Online talk about George Eliot and Spinoza (Agora Series)

The School of Liberal Arts, University of Wollongong invites you attend the online Agora Speaker Series on Thursday 5 August, 3.30 to 5.00 PM AEST. Register here

Dr Sophie Frazer (University of Wollongong)

“Speaking brokenly”: Reading Romola with Spinoza 

George Eliot’s historical romance Romola (1862-3) has long been considered a failure. An ambitious revivification of Renaissance Florence, with an exacting verisimilitude, Romola has often been judged a failure of style and story. In this paper, I argue that Romola is one of the most affectively intelligent of Eliot’s fictional characters. In my reading, I account for the text’s reliance upon visual strategies of representation, or what I describe as an aesthetic of visualised mourning, by drawing out the complexity with which Eliot depicts the instability of the optical in Romola. Building upon the work of Moira Gatens, I draw out the ways Eliot gave vitality to Spinoza’s philosophy of affect, the philosopher with whose work she felt a peculiar resonance, in crafting the novel’s phenomenological contours. Romola allowed Eliot the scope to push to its farthest limit the implications of Spinoza’s corporeal imagination. Through being attentive to the correspondences of psychic pain and decentralized perspectival geographies, I will argue that we take seriously the phenomenally descriptive in its own right as performing a different ontology of radical loss, and a different kind of literary criticism. 

All are welcome to participate. Please find below instructions on how to register for anyone interested to attend.

·         In order to participate in Agora Speaker Series events, you will be required to register here, you will receive an email confirming your registration.

·         Prior to the event, registered participants will be contacted with further information, including the Access Code for the Webinar.

·         Please note that our team will be using Zoom to host this webinar and – if you do not already have Zoom installed it is advised, though not necessary, that you download the software to your device.

·         This webinar is scheduled to be recorded and will be uploaded to UOW owned websites and/or platforms, noting that the Q&A session may be edited for privacy reasons. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this, please contact us at

·         The session chair will explain any additional rules and expected norms of engagement to participants at the outset of sessions.

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