Abstract

This article considers the prominence and ambivalent value of multitasking in Middlemarch, arguing that such ambivalence is evident in two respects and important in another. It is evident in the way characters of striking efficiency and duplicity provide counterweights to each other, and in the way the narrative resists a normative account of “mind.” It is important, I argue, for thinking about the particularly moral attitude toward mental experience that Middlemarch performs. Eliot was not simply trying to portray mental experience “realistically” in Middlemarch; rather, through the mental diversity of her characters—minds diverse within themselves and ineffably diverse from each other—she was expressing realism as a particular mode of attention: a movement toward and commitment to complexity, arrested at the moment of encounter, attention, acknowledgment. My concern in this article is to explain why that embodied state of attention, evoked by multitasking, was particularly important to the representation of human minds.

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