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Date of Award

Spring 2013

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


English - Literature

First Advisor

Professor Sarah Bilston


Who likes the end of The Mill on the Floss? Famously, Maggie Tulliver, the novel’s intelligent and rambunctious heroine, drowns in a flood in a deus ex machina. After investing 423 pages worth of blood, sweat and tears into Maggie and her short life’s vicissitudes, George Eliot kills her. “O, thou unfortunate one!” It is a travesty that an intelligent heroine was murdered for her unconventionality, especially considering the author was a woman, but this is part of the problem. Eliot wanted to enter the canon of great literature, a canon whose standards were patriarchal. The Mill on the Floss was published in 1860, set in 1820, and written by Mary Anne Evans, who wrote under the male pseudonym, George Eliot, in order to navigate those standards. […] The Mill on the Floss is an iconic text with a tragic ending. In stark contrast, the writers chosen for this thesis [Anne Bowman, Juliana Horatia Ewing, L. T. Meade, and various authors for the Girl’s Own Paper] are not iconic or canonical: in fact, they are often forgotten or unrecognized. However, unlike The Mill on the Floss, the texts in this thesis open up space for dialogue, disagreement, and ultimately the survival of unconventional girls. They allow their “Maggie Tullivers,” so to speak, to live.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. Access to full text is restricted to the campus community.