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George Eliot and the Conventions of Popular Women's Fiction

A Serious Literary Response to the «Silly Novels by Lady Novelists»

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Susan R. Tush

This work uses George Eliot's essay, «Silly Novels by Lady Novelists» as a guide for examining Eliot's response to the literary conventions prevalent in Victorian women's fiction. In her essay, Eliot refers to six popular novels, which are now extremly rare. This work is the first to examine these novels and the role that their conventions play in Eliot's own fiction. Accordingly, Adam Bede is seen within the context of Evangelical fiction. The mill on the Floss is viewed as a «oracular» novel, and Middlemarch is compared to «the mind and millinery» novels. Eliot's essay and «silly» novels she discussed thus provide a new way of measuring her fiction by her own yardstick.