Abstract

This article studies the influence of nineteenth-century microscopy on George Eliot's The Lifted Veil and in particular on Eliot's vocabulary of narrative observation, which is central to her perception of the novel's moral purpose. Following recent studies in the history of science, it highlights the fact that nineteenth-century microscopy takes the imperfection of the observing subject as the precondition of knowing and develops a series of second-order techniques to verify the observations. It then traces how Lewes's engagement with microscopy communicates its epistemological concerns to Eliot, and instances of metaphoric microscopy in the novella, where the tropes of magnification and optical flaws reveal the untrustworthiness of the protagonist Latimer's narration. By doing so, this article asserts the contextual significance of Lewes's microscopic researches in the critical treatment of The Lifted Veil.

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