restricted access Does Grandcourt Exist?: Description and Fictional Characters

This essay argues that fictional characters share a second-order existence with perceptual illusions in that both are present to experience even as they are not really there. It suggests that this second-order existence is what allows descriptive criticism to strategically combine two Victorian epistemological categories: empirical knowledge by acquaintance and verbally mediated knowledge by description. The paper reads George Eliot’s Romola (1862–63) as similarly aiming to make readers acquainted with a past that can be described but not directly experienced. Ultimately, it contends that descriptive criticism and the Victorian historical novel are engaged in parallel explorations of what is presented, as opposed to what is represented, in fiction.