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Recommended resources for the exam replacement essay


The sociology texts:

Really, I refer you back to what we’ve read so far—the shape of the module is such that I wouldn’t suggest a deep dive into sociology, unless you particularly feel like it. The exams should skew more literary than sociological, although you definitely need to include concepts from the sociologists that we read. The Internet makes a great companion for this: if you google most of the people we’ve read who wrote pre-1950, you’ll get a summary on some web page.


What we read in the first week of module was taken from an NLH special issue on sociology and literature. That issue is available here:


There’s great stuff here, and the introduction will give you a sense of why sociology and literature mattered; but again your focus should be on the sociologists we read.


Literature: companions

The great thing about a major author module is that the criticism is pretty digested. Where in some of your modules the only relevant criticism (or even texts) might only be in the library, here you pretty much have everything you need prepared for you—particularly for those writing the exam replacement essay. Your go-to texts should be the relevant Companion volumes, the Cambridge and the Blackwell:


The Companion was assigned as semi-mandatory reading for the first week, so you should be familiar at least with the introduction. The Blackwell is bigger and (to my lights) less digested: there’s a huge range of essays in there, and although these are the usual suspects of American criticism, some of them seem frankly to have been phoning their contributions in. Nevertheless, the Lesjak, Anderson (p. 442), Matus, and Duncan pieces might be helpful for thinking about the social and mental sciences and Eliot.


There’s also an older Cambridge Companion, which has different essays—the topics are similar, but I’ve never gone through them at one time to do an essay-by-essay comparison:


Further and expanded reading:

There’s a lot of writing, a lot a lot, on Eliot—you know you’re a major writer if there’s a monograph about you and druuuuugs, man. (That’s , I haven’t read it, and I can’t imagine what use it would be to you—but still, who knows. You’d probably hear the squirrel’s heart beat a lot better.) These books that I’m recommending are full-length monographs, so have a look at their introductions and read further to taste. These are more books that have helped me than necessarily super-sociology-related.


My own reading of Eliot is indebted to Adela Pinch’s book on thinking about others:


David Kurnick’s book might not seem directly related, but it has a really smart Eliot chapter relating specifically to the problem of the narrator’s perspective not being available to the characters:


I don’t know this book, but it describes Eliot and Spencer specifically:


Nancy Henry’s book will have something interesting things to say about Eliot and the contemporary sense of nation (and empire):


Finally, the OG of Eliot criticism: