Study Guide

Middlemarch by George Eliot in Queer Theory

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Ah, those stuffy old Victorians. They're just such easy targets. We could spend all day talking about why a woman with such a remarkable intellect had to use a man's name to get any of her books published. (Newsflash, in case you didn't know: George Eliot's real name was Mary Anne Evans.)

Of course, at the time, the message was: Women do not write books. They have babies and sit up straight while drinking tea. No, really, that's what many great thinkers of the day thought, including Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer. (Newsflash number two: equality is a long way away.)

Because Darwin saw females of different species doing certain things, and males doing other things, he assumed those were the roles "Nature" gave all females and all males of every species. Um. You went a little overboard, dude.

Science was a big deal to the Victorians, to say the least. But only men did science, so they thought a scientific mind could only belong to a man. They saw it as their masculine duty to pursue rational thought though scientific inquiry, classification, and theorizing. Women were, to put it mildly, viewed as too emotional and stupid to be scientists.

What these guys didn't get was that their blatant sexism was blinding them to other ways of seeing the world. And you know what a good scientist does? She considers all perspectives. So really, if you're a sexist and heterosexist scientist, then you're probably a bad scientist.

George Eliot—or Mary Anne Evans, if you prefer—was all about critiquing the Victorians' silly, oppressive views of the "biological capabilities" of men and women. Sing it, sister.

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