Abstract

Dickinson's love for George Eliot's novels may have eased her anxieties caused by the Higher Criticism of the Bible which, emanating from Germany, unsettled faith in Victorian England and in her United States. Knowing that Mary Ann (Marian) Evans translated David Friedrich Strauss's Das Leben Jesu as a young woman, Dickinson might have felt more comfortable with reading the Bible in terms of mythology, comparative religion, and rhetorical/literary choices despite Strauss's challenge to historicist and literal interpretation. Comparison of Dickinson's poems on Nicodemus and on Jesus's conversation with the "good thief" demonstrate her ability to zero in on fundamental Christian messages while abandoning concerns with narrative context. In Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch, and other examples of Eliot's fiction, Dickinson would have found compassionate portrayals of struggling, suffering men and women whose faith experiences depended very little on theological sophistication. She might also have observed, in Eliot's representations of Casaubon and of Romola's father, their author's critique of intemperate scholarly zeal. Even if Dickinson knew little about Evans/ Eliot's own spiritual journey until Mathilde Blind's and J. W. Cross's accounts of her life appeared in 1883 and 1886, the poet's comments on this favorite novelist show sympathetic interest in a woman whose approach to religion differed from her own even though both dedicated themselves, in distinctive ways, to the "Art of Peace."

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Additional Information

ISSN
1096-858X
Print ISSN
1059-6879
Pages
pp. 1-19
Launched on MUSE
2012-11-16
Open Access
No
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