As a literary scholar and psychotherapist, Philip Davis judges literature by its educational relevance rather than its value as qualified by aesthetics or the history of ideas. His preference is for the novel, especially the realist novel – George Eliot being its best representative, and Middlemarch (1869–71) the best of the genre’s output. He locates the realist novel in a position that mediates between the experiences of life and art; life “transferring” into art, and vice versa. He thus structures his monograph into Eliot’s earlier life as ending with her co-editorship of John Chapman’s Westminster Magazine, and succeeded by her creative phase beginning at the late age of 37 with Scenes from Clerical Life (1856–57) and proceeding through to Daniel Deronda (1873–76) and her death, as a celebrated writer, in 1880. In the first part he studies her life and reading experiences as “transferred” into her novels, Marian Evans to George Eliot; in the second he takes the opposite approach, George Eliot from Marian Evans, with flashbacks from her novels to previous years and reference points. This double approach to transference leads to numerous repetitions. “My primary aim is indeed, then, to understand her life through her work, because it was through her work that she transferred and dedicated her life, belatedly, in her late 30s.”
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