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Forms of EmpireThe Poetics of Victorian Sovereignty$
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Nathan K. Hensley

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198792451

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198792451.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 16 September 2021

Time and Violence in the Age of Equipoise

Time and Violence in the Age of Equipoise

(p.39) 1 Time and Violence in the Age of Equipoise
Forms of Empire

Nathan K. Hensley

Oxford University Press

This chapter addresses what may be the most longstanding aesthetic enigma in nineteenth-century fiction: the flood scene that closes George Eliot’s novel of countryside modernization, The Mill on the Floss (1859–60). In the context of geological thinking about catastrophe and duration and temporal-political narratives about law’s birth that Eliot knew intimately, the non-scene of Tom and Maggie’s death becomes legible as a version of the violent but unrepresentable event when modern legality emerged. When she deploys free indirect discourse to conspicuously denarrate the novel’s startling and violently sacrificial finale, Eliot generates an effect of form that provides a figurative solution to a problem in the temporal logic of Victorian legal theory. She also introduces into liberalism’s Bildungsroman of modernity an unspeakable violence that would be felt most acutely elsewhere, by human bodies who found themselves beyond the compass of modern law’s protection.

Keywords:   George Eliot, geology, temporality, liberalism, John Stuart Mill, Henry Sumner Maine, law, Karl Marx, violence, literary theory

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