This seminar will explore practices of description and interpretation in the Victorian period and today. Surveying a range of theoretical and critical texts from nineteenth-century natural history to contemporary philosophy, we will ask what literature is doing when it claims to describe the world and what we are doing when we interpret a literary text. Our case study will be George Eliot's Middlemarch, the only novel we will read throughout the semester. We will conduct experiments on and with Eliot in order to reflect upon the nature and practice of description. Other authors may include Bruno Latour, John Ruskin, Lorraine Daston, Édouard Glissant, Eve Sedgwick, Charles Darwin, Elizabeth Grosz, Roland Barthes.