Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Signification and Auto-Transformation in George Eliot's 'The Lifted Veil'

Lucy Jeffery.

The ramifications of Friedrich Nietzsche's declaration that "God is dead" are far-reaching and widespread, influencing interpretation in literature, science and philosophy. I approach this potentially forbidding claim by considering it as a form of absence, a gap in cultural ideology, created by the shifting aside of that insurmountable subject 'God'. What abides after such a shift is not a pure absence but a space haunted by residues of presence, by threads of association, expectation and history.
Religious faith has been described as a feeling in which one belongs indissolubly to the external world as a whole. The undermining of this faith results in a self left isolated and disconnected, adrift in the space created by incomplete absence. A new form of signification is required - in the Lacanian understanding, one that organises human relations in a particular way, allowing for security and support, and generating a shaping force. In similar fashion, Blanchot refers to the mortality and perishability of humankind, arguing that by a process of transformation we can deal with our finitude, "looking at it as though it were behind us, make of it the moment when, even now, we touch the abyss and accede to the deep of being."
In both Lacan's and Blanchot's theoretical purviews narrative plays a pivotal role, underwriting human beings' search for meaning and encouraging reflection on the nature of culture and humanity. In the absence of a grand, universal narrative, the individual is driven to construct a process of signification in the form of a personal story-structure, arguably transforming the self into a God, or God-substitute.
By theorising that narrative is a representation of the self, this paper will explore in George Eliot's text 'The Lifted Veil' (1859) the implications of the self's attempt to reconcile itself to the consequences of the loss of religious faith. I examine the notion of a split consciousness or psyche, and discuss how the self uses the space of absence-presence to enact a process of auto-transformation.


Lucy Jeffery  (Australia)
PhD candidate
Department of English Division of Humanities
Macquarie University

PhD student at Macquarie University, researching Nietzschean influences on narrative ideologies and modes of production. M.A in English Literature (Macquarie University), B.A in English Literature (Macquarie University)

  • Signification
  • Auto-transformation
Person as Subject
  • Nietzsche, Friedrich Eliot, George

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)