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Winer, J.A. (1989). Charismatic Followership as Illustrated in George Eliot's Romola. Ann. Psychoanal., 17:129-143.

(1989). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 17:129-143

Charismatic Followership as Illustrated in George Eliot's Romola

Jerome A. Winer, M.D.

This paper will use the charismatic relationship between the fictional character, Romola, and the historical figure, Girolamo Savonarola, as he appears in George Eliot's 1863 novel, Romola, to illustrate and enlarge upon previous theoretical understandings of charismatic followership (Winer, Jobe, and Ferrono, 1985). The current work is not an attempt to illuminate the entire novel by means of the application of psychoanalytic principles. Nor is it an attempt to link events in the novel with elements of the actual life of George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880). It is, rather, an explication of the appeal, power, and influence that Savonarola had on Romola. The novel will be summarized, with the five times Savonarola and Romola are in each other's presence given the lion's share of attention.

The novel is set in Florence and opens in 1492, shortly after the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the Medici ruler. Portents denote that the time is out of joint—lights shoot in the sky, thunderclaps are heard in the clear night, cows and women bear stillborn. Lorenzo's waxen image in the Church of the Annunziata falls at the time of his death. Savonarola, Dominican prior of San Marco, has been preaching that, because of its sinfulness, the divine purging of Florence is imminent. He claims that visions have revealed him to be God's prophet. A handsome, twenty-three-year-old, shipwrecked Greek, Tito Melema, appears in Florence. He is penniless but for some jewels saved in the disaster that separated him from the father who had adopted him as an urchin of seven.

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