Sotto Voce: Language and Resistance in George Eliot's 'Felix Holt, the Radical' and Elizabeth Gaskell's 'Sylvia's Lovers'

Sascha Morrell


This essay examines George Eliot's Felix Holt, The Radical (1866) and Elizabeth Gaskell's Sylvia's Lovers (1863) as 'novels of resistance', pointing out connections between the works in the way they challenge the gender, class and cultural biases of established language, and in the way both novels use a focus on sound and silence to highlight parallels between sexual and socio-political marginalisation. The two novels' explorations of these issues anticipate insights of twentieth-century feminist linguistic theory, and the opposition they evince to the forces of cultural homogenisation Eliot and Gaskell saw at work in their society is equally radical.

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