Abstract

Though, when compared to speech, touch is one of the less prominent methods of social connection in George Eliot’s Middlemarch, haptic contact forms a potent vector for affective transference in the novel. In this article, the shift from miasma to germ theory in how Victorians conceived of disease transmission in the 1860s and 1870s grounds a theoretical framework by which one can reexamine touch in Middlemarch. On this reading, the direct, embodied transmission of germ theory becomes representative of how touch between skin functions in the novel. This affective transmission bidirectionally propels the relationship between Dorothea Brooks and Will Ladislaw, as well as the friendship between Dorothea and Rosamond Lydgate; touch breaks down the barriers between the characters. Therefore, Middlemarch describes the engagement with embodied beings through touch.

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