‘Stories Never Told’: Canonicity, History and Herstory in Dan Jacobson’s Her Story and The God-Fearer

  • David Brauner


In her famous ‘Prelude’ to Middlemarch, George Eliot observed that ‘the history of man’ is always partial, since it never takes account of the fact that ‘[h]ere and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heartbeats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed amongst hindrances, instead of centering in some long-recognizable deed’ (Eliot, 1985, p. 26). Eliot’s argument is partly theological and partly sociological: women like Dorothea Brooke, the protagonist of Middlemarch, lacking the ‘coherent social faith and order’ to which Theresa dedicated herself, are destined to lead ‘blundering lives’, because of the ‘meanness of opportunity’ available for them to express their ‘spiritual grandeur’ (25). Implicitly, however, Eliot is also objecting to the phallocentrism of historiography — to the fact that the ‘history of man’ tends to be just that: a narrative record of the deeds of men, authored by men. As her own adoption of a masculine nom de plume demonstrated, Mary Ann Evans was keenly aware of the ways in which history — whether in the sense of the academic discipline popularised by contemporaries such as Macaulay and Carlyle, or the fictional form in which Dickens and Thackeray were predominant — was invariably inflected by prevailing assumptions about gender.


Trauma Narrative Implied Reader Holy City Main Narrative Jewish Chronicle 
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Works cited

  1. Eagleton, T. (1986 [1976]) Criticism and Ideology: A Study in Marxist Literary Theory (London: Verso).Google Scholar
  2. Eliot, G. (1985 [1871–2]) Middlemarch (Harmondsworth: Penguin).Google Scholar
  3. Jacobson, D. (1973 [1970]) The Rape of Tamar (Harmondsworth: Penguin).Google Scholar
  4. — (1982). The Story of the Stories: The Chosen People and Its God (London: Secker & Warburg).Google Scholar
  5. — (1988 [1987]) Her Story (London: Flamingo).Google Scholar
  6. — (1992) The God-Fearer (London: Bloomsbury).Google Scholar

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© David Brauner 2013

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  • David Brauner

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