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‘Let Me Tell the Story Straight On’: Middlemarch, Process-Tracing Methods and the Politics of Narrative

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Abstract

Much thought has been put into developing rationales for the process-tracing method, but proponents of this narrative method have been agnostic about the criterial demands for ‘writing up’ a case study. This article addresses that lack through a double reading. First, I show that ‘good’ process-tracing prose mirrors a narrative voice found in Victorian fiction, most notably in George Eliot's Middlemarch. Then, in the second reading, I critique this narrative approach through a close reading of Middlemarch. In doing so, I explain how this style attempts (and ultimately fails) to mask its own pre-theoretical political commitments. For process-tracing to seem effective, its practitioners must turn a blind eye to the theoretical consequences of narrative style and must remain silent on the instability inherent in their prose.

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