This article traces George Eliot’s use of translation and foreign words to make “impressions” on her readers. This keyword, which recurs in her narratives and in the title of her final work, is used to refer to the repeated reinterpretations of translated quotes that undergird each work’s central narrative. The moral transformation of the central characters, especially Daniel and Gwendolen in Eliot’s last novel, Daniel Deronda (1876), initiates them into the practices of the “good translator” as she defines them in her early writing on translation. Meanwhile, the increasingly frequent confrontation with foreign words prompts readers toward a more sophisticated understanding of the networks linking textual histories across cultures and nations. In the infrequently studied essay collection Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879), Eliot takes this strategy further by shifting the burden of her argument about national belonging from the novel’s plot to the paratextual space of epigraphs and footnotes. The essays interweave multiple textual traditions and use translation to enact for readers a recognition of the shared impressions left as texts and languages change.
- George Eliot
- Daniel Deronda
- Impressions of Theophrastus Such
- multiculturalism in literature
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