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LIT 08 — George Eliot’s Middlemarch: The Great English Novel

Quarter: Summer
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Jun 26—Jul 31
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Jul 9
Unit: 1
Tuition: $345
Instructor(s): Criscillia Benford
7:00—8:50 pm
Jun 26—Jul 31
6 weeks
Drop By
Jul 9
1 Unit
Criscillia Benford
This course will take a close look at George Eliot’s Victorian masterpiece, Middlemarch. Aptly called “a cathedral of words” by Robert McCrum, Middlemarch is often considered the greatest novel in the English language. Virginia Woolf said it was “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.” Middlemarch is an exploration of many of literature’s most enduring themes—love, self-discovery, failure, the power of social convention, the search for meaning and purpose, and the march of history. We will examine Middlemarch from a thematic perspective and consider the economic, biographical, literary, and sociohistorical contexts in which Eliot wrote her novel. Along the way, students will learn why Eliot used a new publication format for the novel’s first edition, and about Eliot’s paradoxical status in Victorian culture. (She was at once a moral authority and an unmarried woman living with a man.) Students will come to appreciate Middlemarch’s psychological realism, ethical complexity, and masterful use of multiple, parallel plot lines. Finally, we will consider the extent to which Middlemarch’s treatment of important 19th-century controversies—England’s transition to democracy, women’s rights, and the application of scientific theory to healthcare—gives us perspective on similar debates today.

Criscillia Benford, Independent Scholar in Victorian Literature

Criscillia Benford has taught at the University of Chicago, Duke, and Stanford. She is co-editor of George Meredith’s Modern Love and Poems of the English Roadside, with Poems and Ballads. She received a PhD in English from Stanford.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) George Eliot, Middlemarch (ISBN 9780141439549)
(Recommended) Richard Altick, Victorian People and Ideas: A Companion for the Modern Reader of Victorian Literature (ISBN 039309376X)
(Recommended) Gordon Haight, George Eliot: A Biography (ISBN 9780140166323)