Illustration by Pierre Mornet

George Eliot’s Middlemarch: Awakening Consciousness

Instructor: Christine Smallwood
Unnameable Books
600 Vanderbilt Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Virginia Woolf called George Eliot’s Middlemarch “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.” Henry James described it as “at once one of the strongest and one of the weakest of English novels… a treasure-house of details [and] an indifferent whole.” In our own time, Middlemarch is widely considered the finest Victorian novel, and is the subject of popular books as well as endless scholarly conversation. Who was George Eliot, and why does this novel continue to speak to us today? What picture does it offer of “grown-up” problems such as marriage, career, and political reform? What relationship does it imagine between the individual and the community? Is it something more than a treasure-house of details? And what’s a novel for, anyway? In this course, we will read the entirety of Middlemarch as well as biographical and critical texts, including Eliot’s own essays. We will think historically about the role of women, the 1832 Reform Act, the industrial revolution, and the rise of the novel. We will be especially attentive to Middlemarch’s signature literary achievement—its portrayal of consciousness, particularly as it relates to intention, decision, action, and spiritual vocation.

Note: We’ll be reading approximately two hundred pages of Middlemarch a week, plus 1-2 secondary articles.

Course Schedule

Tuesday, 6:30-9:30pm
March 29 — April 19, 2016
4 weeks


Registration Closed

Please email us to be placed on the waiting list.

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