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The Mill on the Floss, the Critics, and the Bildungsroman
Vol. 108, No. 1 (Jan., 1993), pp. 136-150
Published by: Modern Language Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462858
Page Count: 15
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The Mill on the Floss is divided between two sibling narratives. This essay argues that the effect of each and of the rivalry between them is a critique of the novel's nominal status as Bildungsroman. Shoving Tom Tulliver's story of self-culture off to the side and insisting on its moral insufficiency. Eliot displaces the classic apprenticeship from the center of her text; dramatizing Maggie Tulliver's difficulty in even entering this story, she stages the genre's tendency to preclude a female protagonist. Maggie's trouble with formation corresponds to Eliot's trouble with the novel of formation. Eventually I ask what the uncomfortable fit between The Mill and the Bildungsroman reveals not only about this work but also about this category; placing early-1970s formulations of the Bildungsroman in the context of emergent American feminist criticism, I indicate what some of the genre's ideological uses have been. Finally, the dialogic structure of The Mill may invite a more relational mapping of development and suggest retheorizing the novel of development as an instance of cultural debate about formation.
PMLA © 1993 Modern Language Association