final exam questions

What belongs on our final exam for this course? You may quote a passage from any of our novels, or pose a question, that you believe should be tested on the final exam. Then write a paragraph explaining why that question or passage is important–why it should be on the exam. Ideas posted before noon on Friday, April 25 will be considered for inclusion on the actual exam. Credit will be given for ideas posted by Sunday, April 27, at 11:59 p.m.


Extra credit: favorite passage

Here is a second opportunity to earn extra credit toward ENGL 336 in the form of two quiz grades. Select your favorite passage from Middlemarch, type it out in its entirety (with page citation), and then with care and precision articulate two things: its significance in the novel and its significance to you–personally, politically, intellectually, emotionally or any other register of meaning you care to explain. As in the previous extra credit option, the highest grades will go to the students who write well, present well-considered ideas, and proofread before posting.

Please know that I greatly value ambition in literary analysis. Feel free to stretch your mind toward interesting possibilities, even if you are not entirely certain they are true. Testing interesting ideas is more valuable to my mind than quietly trotting out safe ones.

Passages of interest: Love shaping a man

I noticed a theme of “love shaping a man” on page 564:

Caleb: “The lad loves Mary, and a true love for a good woman is a great thing, Susan. It shapes many a rough fellow.”

Then again on 676, when Mr. Farebrother thinks: “To think of the part one little woman can play in the life of a man, so that to renounce her may be a very good imitation of heroism, and to win her may be a discipline!”

Because I particularly like Mary, I am appreciative of how much sway she has simply by being herself and standing her ground (rooted in common sense and the respect of good parents). Fred certainly needs a lot of shaping, but Mary is up to the task.

This contrasts with Rosamond (and I remember that scene where the two of them are starkly contrasted in Featherstone’s house–Rosy all fair and elegant, Mary brown and direct (112-6). Rosamond is also trying to shape her husband, but not by being a good woman and requiring him to meet her standards, but by manipulating and ignoring or disobeying his orders. Her relationship with Lydgate does not encourage either of them to be their best self.

I want to explore this idea of love shaping individuals into the idea of progress. The right relationships lead to personal progress, but in Rosy and Lydgate’s case, egoism still stands in the way. Is this too much of a stretch? Thoughts?



“You are a poem,” Will tells Dorothea (223). If Dorothea is a poem, feminist critics have pointed out for decades, then she has no agency; she’s just someone else’s creation, lovely but passive. I find this a striking contrast to the parallel we discussed in class between Dorothea’s relationship to art and her relationship to Mr. Casaubon’s mind.

Dorothea originally thinks a husband should be above her, beyond her. She takes a similar attitude to art. Relevant passages named in our discussion include those on 79, 193, 206, 391, 421.  She assumes that she doesn’t understand art, doesn’t relate well to it, because she isn’t smart enough: “I am too ignorant to feel” (79). And Will, full of innuendo the artless Dorothea misses entirely, explains that, although many people appreciate art only after acquiring a massive knowledge base (206), he believes it is best simply “to love what is good and beautiful when I see it. But I am a rebel: I don’t feel bound, as you do, to submit to what I don’t like” (392).

idealism and progress

This optional assignment, if posted on this blog (as either a comment or an original post) by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2,  will count as two quiz grades. It must be proofread and written as carefully as you can—sloppy or unfinished essays won’t count.

In most novels about the early Victorian era (ca. 1832-1850), the brutal reality of the Industrial Revolution seems mostly to crush idealism. But in Middlemarch, where the effects of industrialism are only indirect, idealism runs rampant. How can we connect idealism with notions of progress and retrogression in Eliot’s novel? Which of her characters are both idealistic and progressive? Which are idealistic and retrogressive? Choose one idealistic character and decide whether his/her idealism is more connected with progress or retrogression. Most importantly, explain why this matters. Use plenty of textual evidence (with page citations) to support your answer.

As I mentioned in class, this can be done perfunctorily, but the highest grades will go to those answers that are nuanced, that contain some of your independent insights and analysis. They don’t need to be long; just rich and interesting.