George Eliot’s Private Lives and Public Persona

The Biofictional Afterlives of a “Master of Pretence” and Versatile Realist


  • Georges Letissier Nantes University



auto/biography, biografiction, frame-breaking, George Eliot, genre fluidity, intersemiotic crossovers, Marianolatry, transfiction


Eliot’s literary afterlife is not such a widespread phenomenon as Dickens’s afterlife. Fictions rewriting Eliot have exploited the author’s unconventional life and been studied as melodramas, while more recently, Rebecca Mead’s The Road to Middlemarch (2014) and Patricia Duncker’s Sophie and the Sibyl (2015) have proven more ambitious by welding biographical data with celebrity biofiction. This article adds Kathy O’Shaughnessy’s In Love with George Eliot (2019) to the two above-mentioned works to investigate their generic fluidity, from auto/biography to autobiografiction. Even if there is a core of ascertained facts concerning the historical figure that are found almost unchanged in the three texts, the shift from Eliot as Eminent Victorian to her postmodern textual inscription as neo-character reveals dissonant facets. The resulting composite kaleidoscope borrows from diverse epistemological fields: historiography, literary romanticism, visual and material culture, or even musicology. Authorship is explored from a whole spectrum, ranging from the financial management of an artist career to the cult of numinous inspiration. The common feature between these three different revisionist texts, however, lies in their attempt to democratise Eliot’s magisterial voice.