“George Eliot and the Rise of the Language of Expertise” examines the impact of professionalization on the novels of George Eliot. By vastly increasing the scope and complexity of nineteenth-century occupations, professionalization created certain challenges for novelists, not the least of which was establishing credibility with readers who often had more intimate knowledge of specialized occupations than novelists did themselves. As a result, Victorian novelists spent far more time researching the work lives of their characters than had novelists of a previous generation, a sign that professional specialization had opened up a gap between novelists and the reading public. In particular, George Eliot established her professional credibility as an author by incorporating vocabularies into her novels that carried an aura of prestige thanks to the rise in prominence of specialized expertise. By sympathetically rendering the linguistic peculiarities of nineteenth-century professionals, Eliot positioned herself as a social mediator who could bridge the gap between the reading public and an increasingly sophisticated division of labor, thus inaugurating a trend in the novel that has continued to the present day.
Joseph Murtagh; George Eliot and the Rise of the Language of Expertise. Novel 1 May 2011; 44 (1): 88–105. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-1164419
Download citation file: