April 10, 2008

George Eliot in 2009?

Speaking of contemporary interest in George Eliot, here's a question on a much smaller scale than my previous one: which George Eliot novel would you assign for a seminar on 'Victorian Literature of Faith and Doubt'? I'm scheduled to teach such a class in Winter '09 and though book orders won't be due until the early fall, I always prefer to plan ahead. Plus as this will be a new class for me, it will take substantial preparation--which I can't entirely do unless I know what I'm doing, if you see my point. Much of the reading list will be non-fiction and poetry (this will be my first chance to teach In Memoriam in several years, which will be a great treat). I expect to close out the term with Jude the Obscure; my very rough preliminary schedule suggests I have room for one more full-length novel. The Mill on the Floss, which will read particularly resonantly right after our 'unit' on Darwin, is my current first choice, but issues of 'faith and doubt' are perhaps more obviously front and center in Daniel Deronda. Or there's Silas Marner, which would leave me room for another short work of fiction--or, with some shuffling of other readings, even for Jane Eyre, which I don't usually teach with a religious emphasis. Or what about Scenes of Clerical Life? It's striking that one of the period's most profound thinkers about religion (in both its theological and its sociological aspects) actually treats the subject quite obliquely in her major works.



Miriam said...

I think I'd plump for Middlemarch over Daniel Deronda, even though I love DD, if only because I've found that students have a much easier time making sense of DD after reading MM.

JE works really well with a religious emphasis, although it's better for "faith" than "doubt." And then there's Villette...

Trollope's The Bertrams takes on faith & doubt, and it isn't one of Trollope's doorstops.

If you're looking for something short, how about Loss and Gain? (Or, for a different take on Catholicism, Mrs. Ward's Helbeck of Bannisdale, which I believe is back in print.)

The Way of All Flesh? Plenty of doubt there.

If this were a graduate course, I might be especially evil and sic Robert Elsmere on them. But only in a graduate course.

Rohan Maitzen said...

Great suggestions, Miriam: thanks! It was as a novel of 'faith' that I wanted JE--maybe along with some of Emily Bronte's poetry. Villette is an interesting thought. I take your point about MM vs DD, though I think I still incline to Mill (MM has nothing as directly relevant as the great 'Variety of Protestantism Unknown to Bossuet' chapter, for instance). I haven't read either Loss and Gain or The Bertrams, and I had been especially wondering about working in some Trollope. So now I have some things to go on my summer reading list while I keep thinking all this through.