerns here, Eaglestone’s account of it is lucid and insightful. See especially Chapter 5, pages 141–68. 21. See especially Eaglestone. 22. Hobbs might disagree, as he argues that many contemporary writers misread hospitality in the Old Testament by focusing on foreign strangers rather than simply unfamiliar members of the community. 23. See Brantlinger (Rule of Darkness) for a useful overview of shifting attitudes towards imperialism over the course of the nineteenth century. 24. See especially Said (Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism) and Brantlinger (Rule of Darkness). 25. While I have separated issues of nation/colonialism from gender for convenience here, the readings of this study will emphasize the many ways in which they overlap. As a result of both feminist criticism and renewed attention to the fi n-de-siècle, studies of the “new woman” have flourished. These include: Youngkin; Heilmann (New Woman Strategies and New Woman Fiction); Ardis (Modernism and Cultural Conflict and New Women, New Novels); Richardson and Willis; Schaffer; Ledger (The New Woman); Pykett (Engendering Fictions); and Cunningham.

NOTES TO CHAPTER 1 1. On the late-century shift in writing on the novel, see: Skilton; Eigner and Worth; Olmstead; and Decker. More recently, there has been renewed interest in reconstructing and reevaluating Victorian practices of reading and criticism. See Dames; Price; Brantlinger (The Reading Lesson); Sutherland; Flint (The Woman Reader); and Parrinder. 2. Hutton would go on to become a joint editor of The Spectator and an important reviewer of George Eliot’s novels. See Menke for a discussion of his opposition to vivisection in relation to those reviews. 3. Decker and Olmstead both characterize Trollope as typifying the conservative moral position on the effects of the novel, while Eigner and Worth claim that his moral outlook is much more sophisticated, and group him instead with George Eliot. One source of this disagreement is no doubt the seeming contradiction between the novels and the essays; while the former resist didacticism, the latter often promote it. Skilton, a scholar of both Trollope and Victorian novel criticism, tries to account for the conservative cast of his commentary on the novel: “[ . . . ] he was convinced that prose fiction had a direct effect on the moral conduct of the young, and that novelists therefore found themselves, whether they liked it or not, being taken as exemplifying virtue and vice in action, and hence acting as teachers” (55). For the purposes of this study, Trollope usefully articulates one strand of moral criticism, whether completely in earnest or not.



4. Jaffe (Scenes) argues for an inherent narcissism in any seemingly other-directed sympathetic relation, while Mitchell claims that the sympathy many see in the Victorian novel is actually much closer to the Levinasian relation to the absolutely other. 5. Ermarth (“Conception of Sympathy”) traces the development of sympathy in Eliot’s novels, from an earlier focus on interpersonal relations to a mid-career representation of sympathy in the public sphere. Anger’s recent full-length study of Victorian hermeneutics works to correct other critics, including Jaffe, who oversimplify Eliot’s sympathy, or mischaracterize her relationship to her contemporaries, including George Henry Lewes and Augustus Comte. Greiner returns to Adam Smith’s work on sympathy to argue for the sympathetic relation as a process, not reducible to simple identification or complete comprehension. Finally Ablow, although acknowledging the danger of sympathy’s proximity to narcissism, argues that Eliot too is aware of and addresses this problem in her novels. 6. See Anderson for a discussion of the relationship between detachment and sympathy in this essay (9–16). 7. Menke writes convincingly of Eliot’s fictional method as a form of vivisection, in terms that reinforce the proximity between novel and life I stress here. 8. Eliot quotation from The George Eliot Letters, ed. Gordon S. Haight, 7 vols. (New Haven: Yale UP, 1954–55), 2:362 (Anger 189n). 9. For an overview of Victorian responses to the French novel throughout the nineteenth century, including the Zola controversy, see Decker. 10. In a recent article, Calder highlights Eliot’s skepticism about relying only on science: “I have suggested that Eliot’s fi ction embodies strong suspicions about the possibility, and even stronger suspicions about the virtue, of perching a system of ethics atop the edifice of scientifically-authorized knowledge” (68). 11. Henry Vizetelly was an important figure in nineteenth-century literature, publishing the fi rst British editions of Edgar Allen Poe and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, along with translations of Guy de Maupassant, Gustave Flaubert, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Leo Tolstoy in addition to Zola. Vizetelly was brought to trial on obscenity charges twice, in 1888 and 1889; he was fi rst fi ned, and then jailed for three months. For a detailed account of literary censorship in the period, see Bristow. 12. In British Literary Magazines (ed. Sullivan), Dickie Spurgeon clarifies that the Fortnightly’s editor from 1882 to 1886, Thomas Hay Sweet Escott, temporarily opened the periodical to more conservative views. 13. Pykett insightfully comments on the intersections of class, gender, and nationality in response to Zola: “Lilly’s linking together of naturalism, a debased or radically challenging image of woman (depending on the critic’s point of view), and images of social and political upheaval is a typical grouping that is repeated in successive phases of the debate” (“Representing the Real” 173). 14. See Bristow for the role of the NVA in the debates on obscenity and censorship. Also see Hall on other NVA activities, and the ways in which they cross political categories of liberal and conservative. 15. See Endersby for an analysis of the gendering of science in this period. 16. I am indebted to Ablow for articulating the association between wives and novels as sources of sympathy. 17. In her full-length study of turn-of-the-century women’s fiction, Pykett examines the defense of romance: “In the 1880s and 1890s male romance was promoted as an antidote to the degenerative feminization of both the external realism of the naturalist tradition of Zola, and the interiority of





21. 22. 23. 24. 25.

26. 27.


Notes the psychological realism of George Eliot or Henry James who specialized in ‘the microscopic examination of the hearts of young girls’. Both kinds of realism, Lang argued, tended to foster an unhealthy introspection and unmanliness. Romance, on the other hand, emphasized action, and frankly recognized ‘our mixed condition, civilized at the top with the old barbarian underneath’” (Engendering Fictions 68). Mudie’s Select Library was started in London in 1842 by Charles Edward Mudie, and charged subscribers one guinea per year to borrow one novel at a time. It had a strong influence on the publication of the novel throughout the Victorian period. On the history and influence of Mudie’s library, see Griest. Hardy’s works were consistently rejected by publishers or revised to avoid such rejection, beginning with his fi rst novel and fi nally leading him to give up writing fiction entirely. He often restored material cut from the serialized versions to later printings in volume form. For a brief account of the censorship of Hardy’s novels, see James Gibson. Pykett points out that the discussion of the scope of the novel often falls into familiar gender stereotypes: “Earlier in the century domestic realism had been considered an appropriate mode for women writers, reflecting their limited experience and their particular limited powers. [ . . . ] Female representation is the representation of surfaces. Women can submit everyday events to the microscope but lack the faculty of ‘generalization’ and ‘reasoning.’” (“Representing the Real” 179–80, quoting an article from the London Review in 1860). See also Schor. See Frierson for an early discussion of the significance of Gosse’s essay as a sign of the acceptance of realism. See Decker for a discussion of the English reception of Daudet as the least threatening of the French novelists. For a full-length study of the literary criticism of Howells and James, see Davidson. See Spilka 101–19. While many critics make reference to this famous essay by James, articles by Spilka and Goode (“Art of Fiction”) are especially useful for placing it in the larger context of the late nineteenth-century debates about the novel. More recently, Hale has importantly reconsidered the role of James’s novel theory in both the history of Anglo-American literary criticism and in terms of ethics. See both Social Formalism and “Fiction as Restriction.” Feltes points out that it is surprising that James’s essay was printed in a periodical affi liated with Andrew Lang (78–79). See his study for a consideration of the Besant-James debate in the context of publishing history. Decker points out that the attitude towards literature James is resisting can be traced back at least as far as Sir Philip Sidney’s 1581 Defense of Poesy, in which he claims that the function of literature is “to teach and delight” (35). The phrase “ardent eighties” is from Lee (278).

NOTES TO CHAPTER 2 1. Fraiman argues that Maggie’s and Tom’s stories actually belong to two different (and incompatible) novelistic genres: Tom’s Bildungsroman vs. Maggie’s gothic narrative of containment. 2. Building on Williams’s argument that Eliot creates “knowable communities,” Pyle suggests that Eliot’s narrators stand in a sympathetic relation to the characters.



3. Ablow suggests that in Mill Eliot also exposes the contrary problem with sympathy—that it threatens to overwhelm self-consciousness. 4. The cluster of sophisticated and insightful readings of the novel in the late 1970s and early ’80s represents an exemplary moment in feminist literary criticism. Ermarth (“Long Suicide”) and Christ both read the flood as a failure of feminism, while Nancy K. Miller, Beer (“Beyond”), and Auerbach cast it in a more positive light. Jacobus articulates one version of this positive reading: “The necessary utopianism of feminist criticism may be the attempt to declare what it is by saying something else—that ‘something else’ which presses both Irigaray and Eliot to conclude their very different works with an imaginative reaching beyond analytic and realistic modes to the metaphors of unbounded female desire in which each fi nds herself as a woman writing” (“Question” 52) For a feminist perspective on Eliot that views her as more conservative, see Meyer, while Kreisel convincingly links Maggie’s confusion of desire and restraint to Victorian economic debates. 5. See especially Fraiman and Beer (“Beyond”). 6. My reading of the ethics of Deronda thus serves to supplement and complicate the surge of interest in the cultural and historical contexts of the novel of the last several years. Recent analyses of Daniel Deronda that focus on questions of nation, culture, and history include Tucker, a study of Judaism, liberalism, and the late realistic novel; Press, on queer masculinity and Zionism; Anderson, Lesjak (“Labours”), and Monica Cohen, on nationalism; Lewis’s post-colonial reading of the novel; Ragussis on Jewish conversion; and Novak’s fascinating reading of Deronda in relation to composite photographs and eugenics. Even more recently, several critics have explored the novel’s relationship to late Victorian economics and reader reception, including Cognard-Black, Gallagher, Margueritte Murphy, and Picker. 7. James’s review is written as a dialogue among three characters; one loves the novel, one hates it, and one attempts to mediate between the two, and seems to come closest to James’s own feelings. He states that: “All the Jewish part is at bottom cold [ . . . ] It is admirably studied, it is imagined, it is understood; but it is not realized” (“Daniel Deronda” 691). 8. Margueritte Murphy also invokes post-structuralist ethics in her reading of the novel, through a consideration of the gift in Derrida and other theorists, but her analysis focuses primarily on Gwendolen and Daniel’s relationship, and on questions of economics. 9. Jaffe (Scenes) reads this passage in terms of identity and nationalism. 10. Eliot herself, then, seems reluctant to fully embrace the new model of ethics. It is this sense that she has no choice but to endorse an ethics of hospitality in order to do justice to a newly diverse and skeptical society that marks Daniel Deronda so clearly as a turning point for Victorian realism. Nemoianu reads the tension between freedom and ethics in terms of Eliot’s response to Spinoza. 11. See Ragussis for a discussion of Daniel’s occasional lapses into a less than fully sincere position (277). 12. See especially Crosby, Meyer, and Bruzelius. Crosby’s is perhaps the best known feminist reading (and one that is highly critical of the novel’s treatment of women), while Meyer’s study argues that the novel is fi nally both sexist and anti-Semitic, and Bruzelius reads Deronda as an “adventure novel” that must therefore exclude women in favor of the male quest plot. Jaffe (Scenes) and Pinch both stress the extent to which Daniel and Gwendolen misread each other. 13. For a detailed analysis of this passage and its connection to the themes of professionalism and nationalism, see Monica Cohen (155–57).

190 Notes 14. McKee reflects on the difficulty of assigning agency in this relationship: does Daniel actively cause a change in Gwendolen, or is his presence simply the occasion for Gwendolen’s self-transformation? McKee takes the latter position: “Rather than being the source of Gwendolen’s redemption, Deronda is the projected reflection of her own insecurity about herself” (259), and I agree. More recently, Pinch analyzes their relationship in terms of Victorian ideas about the significance of thinking about other people. 15. For examples of readings of Gwendolen’s trauma, see Matus, Carpenter (“‘A bit of her flesh’”), and Wilt. 16. Most of Eliot’s heroines, in particular Mill’s Maggie and Middlemarch’s Dorothea, are remarkable for their lack of such feminine “performances,” although they are also represented as naïve and somewhat vulnerable. Rosamond is harshly criticized for her constant acting in Middlemarch, but Gwendolen seems to embody a more complicated mix of sincerity and art. See Pinch for a reading that sees Rosamond’s and Gwendolen’s performances as more closely related. 17. See Hack, however, for an intriguing suggestion that Mordecai is also represented in stereotypical terms (160). 18. Analyses of realism and genre in Daniel Deronda include Preyer, Levine (“George Eliot”), Shaffer, Cvetkovich, Anderson, and Gates. See Lesjak (Working Fictions) for a thoughtful recent consideration of the relationship between historicist readings of the novel and questions of genre and form. 19. Since Chase’s groundbreaking article, Carpenter (“Apocalypse”), David Carroll, McKee, and Beer (Darwin’s Plots) have all analyzed the unique disturbance of temporality and interpretation represented by Deronda’s commitment to Mordecai. 20. In his study of William Morris, Waithe points to a Victorian tradition of nostalgia for a lost time of English hospitality. 21. In direct contrast to my reading, Jaffe (Scenes) argues that Daniel is only able to offer sympathy to Mordecai and Mirah because of his identity with them as Jews. 22. In her analysis of the ethics of Deronda, During characterizes Levinasian ethics as simply an extreme version of the eighteenth-century philosophies of sympathy of David Hume and Adam Smith, and goes on to claim that Eliot’s novel exposes the limits of sympathy as a response to a psychological notion of otherness associated with dread. While I agree that the novel demonstrates the limits of sympathy, I argue that Levinasian ethics actually theorizes precisely this limit, and is therefore particularly relevant to the analysis of Daniel Deronda. Toker reads Daniel’s response to Mordecai as an extension of, rather than a break with, the ethics of sympathy. 23. Sypher reads Leonora’s direct articulation of gender inequality as the outlet for Gwendolen’s inexpressible frustrations: “The Alcharisi’s otherwise curious appearance so late in the plot operates as a powerful decoy for otherwise unrepresentable parts of Gwendolen” (“Resisting Gwendolen” 520). 24. Crosby and other feminist critics tend to read Leonora in confl icted terms; while they value her proto-feminist critique of traditional religion, they lament her “punishment” within the novel. Ragussis suggests a quite different reading of her, as he points out that she can be seen as a spokesperson for the advocates of Jewish conversion to Christianity: “We are most sympathetic to Leonora when her attack on Judaism is conceived in feminist terms. But we should beware of the way in which her argument overlaps with a highly conventional argument often used in the nineteenth century as one of the main props of the ideology of conversion” (285). 25. Mahawatte also reads Daniel’s revelation as a form of coming out.



26. See Alicia Carroll for an analysis that complicates Mirah’s role, reading her in terms of the repression of the sexuality of the ethnic other. 27. See Said (The Question of Palestine). 28. See O’Brien for a more recent condemnation of the politics (or, in O’Brien’s reading, the lack of politics) of the novel. 29. Crosby uses this argument to show that Gwendolen, as a rebellious woman, must be excluded from the novel’s conclusion, while Semmel places Daniel’s mission in the historical context of nineteenth-century debates about nationalism and Judaism. Interestingly, Shaffer celebrates Eliot’s debt to the Young Hegelians as she defends the novel’s unity against attacks by F. R. Leavis and Henry James. Hers is an important reading of the novel, but one which predates contemporary debates about the politics of imperialism and nationalism in nineteenth-century fiction. For a more recent consideration of Hegelian ethics in Daniel Deronda, see Loesberg. 30. Brantlinger (“Nations and Novels”), Linehan, Cheyette, Anderson, Lesjak (“Labours”), and Ragussis all focus on the novel’s multiple and confl icted perspectives towards Zionism, nationalism, and Judaism. In a recent essay on Eliot and Derrida, K. M. Newton agrees with me that Eliot’s ethics can be read in terms of hospitality. 31. Dekel argues that the novel suppresses the maternal line, emphasizing instead Daniel’s inheritance from Mordecai and his grandfather. 32. This position is emphasized in Eliot’s nonfiction essay on Judaism, “The Modern Hep Hep Hep.” This essay interestingly holds the Jewish people up as a model of “national” identity strong enough to survive the lack of a geographical homeland, and has little patience for a certain kind of English intolerance. At the same time, however, she relies on several Jewish stereotypes, both positive and negative, in her argument, and the overall effect of the essay is extremely ambivalent. 33. See Wilborn for a reading of Daniel’s openness to Mordecai as a “possessed individuality” that calls into question Victorian understandings of both identity and nationality. 34. For the argument that Gwendolen is unjustly punished, see Brown. 35. In this, the end of this novel echoes the shift in the morality of the realist novel more generally, as it moves from a message of sympathy to narrative hospitality. 36. Ganz agrees that Gwendolen develops morally in the course of the novel, although she casts that morality in terms of sympathy. Colon, on the other hand, turns this reading inside out, and argues instead that Daniel learns ethical “specialization” from Gwendolen, thus allowing him to pursue his life’s purpose. Scheinberg compares Daniel’s influence on Gwendolen to that of Judaism on Christianity more generally, while Rosenthal reads Gwendolen’s open-ended future in terms of Eliot’s shifting views of the individual’s relationship to community.

NOTES TO CHAPTER 3 1. See, for example, Bayley, Irwin, Paterson, and Goode (Thomas Hardy). Beer (Darwin’s Plots) focuses on Hardy’s relationship to Darwin, in a reading that emphasizes the interaction between human and environment but that also acknowledges the importance of human relations within the novels. More recently, Sorum suggests the term “geo-empathy” to describe the way Hardy’s characters are understood through their surroundings.

192 Notes 2. See Musselwhite for a full-length study of Hardy in relation to Deleuze and Guattari. 3. According to Jaffe (“Hardy’s”): “[ . . . ] Hardy’s houses hardly exist as domestic spaces but rather limn stark demarcations between inside and outside; they include and exclude and sometimes stage fantasmatic scenarios about inclusion and exclusion” (389). 4. See Stone for a discussion of homelessness in Hardy’s novels. 5. See Barrell for a different reading of home, landscape, and epistemology in Hardy. 6. See Jacobus (“Tree and Machine”) for a reading that focuses particularly on Marty’s position. 7. Hardy points out the temporal—even historical—distance created between Tess and her mother as the result of education in Tess: “Between the mother, with her fast-perishing lumber of superstitions, folk-lore, dialect, and orally transmitted ballads, and the daughter, with her trained National teachings and Standard knowledge under an infi nitely Revised Code, there was a gap of two hundred years as ordinarily understood. When they were together the Jacobean and the Victorian ages were juxtaposed” (23). 8. As Dutta notes, “No reader of Hardy can be unaware of the emotional value that Hardy attached to this Biblical word: ‘lovingkindness’” (84). 9. In Freud’s “The Uncanny,” he analyzes the literal meaning of the German for uncanny (unheimlich) as “unhomely,” and discusses its contradictory connotations of “at home” and “estranged.” Hardy seems to anticipate this understanding of the parallel between self and home, and the ways in which the familiar is haunted by the unknown. 10. In her analysis of Hardy’s representation of work, Scarry reads the mark on the wall as an example of how aspiration becomes materialized: “What is at fi rst an interior and invisible aspect of consciousness, ‘aspiration,’ is lifted out into the world of visible action, ‘reading’; and now that visible but continually disappearing action acquires an enduring sign of itself in the materialized persistence of a smoky fi lm [ . . . ]” (51). 11. Neill highlights the ambiguity of the origins of Grace’s ambitions: “We are left wondering whether she wasn’t entirely fashioned of the social aspiration she learned in Little Hintock no less than Sherton Abbas” (85). 12. See Dolin for a reading of the significance of Felice as a woman of property. 13. I am thinking of mirror scenes in Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Adam Bede, among others. 14. See Levine (“Woodlanders”) for a discussion of Fitzpiers as a parody of Lydgate. 15. Goode (Thomas Hardy) suggests that Hardy’s critique of marriage is marked by his use of the term tenderness: “[ . . . ] she is able to feel solidarity with them [Felice and Suke], which is the awakening of an unstructured emotion which needs one of the radicalizing key words Hardy has already begun to use in opposition to love [ . . . ]” (104). 16. Felice’s technical ownership of the woods is dramatized harshly when she evicts Giles from his home, despite his deep connection to the forest and cottage. 17. Boumelha (Thomas Hardy) offers a reading of the mirror that is similar to mine, but she stresses only the alliance (and not the simultaneous distance) between Grace and Felice suggested by this scene (see page 109). More recently, Jaffe (“Hardy’s”) suggests that mirrors and windows are associated with Hardy’s self-conscious interrogation of realism and metonymy. 18. My reading of this scene is in some ways quite compatible with J. Hillis Miller’s framework of Distance and Desire, although for the most part Miller limits his study of desire in Hardy to the dynamics between male and female lovers.



19. While in the 1896 edition of the novel, Hardy adds an exclamation by Grace: “He’s had you!” this still does not clarify whether the secret concerned only the sexual liaison or included the fact of pregnancy (404n). 20. That the plot of The Woodlanders depends so heavily on the precise provisions of divorce law indicates Hardy’s commitment to questioning nineteenth-century marriage. The possibility of divorce frames Grace’s eventual return to Fitzpiers even more clearly as a condemnation of the current state of marriage laws for women. 21. Stave, contrasting Giles and Fitzpiers, points out that: “Giles routinely does ‘women’s work’ in his own house, unlike Fitzpiers, who has a rural couple provide for his needs” (97). 22. J. Hillis Miller describes the tendency for Hardy’s characters to stop short of consummating romantic attachments: “The only happy love relationship for Hardy is one which is not union but the lovers’ acceptance of the gap between them” (D and D154). 23. As Neill points out, this would-be ethical climax to the novel is in fact a stark anti-climax: “[ . . . ] in the battle of ‘cultural capital’ (the aesthetic) versus ‘individual integrity’ (the ethical), the former wins hands down until, at the point of Giles’ death, Grace has what should be the essential moment of ‘fi nal’ enlightenment in realizing ‘how little acquirements and culture weigh beside sterling personal character’ (Vol. 3 Ch. 12). But the irony of this lies precisely in its lack of actual fi nality, as Grace will betray this insight in succumbing to the inappreciative Fitzpiers once again” (89). 24. Beer suggests that one difference between Eliot and Hardy is that Eliot incorporates individual characters’ deaths into a larger time-frame, while Hardy tends to shape his novels around the lifespan of the central character, ending with his or her death (Darwin’s Plots 239). Mill and The Woodlanders interestingly represent exceptions to this trend for both authors. 25. J. Hillis Miller points out that such retrospective shifts are not uncommon in Hardy’s novels: “Only when it is part of the irremediable past may an encounter with another person, a decision to marry or to part from someone, an act of betrayal or of allegiance, be comprehended” (D and D 199). 26. According to Boumelha, the novel has at least three distinct endings that draw on the conventions of different genres: “Marty’s elegy is the pastoral ending, Grace’s reunion with her husband the realist ending, and the death of Felice and the intervention of the man-trap are the melodramatic fi nale. The plethora of conclusions results, paradoxically enough, in irresolution” (Thomas Hardy 113). Bayley agrees that the multiple endings create a kind of narrative paralysis, rather than a clear sense of closure or termination (194). Levine refers to this quality as the novel’s “generic chaos” (Woodlanders 186).

NOTES TO CHAPTER 4 1. For additional details on Gottlob Schreiner, see First and Scott, especially Chapter 1. For the role of the London Missionary Society in South Africa, and especially these tensions, see Elbourne. 2. See Krebs’s full-length study for a sophisticated analysis of the complexities of Schreiner’s attitude toward race and colonialism throughout her career 3. See Said (Culture and Imperialism). 4. Exceptions to this trend include Blau DuPlessis’s early examination of feminism and narrative form, Burdett’s and Berkman’s full-length studies


5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.


12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17.



Notes of Schreiner, Patricia Murphy’s analysis of feminist temporality and form in African Farm, and Kahane’s psychoanalytic reading of feminism and narrative. For the early feminist reading, see especially Lessing and Gilbert and Gubar. For a full-length consideration of the new woman and racial politics, see Ledger (New Woman). See McClintock for the most sophisticated of the biographical readings of Schreiner’s complex colonial politics. See Moore-Gilbert for a reading of Waldo in terms of Bhabha’s analysis of colonial ambivalence. Gilbert and Gubar highlight the disturbance of ideas of home in the novel (66). Kahane also suggests that the fi rst part of the novel is disrupted by the scenes of Otto’s charity and Waldo’s beating, but reads these episodes in psychoanalytic terms (83). For other discussions of Otto’s cabin as a space of home, see Patricia Murphy (203–04) and Burdett (21). This scene anticipates the famous “grove of death” in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, where Marlow’s attempt to give food to a dying African is rendered almost comically ineffective by the larger colonial injustice and in which the narrative voice is similarly racist (44–45). The narrative undercutting of Otto’s act raises important concerns about the novel’s ethical stance. While Eliot claims that fiction fosters morality by encouraging the reader to extend sympathy to characters, here Schreiner seems to call into question of possibility of the reader’s sympathy for either the Kaffi r woman or Otto. Thus I would suggest that the ethics of African Farm resides in its disruption of conventional relations of sympathy and communication. Berkman suggests a slightly different contrast between Eliot and Schreiner: “Unlike George Eliot, who validated art as a means to create a larger and more humane community through extending the boundaries of readers’ collective sympathy, Schreiner saw her fiction as fostering at best specific interpersonal sympathy” (211). Burdett (21), Ledger (New Woman 80), and Gilbert and Gubar (54–55) all read Otto as dangerously naïve. See McClintock for a discussion of Tant’ Sannie in terms of Schreiner’s representations of motherhood (269–70). I am indebted to Spivak’s analysis of Mahasweta Devi’s story, “Draupadi,” for my own reading of Waldo’s response to the beating as resistance (183–84). See Shapple for a reading of Waldo in relation to the stone paintings of the Bushmen, or San people. The language of temporality highlights the deep contrast here between Maggie’s struggle to reconcile past and future in The Mill on the Floss and Lyndall’s self-conscious demand for an entirely new future. Burdett also suggests that this speech may refer to an alternative form of ethics, as she draws on Julia Kristeva to analyze Schreiner’s feminism. Burdett highlights the difficulty of redefi ning women’s relation to ethics once one has rejected the Victorian image of the “angel in the house” which defi nes the domestic woman as the prime location of traditional morality (34–35). Bhabha’s normalizing sense of the “pedagogical” is obviously distinct from Levinas’s characterization of the self’s relation to the other as a kind of teaching. The Levinasian sense emerges in the novel’s description of Gregory Rose’s “learning” in relation to Lyndall. Pointing out that they represent the only instance of friendship in the novel, Monsman explains the difference between Lyndall and Waldo in terms of


20. 21. 22. 23. 24.

25. 26. 27.

28. 29.


31. 32.


Waldo’s creative talents; as an artist, Waldo can imagine alternative lives and possibilities while Lyndall cannot (100–01). See Clayton (54) and Green (166). Sanders, discussing the importance of influence in both Schreiner’s life and her novel, agrees that the stranger stimulates Waldo’s thought rather than subordinating it (90). See Sanders for a reading of the homoeroticism between Waldo and the stranger as a feminist alternative to traditional heterosexuality in the novel (94). The allegory tells the story of a hunter who must give up all comforting illusions and expectations of success in his search for truth. Because Schreiner wrote many short allegorical fictions, there is a great deal of criticism on her use of this mode. Patricia Murphy draws on Helen Cixous to discuss allegory as a form of narrative that participates in feminine time (207–08), and suggests that the novel as a whole may be considered allegorical (210). Berkman argues that allegory is a more effective mode than realism for expressing truth (209, 213–15). In his reading of African Farm as a colonial reworking of the Bildungsroman, Esty points out that the letter represents an extremely compressed developmental narrative for Waldo (418). Blau DuPlessis analyzes Waldo and Lyndall’s “belated” reunion as one of several missed narrative resolutions in the novel (25). In the original French, the difference between “I love you” (Je t’aime) and “I love to you” (J’aime a toi) is much more striking, as the “you” pronoun moves from an abbreviated letter in the middle of the phrase (as if embraced by “I” [Je] and “love” [aime]) to become an independent full word (toi) that comes after both “I” and “love.” See Levy for a reading of Em in relation to issues of home and femininity. Heilmann (New Woman Strategies 140–42) and Patricia Murphy (221–2) both draw on Cixous to analyze Gregory’s cross-dressing, while Burdett sees him as an example of a feminine ethics of care (36–38), and Kucich claims: “[ . . . ] Gregory’s cross-dressing should also be seen as the logical culmination of Lyndall’s search for a preoedipal pleasure economy that might absorb sexual sadomasochism” (95). Kahane also reads Gregory as a masochist (89). Monsman similarly sees Lyndall’s resistance to her baby as a manifestation of her self-contradictions: “She has spent so much of her energy reacting against imperfect love and resisting entrapment that in the end she has no resources left for a selfless, regenerative love” (73), and Blake agrees, arguing that Lyndall: “[ . . . ] dies of her mixed feelings for her child, which reflect those for her lover” (215). See, for example, Clayton, Kahane, and Patricia Murphy. Clayton similarly argues that “narrative fertility staves off the process of time itself” (41).

NOTES TO CHAPTER 5 1. The quotation is from a review of Cronwright Schreiner’s 1924 edition of Olive Schreiner’s letters. 2. Froula asserts that for Woolf and others: “[ . . . ] the 1914 war was a ‘Civil War’ that rent what had been an increasingly international civilization” (1). 3. Since Hussey’s 1991 anthology, there has been an increased interest in Woolf and war, including books by Allyson Booth and Ouditt, and articles by Higonnet and Reichman.



4. Recent considerations of Woolf and ethics include Froula’s full-length study and a special issue of Modern Fiction Studies in 2004. Three of these articles, by Monson, Berman, and Clewell, attempt to bring together feminist and post-structuralist approaches to ethics in Woolf. Monson tends to downplay Levinas’s insistence on the absolute alterity between self and other, while Berman and Clewell turn to Deleuze and Derrida, respectively, to reconcile the two approaches. 5. The idea that Jacob’s Room is a story of Jacob’s development only in an ironic sense has been suggested by several critics. As Little remarks, “Jacob’s transformation from ‘innocence’ to ‘knowledge’ is parodic, not real. His only ‘knowledge’ is the uncomfortable sensation of a hook dragging in his side” (117). Zwerdling similarly refers to the novel as a “satiric elegy.” 6. In 1918, as a part of the Representation of the People Bill, women over the age of thirty were granted the right to vote. Full women’s suff rage was passed in 1928. 7. I fi rst became aware of this quotation in Froula’s reading of Mrs. Dalloway, where she argues that Clarissa represents Woolf’s recently deceased friend Kitty Maxse (93–96). 8. In a recent article that reads Jacob’s Room in relation to Morton Subotnick’s operatic adaptation of it, Bucknell discusses the singing of this character in both novels. 9. As Bowlby points out, the reading of an individual never results in complete comprehension, even of the self: “While the passage at fi rst sight implies that ‘each’ person has a full, inside knowledge of himself or herself, compared to which knowledge of others is only partial, the reading metaphor dispels this distinction by taking away the unity of the self-reader, and thereby puts into focus the partiality, in both senses, of any reading of another, including the reader” (86). 10. Although it discusses neither Levinas nor Jacob’s Room, Rosenfeld’s fulllength study of Virginia and Leonard Woolf shares my interest in Woolf’s negotiation between distance and connection: “It is this resurrection that Woolf’s prose continually works for, in an evolving effort not so much to reconcile opposites as to imagine the varied configurations formed by difference” (5). 11. See Flint (“Revising JR”)for an analysis of Woolf’s revisions of the novel in relation to women’s voices. 12. See Bowlby for a reading of this passage in terms of the distinction between character and type. 13. In her article on Jacob’s Room and law, Reichman notes a similar tension in Woolf’s description of a policeman: “Even the most resolute determination, however, cannot silence the persistent pulse of emotion underneath the order it safeguards—and Woolf’s novel can be understood as an attempt to reach these ‘sudden impulses’ by other, unauthorized means” (10). 14. The representation of Jacob’s education as an elitist male institution that leads to war is emphasized in analyses by Ouditt, Clewall, Froula, de Gay, Flint (“Revising JR”), Zwerdling, and Neverow (“Thinking Back”). While these readings importantly stress Woolf’s criticism of the British university system, I think they overlook the ambivalence of this critique in Jacob’s Room. In a recent article, by contrast, Park discusses Woolf’s mixed feelings about Cambridge. 15. I am indebted to Banfield’s study of Woolf’s relationship to the philosophy of Roger Fry and Bertrand Russell for highlighting Woolf’s generally positive assessment of the male-dominated “conversational societies” of Cambridge and Bloomsbury.



16. Woolf makes a similar distinction between the permanence of religion and the fragile nature of true learning in Three Guineas, as she describes the ideal university for women: “It must be built not of carved stone and stained glass, but of some cheap, easily combustible material which does not hoard dust and perpetuate traditions. Do not have chapels” (143). 17. Julian the Apostate was Emperor of Rome from 361 to 363. My reading of this scene does not emphasize the particular content of the debate between Jacob and Simeon, but rather focuses on intellectual conversation in general as an occasion of intimacy. 18. Neverow (“Return of the Great Goddess”) locates the possibility of an alternative sexuality in Jacob’s Room in the relationships between women. 19. Here, following Woolf, I am using “Julian the Apostate” to refer to the exceptional moment of emotional and intellectual intimacy between Jacob and Simeon.

NOTES TO THE AFTERWORD 1. I am indebted to Derek Attridge for introducing me to the works of both Coetzee and Levinas in an exceptional graduate seminar at Rutgers. 2. Because Coetzee so explicitly takes up issues of colonialism, otherness, and ethics, almost all criticism of Foe touches on these issues. Important Levinasian/Derridean studies of his work include those by Attwell, Attridge, Spivak (“Theory in the Margin”), and Durrant. For a recent full-length study of hospitality and Coetzee, see Marais. My own reading does not claim to break new ground so much as to usefully extend the concept of narrative hospitality developed in relation to the late Victorian novel. 3. The representation of Friday clearly resonates with Spivak’s discussion of otherness and expression in her seminal essay, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Interestingly, however, her own reading of Foe (“Theory in the Margin”) emphasizes the story of Susan’s missing daughter as the “hole” at the center of the novel.


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A Ablow, Rachel, 3, 5–6, 8, 185n10, 185n11, 187n5, 187n16, 189n3 aesthetics. See novel form allegory, 139–143, 145 alterity. See ethics: of alterity; other, the American novel, 46 Anderson, Amanda, 2, 187n6, 189n6, 190n18, 190n30 “angel in the house,” 38, 41, 95, 149. See also “British Matron;” women, Victorian Anger, Suzy, 2, 29, 187n5 anthropology, 15, 20, 74, 124 art of fiction, debates about, 3, 5, 22–23, 27–33, 42–43, 48–54, 71, 188n25. See also Besant, Walter; James, Henry; Novel form Austen, Jane, 46–47

B Bagehot, Walter, 25 Balzac, Honore de, 43–44 Beer, Gillian, 61, 82–83, 189n4, 189n5, 190n19, 191n1, 193n24 Berkman, Joyce, Avrech, 194n11, 195n24 Bernard, Claude, 34: An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine, 32 Besant, Walter: “Art of Fiction,The,” 22, 49–50; “Candour in English Fiction,” 42–44, 51–53 Bhabha, Homi, 9, 18–19, 83, 121, 123, 132–133, 136–137, 194n7, 194n18. See also post-colonial criticism

Bible, 15, 129: Old Testament, 16, 20, 74, 186n22 Bildungsroman, 62, 66, 155, 168, 185n8 Blake, Kathleen, 195n30 Boer War, 18, 132 Boumelha, Penny, 61–62, 93, 192n17, 193n26 Bowbly, Rachel, 196n9 “British Matron,” 40–41, 43. See also “angel in the house” Bronte, Charlotte, Jane Eyre, 25, 192n13

C Calder, Simon, 187n10 “Candour in English Fiction,” 42–44, 46. See also Besant, Walter; Hardy, Thomas; Linton, Eliza Lynn censorship, 23, 25, 27, 39, 39–40, 42–48, 49, 89, 118 Century Illustrated Magazine, 48 Chanter, Tina, 138–139 Chaucer, Geoff rey. See hospitality: medieval Christian morality. See Judeo-Christian morality; Bible class. See social class Classical literature, 34, 44 Classics, 15 Clayton, Cherry, 195n32 Coetzee, J.M., 184, 185n15: Foe, 178–183 cognitive science, 2–3 Cohen, William, 90 colonial adventure novel, 4, 5, 39, 120, 168 colonialism, 3–4, 9, 11, 17–18, 20, 23, 31, 37, 39, 42: in Coetzee,

212 Index 178–179, 183; in Schreiner, 5, 7, 19, 21, 120–123, 124–125, 127–128, 131–133, 136–139, 143, 152–153; “Scramble for Africa,” 4, 19, 121, 146. See also globalization; post-colonial criticism Conrad, Joseph, 4, 120: Heart of Darkness, 5 Contemporary Review, 37

D Darwin, Charles, 33, 39 Daston, Lorraine and Peter Galison, Objectivity, 32 Daudet, Alphonse, 48, 188n22 Decker, Clarence R., 188n27 Defoe, Daniel: Robinson Crusoe, 178–179, 181; Roxana, 179 Deleuze, Gilles, 90, 192n2 de Man, Paul, 7 Derrida, Jacques, 1, 8–9, 16–17: Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas, 14–15, 18–20, 102;Of Hospitality, 91, 105, 107–108, 114; “Hostipitality,” 113, 115; “Violence and Metaphysics,” 15. See also hospitality: Derridian/ Levinasian dialogism, 25 Dickens, Charles, 8, 16, 123, 185n8: Great Expectations, 125; Household Words, 44 didacticism in Victorian fiction, 12–13, 25–29, 44, 55, 143, 154, 174 dissection. See vivisection domesticity, 19, 23, 36–40, 55–56, 88–89, 104, 106, 109–110, 112, 144–145, 188n20: domestic novel, 5–7. See also “angel in the house;” home: and identity Dutta, Shanta, 192n8

E Eaglestone, Robert, 14, 186n21 economic class. See social class educational reform, 2, 17, 93 Eliot, George, 1, 5, 6, 8, 21, 23, 32, 34, 42, 44, 48–49, 53, 59, 90, 120–122, 131, 152, 155, 157, 166, 178, 183–184: Adam Bede, 28–29, 192n13; Daniel Deronda, 4, 27, 31, 55–56, 62–87, 88, 94, 99, 111, 115–116, 168, 174, 181, 183;

Middlemarch, 48, 103; Mill on the Floss, The, 30–31, 55, 56–62, 64, 65, 68, 117; “Modern Hep! Hep! Hep!,” 191n32; “Natural History of German Life, The,” 28; “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists,” 55; and sympathy, 27–31, 35, 45, 48, 54, 55–58, 60–73, 77–81, 84, 132, 157, 174, 187n4, 187n5, 188n2 Eliot, T.S., The Wasteland, 154 Ellis, Havelock, 90–91 enlightenment, 11, 32 ethical turn in criticism. See ethics: ethical approaches to literature ethics: ethical approaches to literature, 1–9, 15–17, 20–21, 26–28, 30–31, 49, 55–56, 74, 88–89, 121, 126–127, 139, 155–156, 168, 174–176, 177–180, 183–184; nineteenth century morality, 1–3, 6, 19, 23–45, 47–52, 54, 55, 63, 67, 70, 89, 95, 115–117, 119, 156, 160; of infi nity, 10–12, 14–15, 18, 65–66, 157–158, 183; poststructuralist, 4–5, 7–16, 19, 29, 60–61, 65–66, 75, 81, 89–90, 102, 121–122, 138–139, 149, 155–162, 166, 177–178, 183. See also feminism: and ethics; hospitality: Levinasian/Derridean; sympathy ethics of reading. See ethics: ethical approaches to literature

F family. See home Fanon, Frantz, 133 feminism: and ethics, 6, 8–9, 11, 20, 88–89, 122, 136,138–139, 150– 152, 169, 172, 174; and literary criticism, 5–7, 9, 11, 58, 61–62, 67–68, 73, 79–80, 93–94, 121, 138–139, 146, 181; Victorian (see women, Victorian). See also gender and sexuality Feuerbach, Ludwig, 30 Fielding, Henry, 46–47 Fin-de-siècle, 1–5, 9, 18–21, 24, 31, 47–48, 90, 120, 154–155, 177–179, 183, 186 Forster, E.M., 4 Fortnightly Review, 35, 37, 187n12

Index Forum, 46 Foucault, Michel, 4, 5, 8. See also historicist criticism Fowler, Sir Robert, 36 French novel, 22, 31–32, 38, 46, 48 French Revolution, 6, 35 Freud, Sigmund, “The Uncanny,” 192n9 Froula, Christine, 195n2 Futurism, 154

G Galison, Peter. See Daston, Lorraine and Peter Galison, Objectivity Gandhi, Leela, Affective Communities, 9 gender and sexuality: masculinity, 19–20, 38–39, 41–44, 64–67, 148–150, 172; same-sex desire, 109–110, 129, 140, 142, 150, 169, 172–174: gay marriage, 177; theories of, 19–20, 89, 102, 105–106, 122, 133–134, 138– 139, 149, 152–153, 155–156, 172–174. See also Irigaray, Luce globalization, 17–19, 23, 46, 123, 177–178. See also colonialism Goode, John, 192n15 Gosse, Edmund, “The Limits of Realism in Fiction,” 46–48 Graham, Kenneth, 26–27 Great War. See World War I Greek literature. See Classical literature Greiner, Rae, 2, 8, 30, 187n5 guest. See host/hostess and guest

H Haggard, H. Rider, 37, 168 Hardy, Thomas, 1, 5, 6, 8, 21, 22, 47, 51, 90–91, 122, 131, 155, 163, 166, 178, 183–184, 188n19, 192n7: “Candour in English Fiction,” 42, 44–45, 52; Jude the Obscure, 90; Return of the Native, The, 90; Woodlanders, The, 4, 7, 66, 88–89, 90–119, 120, 174 Harpham, Geoff rey Galt, 7, 185n14 Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 48 Heilmann, Ann, 141, 195n29 heterogeneity, 25, 82, 116, 136 historicist criticism, 4, 8, 137, 169, 177. See also Foucault, Michel


Holocaust, 8, 156, 158 home, 6–7, 14–16, 20–21, 23, 34, 37, 40, 44, 55, 61–64, 78, 80, 92–105, 110–111, 115, 117, 119, 122–123, 138, 153, 163–164, 177–178: and identity, 56–60, 62, 68–69, 91, 95–97, 102–103, 112, 121, 123–124, 134, 143–144, 147, 158; and nation, 3, 5, 17–19, 36, 38, 41, 42, 54, 65, 81–82, 120–121, 123, 131, 133, 182 (see also Nationalism); versus public sphere, 6, 17, 19, 38, 41, 65–66, 68–69, 71, 73, 75, 91, 94, 96, 102–103, 106, 109, 133–135, 164. See also domesticity homelessness, 113–114, 154–156, 160–161 Homer. See classical literature homosexuality. See gender and sexuality: same-sex desire hospitality, 6–7, 24, 27, 31–32, 42, 47, 50, 52, 55–57, 72, 74–76, 86–87, 97–98, 100, 103–104, 119, 120, 122–124, 128, 131, 131, 145, 147, 152, 177–179: Derridian/Levinasian, 1–5, 7–10, 14–20, 34, 64–67, 76–78, 83, 89–90, 91, 102, 105, 107–111, 113–115, 138–139, 160–161; narrative hospitality, 3–4, 20–21, 22–23, 28, 30, 35, 39, 46–47, 49, 58, 62–63, 66, 75, 78, 80, 82, 89–91, 95, 106, 120–122,127, 136–137, 143, 150, 153, 154–156,178– 179, 181–184; unconditional hospitality, 4, 16, 17–18, 54, 56, 60–61,63, 68, 75, 77–78, 81–82, 84, 86, 88–89, 99, 105, 107–108, 110–111, 112–116, 127; versus hostility, 16, 17, 39, 72, 74, 81, 123. See also ethics hospitality, conventional: medieval, 8–9, 15–16: origins of term, 16, 17. See also sympathy host/hostess and guest, 15–16, 19–21, 75, 95, 98–99, 102, 105, 106, 113–115, 139, 150, 179, 182–183 Howells, William Dean, 48–49, 188n23 Hume, David, 2, 190n22

214 Index Hutton, Richard Holt, 25–26, 186n2 hybridity, 19, 83, 121, 124, 143. See also Bhabha, Homi

I immigration, 8, 18 imperialism. See colonialism; globalization Indian Rebellion (1857), 18 indifference, ethics of, 100–106, 140, 142, 151–152 infantilization of the novel, 40–42, 44 internationalism. See globalization intimacy, ethics of, 89, 94–95, 106, 109–111, 116–117, 122, 127, 132, 137–149, 152, 154, 162–164, 171–176 Irigaray, Luce, 9, 20, 122, 138, 155, 169, 172, 189n4: “Fecundity of the Caress,” 172–173; I Love to You, 139–141, 144, 146, 150, 172 “Irish Question, The,” 18

J Jacobus, Mary, 189n4, 191n6 Jaffe, Audrey, 2, 185n10, 187n4, 189n9, 189n12, 190n21, 192n3, 192n17 James, Henry, 39, 63, 189n7: “Art of Fiction, The,” 5, 22–23, 47–48, 188n26, 188n27; Portrait of a Lady, The, 48 “Jewish Question, The.” See Judaism Johnson, Samuel, 1 Joyce, James, Ulysses, 154 Judaism, 7, 54, 63–64, 66–67, 74–77, 79–80, 81–83, 84–85, 111. See also Bible; Judeo-Christian morality; Zionism Judeo-Christian morality, 14–16, 24–26, 34, 74, 81–83, 85–86, 123, 125. See also Bible; Judaism

K Kant, Immanuel, 10: “Perpetual Peace,” 17, 18 Katz, Claire Elise, 20, 185n15 Keen, Suzanne, 2 knowledge , 8, 10, 15–16, 28–31, 32, 37–38, 56–57, 63, 71, 75–78, 80, 86, 107–108, 118, 130–131, 134, 142, 156–157, 166,

168–171, 173–174, 177, 179: limits of, 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, 15–17, 29–31, 33–35, 39, 47, 51, 55–58, 64, 68, 72, 76, 80–81, 84, 95–96, 150, 154–155, 159–165, 167–168, 175–176, 180, 184 Kucich, John, 129, 195n29, 195n29

L Lacan, Jacques, 20 Lady Eastlake. See Rigby, Elizabeth Lang, Andrew, 40–41, 43, 47, 187–188n17: “Realism and Romance,” 37–39 Larson, Jil, Ethics and Narrative in the English Novel, 9 Lawrence, D.H., 4 Lee, Vernon, 188n28 lesbianism. See gender and sexuality: same-sex desire Levinas, Emmanuel, 1, 7–9, 9–15, 17–20, 64, 65–66, 77, 96, 169, 186n19, 186n20: Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, 14; “Reality and its Shadow,” 14; Totality and Infi nity, 9–13, 15, 17, 20, 65–66, 157–158, 172–173. See also hospitality: Derridian/ Levinasian Levine, George, 186n18, 190n18, 192n14, 193n26, 194n14 Lewes, George Henry, 34, 35 Lewis, Reina, 83, 189n6 Lilly, William Samuel, 35–37, 187n13 Linton, Eliza Lynn, “Candour in English Fiction,” 42–46, 51–52 Little, Judy, 196n5 London Missionary Society, 120 Longman’s Magazine, 50

M marriage, 5–8, 45, 59–64, 66–67, 68, 73–74, 80–81, 87–89, 93–94, 97, 99, 100–104, 108, 116, 120, 122, 141, 146, 150–151, 173: and divorce, 7, 111; marriage plot, 5–7, 61–63, 80–81, 87–88, 97, 101, 117–119 (see also novel form) Married Woman’s Property Act, 6, 8 Marshall, David, 2, 185n3 Marx, Karl, 33 Maupassant, Guy de, 47–48

Index McKee, Patricia, 190n14, 190n19 McNulty, Tracy, 20, 185n15 Menke, Richard, 34, 187n7 Meredith, George, 4 metaphysics, Levinas’s use of, 10–11, 13–14, 20, 35. Meyer, Susan, 81, 189n4, 189n12 Mill, John Stuart, “Subjection of Women, The,” 6 Miller, Andrew, 2, 8 Miller, J. Hillis, 192n18, 193n22, 193n25 Miller, Nancy K., 58–59, 189n4 Mitchell, Rebecca, 8, 187n4 Modernism, 2–5, 21, 47–48, 154, 156, 159, 162–163, 174, 176, 183 Monsman, Gerald, 195n30 Moore, George, 4, 45–47, 52: “Literature at Nurse, or Circulating Morals,” 40–43 morality: See ethics Morris, William, 8–9, 16, 190n20 Mudie’s Library, 40–44, 188n18 murder, ethics of, 156–158. See also Levinas, Emmanuel

N narrative ethics. See hospitality: narrative nationalism, 3, 11, 17–20, 22–23, 31, 36–37, 39, 41–42, 49, 55, 65, 81–83, 87, 120, 124, 136–137, 153, 155, 177. See also colonialism; home: and identity; home: and nation National Review, 25 National Society of Women’s Suff rage, 6 National Vigilance Association, 36, 40, 44: “Pernicious Literature,” 36–38 naturalism, 4, 31–39, 46–48, 90, 137: anti-naturalism, 41, 46–47; French naturalism, 26–27, 31–35, 42, 44 Neill, Edward, 192n11, 193n23 neuroscience. See cognitive science “new fiction,” 31, 37 New Review, 42 Newton, Adam Zachary, 7, 185n6, 185n14 new woman, the, 4–5, 5–7, 19, 58, 63, 71, 93, 122, 151, 186n25: new woman character or novel, 4,


6–7, 88–89. See also women, Victorian Nineteenth Century (magazine), 26 novel, late Victorian debates about, 7, 17, 20, 23, 24–25, 33–35, 36, 39, 44, 51–54, 89, 155 novel form, 1, 3–7, 13–14, 20, 22–24, 26–36, 38, 43, 44–54, 61–64, 71–73, 78, 80–81, 83, 86–87, 90–91, 95, 117–119, 120–122, 125, 133–134, 137, 139–140, 141, 143, 145, 159–161, 166–167, 174–176, 177–183: experimental, 4, 31–36, 44, 46, 48, 50–51, 53–54, 117, 119, 154–156, 168, 175; and science, 32–38, 48, 187n10. see also realism. Nussbaum, Martha, 9, 185n13 NVA. See National Vigilance Association

O obscenity in literature, 3, 23, 36, 40. see also censorship Olmstead, John Charles, 26, 186n1, 186n3 ontology, Levinas’s use of, 10–12, 20 other, the, 6–7, 7–8, 42, 74: absolute/ inaccessibility of, 3, 4, 5, 7–12, 15–18, 23, 27, 29–31, 47, 56, 58, 60, 62–63, 69, 71–75, 77–86, 89–90, 92, 93–94, 96, 106–107, 116–117, 121–123, 131, 135–136, 138–139, 149– 150, 154–164, 166–168, 171, 173–176, 179–180, 182–183; assimilation or possession of, 9–13, 16, 30, 56–58, 60–61, 66–67, 74–75, 77–78, 80, 81, 83, 113–114, 120–121, 136, 141, 144, 147–148, 151, 159, 161, 182. See also stranger

P peace, 11, 16, 17–18. 242 pedagogical versus performative nationality, 136–137. See also Bhabha, Homi pedagogy. See teaching Pinch, Adela, 2, 189n12, 190n14, 190n16 Pitt-Rivers, Julian, 15–16, 74 politics, 22, 33, 38, 79–81, 87, 120, 133, 141, 174, 176, 177–178,

216 Index 181: relation to ethics, 4, 8–9, 10–12, 14, 17–18, 24, 31, 35–36, 57–58, 64, 86, 121, 132, 153, 154–155, 179; political reform, 2, 25, 31 post-colonial criticism, 17–19, 42, 81, 83, 121, 123, 132–133, 136– 137. See also Bhabha, Homi; Said, Edward; Spivak, Gyatri Chakravoty post-colonial literature, 178 post-modern literature, 178 post-structuralism. See ethics: poststructuralist Powell, F.S., 37 private sphere. See domesticity; home prostitution, 31, 37 psychoanalytic criticism, 20, 27, 72–73, 90, 129, 133, 152, 158 psychology, 34, 65, 166, 178: of fictional characters, 27, 72, 90 public sphere. See home: versus public sphere Pykett, Lyn, 187n13, 187–188n17, 188n20

Q Quarterly Review, 25 queer sexuality. See gender and sexuality: same-sex desire

R Ragussis, Michael, 189n6, 189n11, 190n24, 190n30 Ratcliffe, Sophie, 2 readership, 27–29, 35, 44–46, 53–54, 63, 70, 78, 91, 93–95, 119, 122, 126–127, 143–145, 157, 163–164, 174, 176, 177, 183: female, 19, 38, 40–41, 55, 118; increasing, 26 realism, literary, 1, 3–5, 8, 12, 20–22, 25–32, 37–38, 40, 42–50, 55, 56, 61–64, 70–72, 76, 78–80, 84, 86–87, 89–90, 95, 106, 111, 117, 119, 120, 122–123, 137, 154–157, 162–164, 174, 178, 183–184: debates about. See novel, debates about Reichman, Ravit, 196n13 religion. See Bible; Judaism; JudeoChristian morality Ricoeur, Paul, 9 Rigby, Elizabeth, 25

Robbins, Jill, 14 Romanticism, 1, 34, 40, 66, 187–188n17 Rosenfeld, Natania, 196n10 Ruskin, John, 16: “Essay on Literature,” 1, 24–25

S Said, Edward, 18, 81, 121, 186n24, 190n27, 193n3 Scarry, Elaine, 192n10 Schreiner, Gottlob, 120–121, 193n1 Schreiner, Olive, 1, 5, 6–7, 19, 21, 91, 154–155, 166, 172, 178, 183–184: and feminism, 146, 151–152; Story of an African Farm, The, 4, 7, 66, 120–153, 174, 179 Scott, Walter, 24 “Scramble for Africa.” See colonialism: “Scramble for Africa” Shakespeare,William, 16, 44, 118, 156–157: Midsummer Night’s Dream, 106 silence, ethics of, 101, 105, 107, 109– 110, 116, 128–130, 137–138, 140, 148, 171–172. See also indifference, ethics of skepticism, 1, 3–5, 8–9, 13, 16, 29–30, 32, 47, 51, 77, 127, 156, 168, 176, 183 Smith, Adam, 2, 8, 30–31, 185n3, 190n22 Smith, Samuel, 36–37 social class, 5, 28, 30–31, 36–37, 42–43, 57, 68–69, 88, 92–94, 97–100, 105, 134, 140, 160, 172 Society (journal), 22 sociology, 33–34 South Africa, native inhabitants of, 120–122, 124–126, 132–133 Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, 194n14, 197n2, 197n3. See also postcolonial criticism Stevenson, Robert Louis, 37, 168 stranger, 1, 3, 10, 14–17, 17–18, 56–57, 60, 63, 74, 76, 78, 80, 92, 98, 105, 112, 114, 122, 124, 132– 133, 138–142, 145, 150–151, 167, 179. See also other subjectivity, 1, 9–13, 14–15, 18, 22–24, 29–30, 32–34, 56–59, 65–66, 68–73, 75, 79–80, 83, 84, 91–92, 94–99, 105,

Index 114–117, 121, 132–136, 138–139, 149–150, 162–163, 165–168, 177–179: intersubjectivity, 2, 67, 70–71, 132, 135. See also home: and identity sympathy, 1, 23, 32, 38, 42, 45, 49, 99, 105, 107–109, 124–127, 130–131, 154, 160 161, 183– 184: as ideal, 2–3, 5–7, 8–9, 12–13, 16, 24–27, 27–28, 30, 46, 74, 83, 155–156; limits of, 2–5, 12–13, 16–17, 20–21, 25, 27–28, 30–31, 48, 54, 60–61, 68, 72, 77, 79, 84, 88, 90–92, 94, 96, 100, 129, 175–176, 180; origins of, 2. See also Eliot, George: sympathy and; hospitality, conventional Sypher, Eileen, 67–68, 190n23

T teaching: as ethical relation, 11–13, 149, 156, 169–172, 174; and literature, 29, 46, 51, 70, 154–155, 169–170, 174–175, 181–182 temporality, ethics of, 122, 126, 132–138, 146–147, 152, 161, 165, 169–171, 183 Tolstoy, Leo, 47–48 totality, 10–12, 17 Trollope, Anthony, 8, 26–27, 28–29, 35, 44, 186n3: “Novel-Reading,” 26 tyranny, 10–11

U uncertainty. See knowledge: limits of unhomeliness, 19, 122–124, 133, 136, 138–139, 143, 145, 179. See also Bhabha, Homi

V vivisection, 34 Vizetelly, Henry, 35, 40, 187n11

W Wainwright, Valerie, 8 Waithe, Marcus, 8–9, 16, 190n20 war, 4, 7, 11, 17, 168–171, 174–175. See also World War I; World War II


Welsh, Alexander, George Eliot and Blackmail, 67 Westminster Review, 28 Wilde, Oscar, 4, 9 Williams, Bernard, 9 Williams, Raymond, The Country and the City, 30 Wolfreys, Julian, 83 women, Victorian: anti-feminism, 40, 43; attitudes toward, 19–20, 25, 31, 36, 88–89, 102, 105, 111–112, 119, 149, 172–173; position of, 2, 5, 6–7, 17–20, 23, 31, 38–39, 40, 58, 61–62, 66, 79–80, 88–89, 93–95, 97–101, 104–105, 108, 110–112, 117–119, 120, 134, 136, 144–145, 152–153, 155, 169, 174; and literature, 19, 25, 37–38, 40–45, 61–63, 122 (see also censorship); maternity, 41, 61, 64, 66, 68–69, 78–82, 85, 95, 109–111, 122, 124, 128–129, 134, 150–152, 160; “woman question,” 3, 143. See also “angel in the house;” new woman, the women’s suff rage, 19, 155. See also National Society of Women’s Suff rage Woolf, Virginia, 4, 183–184: Diary, 156–160, 164, 171–172; and education, 168–171, 174; and feminism, 164, 168–171, 174; Jacob’s Room, 4, 154–176, 180; “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown,” 159; Mrs. Dalloway, 161; “Old Bloomsbury,” 170–171; Three Guineas, 104, 169–170, 197n16 World War I, 1, 156–158: post-WorldWar-I, 156, 158, 161–163, 165, 169, 176 World War II, 11

Z Zionism, 64, 81, 86. See also Judaism Zola, Emile, 22–23, 31–37, 40, 43–48, 54: “The Experimental Novel,” 32–34, 48: Nana, 3. See also novel form: experimental