Revisiting the Continental Shelf: Moira Gatens on Law, Religion, and Human Rights in Eliot, Feuerbach, and Spinoza
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Your current project explores the way that George Eliot weaves the philosophy of Benedict Spinoza and Ludwig Feuerbach through her novels. Why did you turn to literature, especially the work of Eliot, and do you see this turn as explicitly feminist?
I think the feminist element in my turn to George Eliot is that she wrote at a very interesting time in the history of thought in the West. Her contemporaries include Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, and John Stuart Mill. Today we know the work of these thinkers very well and their ideas have been very influential in thinking about topics such as freedom, equality, liberty, determinism, politics, and religion. In contrast, Eliot’s views on these issues are barely known. This can partly be explained because she is seen as a novelist not a philosopher. So the feminist aspect of the turn to Eliot was motivated in part by continuing the feminist task of tracing a genealogy of feminist thought or, at least, of women’sthought. I say that because...