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George Moore and the Autogenous Self



All in all, George Moore and the Autogenous Self is a valuable and entirely worthwhile work of criticism, and a vital point of departure for future studies of Moore.”—George O’Brien, Canadian Journal of Irish Studies

“Early or late, Moore has not yet been admitted to the literary canon. Perhaps Elizabeth Grubgeld’s book, which treats him to more complex scrutiny than he’s had before, will help to speed his entry.”—Charles Burkhart, English Literature in Translation

“Criticism of autobiography at its best. . . . [Grubgeld produces] a good many original thoughts about autobiography on the one hand while writing a book that, on the other hand, is nearly definitive on George Moore. The schol­arship is both vast and impeccable, and the writ­ing is clear and persuasive at the same time that it is graceful and eloquent.”—James Olney, author of Studies in Autobiography


In the midst of an explosion of interest in the field of autobiography, there have developed critical languages and approaches that allow us to read both George Moore’s fiction and his fictive autobiographies in new and exciting ways.

Elizabeth Grubgeld presents a fresh look at the diverse experiments in fiction and the highly ironic and multi-generic performances Moore put forth as his life story. She focuses on the tension between Moore’s fascination with deterministic theories of human behavior and his need to assert a principle of self-creation, his “autogenous self.”

Moore’s work exhibits a profound recogni­tion of the forces of heredity, gender, culture, and history while simultaneously declaring his belief in an autogenous self. In early novels like A Drama in Muslin and Esther Waters, there is a notable conflict between his postulation of the pure, instinctive individual and the emphasis upon the shaping power of heredity and eco­nomics inherent in the traditions of social realism that he adopts.

In The Untilled Field, The Lake, and later works, Moore perfects a narrative technique that in highlighting the power of subjective memory, allows his characters to work out a new relation with the forces of history.

Grubgeld’s discussion of satire, caricature, and parody as autobiographical forms will con­tribute greatly to an understanding of how Moore viewed the relations between the self and the surrounding world. This study, which also incorporates a theoretical discussion of letters as autobiography, will be of interest to special­ists in Irish studies, late Victorian and modern British literature, gender studies, and autobi­ography.

Elizabeth Grubgeld is associate professor of modern British literature at Oklahoma State University. She has published a number of articles on Irish and British literature.

Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program.