Moving Pictures George Eliot and Melodrama
This essay will dwell on several functions and effects of the melodra matic tableau within George Eliot’s realism, and in so doing it will attempt to refocus our understanding both of realism and of melo drama. On the melodramatic stage the tableau interrupts and punc tuates the ongoing action with its silent, composed stillness-calling for the audience to be likewise arrested yet all the while to be actively feeling and interpreting. So, too, the novelistic imitation of melodra matic tableaux represents and effects an invisible, silent activity of movement within and between subjects. The moments marked by tableaux appear unmediated and yet artifactual; they occur suddenly, with uncertain causal grounding, and they hang suspended as signs whose significance remains to be realized only retroactively, if at all; but in George Eliot s fiction, they are often posed within such an in sistent blazon of aesthetic purposiveness that their momentous po tential for future unfolding explodes with forward momentum.