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English: George Eliot and Sociology

Convenor - Dr Michael Meeuwis
George Eliot’s many readers know of her interest in presenting something like a vision of a society: an account of how individuals function within a wider social pattern, figured variously as a web or a labyrinth. This module pairs a reading of Eliot’s major novels with an introduction to academic sociology—a discipline that developed while Eliot was writing her novels. We will establish what it means to read literature sociologically, and the ways that Eliot’s own distinct intellectual project attempts itself a type of sociology. It's a chance for a slow reading of all of Eliot's major fiction, along with the chance to do some interdisciplinary work in what may be a new academic field again.
In a different academic era, we'd call this something like "George Eliot's vision of a society." In our current moment, I'm interested in how nineteenth-century literature invented our categories of social analysis—and indeed how nineteenth-century literature might give us new, or at least still-useful, ideas for doing so. This isn't "a Durkheimian reading of Eliot is x"; it's more a chance to show how these writers think alongside one another.
Assessment: choice of two papers (50/50%), or of one paper (50%) and one exam (50%). Separate assessment for second- and third-year students: 3,500 vs. 4,000 word papers, with second-year students writing from a list of provided titles and third-year students developing their own title in consultation with the instructor.

17. Outline Syllabus (I'm working on this--month of June, 2019)

DEAR STUDENTS: This is an outline of the course. Please do not purchase any secondary texts prior to 1 July, when the final version of the syllabus will be online; I'm working out a logic for the readings, but things will come and go on this web page over the next short while while I balance things out. If you want to start reading something, the Eliot texts--the novels--are set. Please feel free to purchase these as soon as possible, ideally in Oxford University Press World's Classics editions.

Term One:

Week

Primary Text

Secondary Reading (unless otherwise noted, from Classical Social Theory)

1:

George Levine, ed., The Cambridge Companion to George Eliot (to be dipped into throughout class; in particular for week one, "Introduction" and "A Woman of Many Names")

Terry Eagleton, “Two Approaches to Literature and Sociology

James English, “Everywhere and Nowhere

Mark McGurl, “Ordinary Doom

Elaine Freedgood, “Fictional Settlements: Footnotes, Metalepsis, and the Colonial Effect

Bernard Lahire, “The Double Life of Writers

2:

Adam Bede

Strauss, The Life of Jesus, trans. George Eliot (Byatt and Warren 447-458); Durkheim, from The Division of Labour in Society (Thompson, 35-38) and The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (Thompson, 85-98)

3:

Adam Bede

Durkheim, from Suicide (Thompson, 65-83); Feuerbach, "The Mystery of the Cosmological Principle of God," in The Essence of Christianity, trans. George Eliot

4:

Adam Bede

Karl Marx, The German Ideology (shortened version)

5:

The Mill on the Floss

Herbert Spencer, The Study of Sociology, "Is there a social science?"

7:

The Mill on the Floss

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,1-50; "Politics as Vocation"; Eliot, "The Natural History of German Life"

8:

The Mill on the Floss

Georg Simmel, The Philosophy of Money, "Preface" and "Chapter 1: Value and Money"

9:

Silas Marner

Theodore Adorno, Notes to Literature: "On Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop," "Presuppositions," "Commitment," "Biographical Musings"; Eliot, "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists"

10:

Silas Marner

Jürgen Habermas, Transformation of the Bourgeois Public Sphere, "The Social-Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere"; for help with Habermas, see also Michael McKeon, "Parsing the Bourgeois Public Sphere"

Term Two:

Week

Primary

Secondary Reading

1:

Romola, introduction and chapters 1-3

Raymond Williams, The Sociology of Culture, "Towards a Sociology of Culture" and "Institutions"

2:

Middlemarch

Raymond Williams, The Sociology of Culture, "Formations," "Means of Production," and "Reproduction"

3:

Middlemarch

Fredric Jameson, "On Interpretation," in The Political Unconscious

4:

Middlemarch

Stuart Hall, "The Work of Representation"

5:

Daniel Deronda

Pierre Bourdieu, The Rules of Art, "The Conquest of Autonomy"

7:

Daniel Deronda

Ann Game and Andrew Metcalfe, Passionate Sociology, "Passion" and "School," http://0-dx.doi.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/10.4135/9781446250389.n1; Andrew Abbott, "Lyrical Sociology," https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9558.2007.00298.x

8:

Daniel Deronda

Leah Price, "Introduction," in How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain; Eliot, "J.A. Froude's The Nemesis of Faith," (Byatt and Warren, 265-267)

9:

Daniel Deronda

Maria Olave, "Reading matters: towards a cultural sociology of reading" https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1057%2Fs41290-017-0034-x.pdf

10:

 

Course wrap-up: Nuneaton Walk