George Eliot

Mary Anne Evans, who
later took the pseudonym “George Eliot”, was born in 1819, the same year as
Queen Victoria.  Eliot went on to lead
not only a famous, but a slightly scandalous life—writing essays, reviews, and
novels nearly all her early readers assumed were written by a man.  Spending all of her creative years with
George Henry Lewes, a prominent scientist of the time (and married), she was a
proto-feminist without preaching feminism. 
And because her work reveals an access to British culture less
restricted than most to class and gender, it provides an unusually complex
panorama of Victorian history and culture. 
In addition, many of Eliot’s insights have turned out to be prophetic,
as for example her observation on 19th-century communication that
appears in an 1854 essay, “Woman in France: Madame de Sable”: “[T]he evident
tendency of things to contract personal communication within the narrowest
limits makes us tremble lest some further development of the electronic
telegraph should reduce us to a society of mutes, or to a sort of insects,
communicating by ingenious antennae of our own invention.”

In this “single
author” class, we will be reading nearly everything George Eliot wrote, and the
poetry and some of the essays not assigned to the entire class will be covered
in oral reports.  One of the most
valuable lessons to be learned from reading the entire canon of a famous author
is that doing so ends up defining the nature of excellence.  Careful
readers come to understand the gradations of quality in an individual author’s
work—come to see the skills evolving in interesting, but not necessarily positive,
directions.  And finally, careful writers
learn how to delineate for others the differences accruing as a result of that


Required Texts:


Scenes of Clerical Life,
ed. Jennifer Gribble (Penguin); Adam
Bede, ed. Margaret Reynolds (Penguin); The Mill on the Floss, ed. Carol T. Christ (Norton Critical); Silas Marner, ed. Terence Cave
(Oxford World Classics); Romola,
ed. Dorothea Barrett (Penguin); Middlemarch,
ed. Bert G. Hornback (Norton Critical); and Daniel Deronda, ed. Terence Cave (Penguin).  Essays and poetry on handout.


Course Requirements: 

1) One
short (5-page) paper (10%);

2) One
oral report, with written/illustrated handouts (10%);

3) One
10-15 page final research paper (20%);

4) Midterm
and final examinations, both examinations containing take-home essay questions
(25% each);

5) Class
participation and attendance (10%).