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, it would hardly be surprising to detect resonances of Hegelian philosophy in the beginning of Romola. Even as Eliot takes more distance from her subject-matter than Hegel²embodying philosophical sentiments in character¶s voices or in the voice of her narrator²she sets the stage for a novel that will have Hegelian concerns at its core. As the novel opens, we are introduced to ³the spirit of a Florentine citizen.´ Eliot¶s narrator is concerned not just with an individual mind here; the Florentine citizen is not a particular character but a representative one, the embodiment of a collective geist from a particular historical period. Eliot¶s narrator informs us that this citizen is ³a man of the fifteenth century,´ who, as such, inherits ³its strange web of belief and unbelief; of Epicurean levity and fetichistic dread; of pedantic impossible ethics uttered by rote, and crude passions acted out with childish impulsiveness; of inclination towards a self-indulgent paganism, and inevitable subjection to that human conscience which, in the unrest of a new growth, was rilling the air with strange prophecies and presentiments.´ Like Hegel, Eliot here beyond Kantian Idealism even as it preserves its fundamental insight; although thoroughly historicist, (rather than formulaic or abstractly transcendental), Eliot is nevertheless concerned with what transcendent freedom can achieved through the use of self-conscious reason within an immanent historical frame. Here Eliot¶s narrator does not just read history as an end in itself; she reads care to separate contingent custom from reflectively endorsed spirit. One notes here the careful discrimination between the accidentals of ³Fetichistic dread,´ ³Crude passions,´ and ³selfindulgent paganism,´ and the essential²the essential which, for Eliot as for Hegel, finds an expression in ³human conscience.´ Other early passages in Romola speak to the concern Eliot shares with Hegel to depict the rational core of historically evolved structures of conscience. One structure of conscience important to Hegel of course is the public-spiritedness that comes through collective political participation. We see the grave, elderly goldsmith Cennini voice a distinctively Hegelian perspective as he berates a fellow Florentine for failing to discern the importance of a ceremonial procession. According to Cennini, the poet, Cei, despises the procession only because forgets that, ³the great bond of our Republic is expressing itself in ancient symbols, without which the vulgar would be conscious of nothing beyond their own petty wants of back and stomach, and never rise to the sense of community in religion and law.´i Such a claim echoes Hegelian language almost directly. Of course, works like Phenomenology of Spirit and Philosophy of Right are, among other things, systematic attempts to distinguish what Cennini calls ³petty wants of back and stomach´ (or, in Hegel¶s words, ³appetite, want, impulse and random desire´ii) from a nation¶s historically evolved ³sense of community in religion and law´ (or, in Hegel¶s words, ³the idea and the consciousness of what is reasonable in so far as it is developed in a people´iii). Like Hegel¶s Philosophy of Right, Romola does not portray religion and politics as the sole vehicles for the structuring of rational will. The novel also sees the sphere of the family as playing a crucial mediating role in shaping formless desire in accord with rational concept. Commenting on children observed in the Florentine streets, Eliot¶s narrator actually echoes Hegel¶s view of marriage almost directly; for the narrator, ³little children are still the symbol of
the customs of civil society. or trade guilds. it is a structure by which positive freedom is achieved (PR §163). since in it they attain to a substantive self-consciousness. to be ³a prophetic symbol. becomes in Romola. and the principles of Christian religion). views children as the external embodiment of the fundamentally rational commitment of marriage. from a will governed by a culturally formed sense of purpose. which may be regarded as a limitation.¶ these dialectical marriages of passion and duty are of fundamental interest in her novels. telling .´ seem.the eternal marriage between love and duty. they exemplify Hegel¶s conception of positive freedom²the ability to view an obligation not as external constraint upon one¶s freedom. or Bardi¶s commitment to forsake ³the vulgar pursuit of wealth in commerce´ in order that he might ³devote [himself] to collecting the precious remains of ancient art and wisdom. Giotto¶s ³half-completed marble inlaying and statued niches. for Hegel.iv Notably. interested in the determinate manifestations of collective reason (as embodied in historically realized structures of the rational constitution. aspirational aspects of consciousness. Because marriage and family life at their best involves the synthesis of particulars of passion with the universality of duty. One recalls Hegel¶s defense in the Philosophy of Right of the role of corporations. what Hegel defends only in the abstract Eliot¶s novels depict in concrete form. is really their liberation´ (PR §162). one sees the conscientious self-direction motivated by a ³desire to live in a way becoming [one¶s] class´ Hegel supposes to be secured by participation in a corporation. Bratti¶s ³self-important gravity´vi that does not allow him to enjoy anything he has not won through ³hard bargaining´vii. to the Romola¶s narrator.´ Hegel. as playing an essential role in civil society (positioned. Nello¶s conviction of that a man can be transformed by a good shave. but as the means by which directionless impulse is given rational structure. participants ³give up their natural and private personality to enter a unity. Again echoing Hegel.´ In addition to a concern with historical structures of reason and the negative. Eliot sees such structures of will manifesting themselves not only in Republican politics or in act of raising children. but also in the pursuit of a vocation. Because the duties of marriage depend for Hegel upon ³the socializing of the whole individual existence´ in order to reconcile one¶s passions to a role or duty. **** The perspective of Eliot¶s novel does not take its cue only from the Hegel of the Philosophy of Right. Even if Eliot does not describe her project as the enumeration of structures of µpositive freedom. between the family and the state). likewise. One also notes the emphasis on the ascent of the individual consciousness of the young Hegel of the Phenomenology. Hegel views the peers in one¶s profession to be vital in order to create a stable sites of recognition capable of fostering and encouraging the development of a sense of pride and duty²that sense of duty which distinguishes a shapeless will. ruled by contingent desires.v given life in Romola. This desire to maintain class honor in Hegel. but. in marriage.
otherwise the corporation would « be reduced to the level of a wretched club. of the type which. he loses standing. The superintendence of the state is higher. out of this life. which is more than I can say for any philosopher I have the honour of shaving « Bratti means to extract the utmost possible amount of pleasure. Here distinctively human life. and no combination can be a corporation unless it is authorized. which without it would stand in isolation. addition. of hard bargaining. but rather the socializing of a trade. iv ³It is in the corporation that a conscious and reflective ethical reality is first reached. is like the puddle that was proud of standing alone while the river rushed by. through the estrangement of the immediate in the light of universal reason. to obtain recognition by displaying his success in his trade. He has had his will made to that effect on the cheapest terms a notary could be got for.´ . note). broad-shouldered man. He perhaps seeks. addition) v ³If the individual is not a member of an authorized corporation. He has a theory. The cat couldn¶t eat her mouse if she didn¶t catch it alive. i Cennini¶s speech continues: ³There has been no great people without processions. is moulded with the fist and polished with the pickaxe. it is true.´ ii PR §37 iii PR §274. and the man who thinks himself too wise to be moved by them to anything but contempt. and lives up to it. is viewed to be aspirational at its core²it is defined by its negativity. and Bratti couldn¶t relish gain if it had no taste of a bargain´ [in the words of Nello]: ³Our Bratti is not a common man. in that case. but the self-important gravity which had written itself out in the deep lines about his brow and mouth seemed intended to correct any contemptuous inferences from the hasty workmanship which Nature had bestowed on his exterior´ vii [in Bratti¶s own words] ³Bratti Ferravecchi is not the man to steal. by giving Holy Church his winnings when the game is over. but his display ha s no limit. vi ³He was a grey-haired. It takes the trade up into a circle. like the Hegelian spirit of the Phenomenology. But the corporation is not in its absolute nature a secret society. winding it up with a bargain for the easiest possible passage through purgatory. its ability to perfect itself through the labor of the concept. in Tuscan phrase. By limiting himself to the self-seeking side of trade and his own subsistence and enjoyments. because he has no desire to live in a way becoming his class´ (PR §253. and must be given an upper place. he has no class-honour.that human life must somehow and some time shape itself into accord with that pure aspiring beauty´ (cit). in which it secures strength and honour´ (PR §255. that is to say.
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