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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

Novels in the Grip of History

Instructor(s): April Bernard, English

We will read two of the 19th century's richest and most engrossing novels, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, both by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) with attention to their historical contexts. Goals for the class include: how to read a Big Novel, how to see literature in the light of the times in which it was written;, and how to use literature and history to better understand the world today. Eliot's fiction is known for her double-vision: that is, individuals in the grip of ethical dilemmas (of romance, marriage, career, family) who are also operating within the larger forces of History itself. This double-vision seems especially apt for us all today, when we find ourselves gripped by the knowledge that we are living our daily lives buffeted by exciting and perilous times for our country and the world. We will read from contemporary and scholarly writings about three important historical threads: feminism, Zionism, and the rise of class consciousness. In addition to writing two papers, students will follow these subjects as they unfold in our world today, in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Manchester Guardian, and other print and online sources.


Course Offered: