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Reading Middlemarch (The One Series)

ENGL 4508.301
TR 3:30-4:59pm


This course introduces students to the Victorian period and its major literary form—the realist novel—through a paradigmatic work of fiction that’s often treated as exemplary of both. George Eliot’s Middlemarch, published serially between 1871 and 1872, is a sprawling, multiplot epic about life in a small English town at the start of the nineteenth century. Some have called it “one of the strongest and one of the weakest of English novels” (James); for others, it is "one of the few English novels written for grownup people” (Woolf). We’ll come to our own conclusions about these terms by reading Middlemarch in full, alongside relevant historical and theoretical materials from the Victorian period and after. Discussions will cover a number of subjects, like class relations, gender politics, colonialism, industrialization, marriage, death, love, and political reform, to name a few, but we’ll pay special attention throughout the semester to the history and theory of the novel. By the end of the course, students can expect to emerge with in-depth knowledge of nineteenth-century literature as well as the essential research skills necessary for studying it. Assignments include brief research exercises and short writing in various forms; for the final projects, students will have the choice of a critical essay or creative project.


English Major Requirements
  • Literature Seminar pre-1900 (AEB9)
  • Sector 5 19th Century (AE19)
English Concentration Attributes
College Attributes
Additional Attributes