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Unexpected Electricity

Elisabeth Morell

St. John's College, 2019

In George Eliot’s Middlemarch, there is a current of change happening in the world. A railroad is built through the town; there is talk of bringing electricity into farming; a radical young doctor arrives fresh from studying Galvanism in Paris. Scientific exploration permeates the movement of this novel, and at the forefront of that motion is electricity. But the electricity Eliot is concerned with will not be found in a laboratory. In Middlemarch, “shocks” and “currents” are events that occur within individuals as they experience moments of change, worry, and despair. This subtle metaphor begs the question: can science help us understand the inner lives of individuals?

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