Date Thesis Awarded

4-2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

English

Advisor

Deborah Denenholz Morse

Committee Members

Suzanne Raitt

Brett Wilson

Giulia Pacini

Abstract

From the outstretched hand in “Janet’s Repentance,” through the hands that mingle with the soil in Adam Bede, to the lovingly clasped hands in The Mill on the Floss, the hand plays a remarkable, multi-faceted role in George Eliot’s early fiction. Eliot was writing in an era when the conception of the hand was changing; its sensory capacity was a subject of exploration, its relationship to work was shifting, and its conduct was policed. Eliot uses this dynamic cultural significance, alongside the hand’s established biblical meaning, to negotiate issues ranging from religion to gender to work to erotics. By tracing the haptic through three of Eliot’s early works, against the context of her time period and her personal history, Katharine Williams ultimately considers how the hand sheds light on what Eliot considered sacred, for herself, for others and for England as a nation.

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