This essay aims at a cultural and intellectual reconstruction of the ideological function of the Jewish-nationalist thematic complex in George Eliot's Daniel Deronda (1876). Although a break with the national past is clearly needed, as indicated by the decadent figure of Henleigh Grandcourt, Eliot is nevertheless reluctant to abandon her conservative-organic politics. The "necessary laws" of cultural development have led to the cul-de-sac of decadent paralysis; at the same time, however, too little continuity with the national past, as indicated by Daniel's aesthetic cosmopolitanism, results in an equally disastrous paralysis of moral discrimination. This essay argues that the Jewish-nationalist plot of Daniel, a revision of the classical Bildungsroman along nationalist lines, functions in many ways as a narrative and symbolic solution to Eliot's emphasis on continuity as well as rupture. That solution, however, given that Daniel is Jewish, remains irrecuperable for English nationalist purposes and thus necessitates the modulation of Jewishness into an idea of Judaism that could speak to the moral and nationalist concerns of England. The essay shows that for Eliot, Judaism represents a nationalistmoral ideal in contradistinction to Matthew Arnold's ideal of a cosmopolitan culture. Further, Eliot casts Judaism as a continuation of as well as a break with English national life. Judaism, in the nationalist imaginary of Daniel Deronda, serves as the middle term that conjoins both sequence and rupture, tradition and a burst of new energy. As an added bonus, through its inflection toward Zionism, Judaism also safeguards the purity of the English national tradition from the specter of racial hybridity.
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