“Life in unison with a multitude”: Artistry in George Eliot’s The Spanish Gypsy
Mentor:Constance Fulmer, Associate Dean of Teaching and Assessment, Pepperdine University
Acclaimed Victorian novelist George Eliot’s poetry has often been ignored as a legitimate source of scholarly study because of the accusation that it is second-rate and divorced in theme from her novels. Her first narrative poem, The Spanish Gypsy, proves this claim to be false; the poem is an extension of the themes presented in her novels. The dramatic form of the poem allows her to explore the complex role of artistry within society while following her heroine Fedalma as she moves toward her uncommon destiny. In The Spanish Gypsy, George Eliot explores not only a woman’s fate, but a woman-artist’s fate, and the role her sex plays in her ability to produce meaningful art. The artist who is dedicated to his or her art is promised immortality in exchange for earthly suffering. There is not a guarantee of immortality in the traditional sense of an afterlife, but the work of art survives beyond the mortal life of the artist and perpetuates his or her life, allowing admittance into the “Choir Invisible.” Eliot does not reach a definitive conclusion concerning the future of artistry—of either sex—but she does claim that artistry is individual, constantly evolving, and determined by fate as a duty to society, though it does not come without suffering and sacrifice on the part of the artist—whether man or woman.