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LIT 111 — The Greatest British Novel: George Eliot’s Middlemarch

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Jan 25—Mar 15
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 27
Unit: 1
Tuition: $410
Instructor(s): Rebecca Richardson
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jan 25—Mar 15
8 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 27
1 Unit
Rebecca Richardson
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Virginia Woolf declared Middlemarch “magnificent,” “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people." In 2015, a BBC survey deemed it the best British novel. Part philosophy, part character study, part intricately plotted novel, George Eliot’s Middlemarch has long been praised for its expansive vision and its careful attention to psychological realism. The novel traces two young people whose idealism runs into the limits of the provincial town of Middlemarch. Tertius Lydgate is a young doctor ready to pull everyone into the future. Dorothea Brooke is a beautiful and rich young woman in search of a cause. The obstacles they encounter suggest that high ideals—and the individuals who hold them—must compromise themselves in the face of reality and tradition.

In this course, we will read Middlemarch in installments, much as the Victorians first encountered it, experiencing the same pauses in the plotlines. Each week, we will analyze the philosophy and story of the text while situating it in its biographical and historical context—including Eliot’s engagement with questions ranging from the “Condition of England” in a rapidly industrializing era to the role of women in society. Most importantly, we will consider what Eliot still has to teach us about love, ambition, and the way individuals change and are changed by the communities they live in.

Advanced Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric, Stanford

Rebecca Richardson received a PhD in Victorian literature from Stanford. She has published articles on a range of 19th-century authors—from Jane Austen to Charles Dickens—and her most recent work is a book titled Material Ambitions: Self-Help and Victorian Literature.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) George Eliot, Middlemarch (Penguin Classics recommended, other editions OK) (ISBN 0141439548)