This essay reorients discussions of Daniel Deronda from its rather tortured generic classifications to a more focused awareness of the novel's particular material medium of transmission in the book. It contrasts the investment in generic forms evinced by Gwendolen and Daniel in the first half of the novel with the embrace of a specific, concrete embodiment, which the relationship between Mordecai and Daniel outlines in the book's second half—that part that F. R. Leavis famously wanted, with a rather explicit emphasis on the materiality of the book, to cut away. As the novel traces this transition from general ideas to their individualized incarnations, it explores the way in which the affective investment necessary for this conversion depends on a prolonged experience of shared time and space. By showing how the novel extends to written documents themselves the effects of shared time and space that it details, the essay develops a concept of “book memory” that, in a much more personal way than the larger field of “book history,” indexes the affective investment of an individual reader in a particular copy of a book. As a particular book bears the traces of a reader's individual experience, it takes on a kind of “aura,” which Walter Benjamin has located in “original” artworks by embodying the temporality of that reading experience. By excavating the role that the object of the book plays in the transmission of Deronda, itself published in eight monthly sections, the essay sheds new light on what makes Eliot's last novel such a particular book.
John Lurz; The Memory of the Book: The Particular Bodies of Daniel Deronda. Novel 1 November 2013; 46 (3): 438–452. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2345903
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