Category Archives: Eliot, George

Madame Bovary II: The Doctors and Their Wives

It’s difficult to compare two books that are very, very good at what they do but that do very different things. Must such a comparison be evaluative, hierarchical? Of course not. Does it often end up that way? Of course. We’re only human! We like different things, for reasons that often say more about us than […]

Your Book Club Wants to Read Middlemarch? Great Idea!

A stupid article about how Middlemarch is the kiss of death for book clubs has been getting a disappointing amount of linkage in the past couple of days, including from sites you’d expect to be above that kind of pandering to the lowest common denominator (I’m looking at you, New Yorker!). I’d like to think […]

This Week in My Classes: Middlemarch Everwhere!

After all that concentrated activity in February, I found myself quite out of energy at the end of last week. I deliberately took it fairly easy over the weekend, to help myself recharge, and it was nice to putter. I did some reading–my book club is discussing Tender is the Night on Saturday, so I […]

This Week in My Classes: Close Reading Middlemarch

You can’t really do it, of course, or not and finish the novel in a few short weeks. I’ve been rereading it for years and I know I still haven’t read it closely enough. Still, if you can slow down and really pay attention, I don’t know a book that’s more fun to try reading […]

This Week in My Classes: The Morals and the Stories

Though everyone is looking a bit peaked around the department these days–students and faculty alike–and I’m certainly feeling the usual pressures as we move into the term’s final phase, I am also finding myself intellectually invigorated by the novels we’re working through in all of my classes. It is just such a pleasure to be […]

Mrs Tulliver’s Teraphim

One of the many things that make reading George Eliot at once so challenging and so satisfying is her resistance to simplicity–especially moral simplicity. It’s difficult to sit in judgment on her characters. For one thing, she’s usually not just one but two or three steps ahead: she’s seen and analyzed their flaws with emphatic […]


As previously mentioned, I have begun a little project of catching up on recent (defined as ‘since I last really paid attention’) work in Victorian studies. In aid of this, I have browsed the TOC from a couple of the major academic journals in the field and downloaded a bunch of essays and book reviews […]

Rebecca Mead, “George Eliot and Me”

If Rebecca Mead’s “George Eliot and Me” * didn’t take up eight pages (eight pages!) in the New Yorker‘s anniversary issue, I would just let it go by without comment. But the New Yorker is prime literary real estate, and eight pages is a lot. It seems a fair assumption that Mead’s essay should be  […]

Philosophical Novels

In this week’s New York Times Sunday Book Review, James Ryerson wonders about the relationship between philosophy and literature: Both disciplines seek to ask big questions, to locate and describe deeper truths, to shape some kind of order from the muddle of the world. But are they competitors — the imaginative intellect pitted against the […]

Read Better!

I admit, I have some sympathy with Hillary Kelly’s lament about the whole Oprah Does Dickens thing. I don’t share, or like, Kelly’s condescending assumption that Oprah’s readers are incapable of appreciating the novels, that they will have to “scramble about to decipher Dickens’s obscure dialectical styling and his long-lost euphemisms” or that “with no […]

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