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The online laboratory for NAI Seniors's study of George Eliot's Middlemarch.

A Multiplotted Line: Dickens Project's Dr. Varese's Timeline Lesson

On January 27 and 30, Dr. Jon Varese of the Dickens Project presented a contextual-historical lesson based on George Eliot's Middlemarch  to NAI seniors. As the lesson mapped out the publication history Eliot's novel alongside Dickens' own career, students investigated a wide range of issues: the implication of serialization and its impact on literacy; the democratization of reading; Dickens' status as the "first international celebrity"--a phenomenon made possible by the rare intersection of art, technology and history; Eliot's own choices to challenge a popular formula--her decision to "say No to Dickens"; Eliot's conception of beauty and how that might have impacted her own work; the "incognito" phase and the ramifications of her choice to use a pseudonym--even to the end of her life. An curious yet fascinating object emerged from this investigation of time--the tomb. Students were riveted by the details Dr. Varese relayed that paradoxically brought the authors "to life" in their imagination.
 From Dr. Varese's "readings" of the tomb, they learned for example that Dickens' grave, littered with offerings from ornate floral displays to  anonymous daisies plucked by the wayside revealed his universe appeal. For her part,  Eliot's own tomb presented its own complicated text-- graven with an imposing "George Eliot" over the inscription of Mary Ann Cross--Dr. Varese poignantly suggested to students that Middlemarch's last lines about its protagonist, may in many ways, be also about its author, Mary Ann Evans, eternally unnamed:

"....for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

Please post your take-aways from Dr. Varese's Timeline Lesson. Please relate a key idea, lesson, detail or phrase that you heard from the lesson. Then, elaborate the importance of this takeaway with its significance to your understanding of the novel and yourself, your remaining questions, and your goal as a learner and reader (200 words).

NAI at Their First Academic Conference!

NAI at Their First Ever Academic Conference: UCLA Senior Seminar Class Conference: A Study in the Lives of Middlemarch!

Our day dawned with students finally getting to meet our UCLA mentors Lacey Muckle, Ashley Hope, Aissatou Thiombane, Christopher Rendon, Erin Hayes, Paige Dudek, Emily Chen and the rest of their classmates at this culminating conference on George Eliot’s novel—a shared object of study for our two English literature classrooms. Held at the beautiful Herbert Morris Room Seminar Room at Royce Hall on UCLA’s campus, the conference featured short presentations by Professor Jonathan Grossman’s UCLA seniors to NAI seniors about their Middlemarch seminar papers—some titles include “Turn to Stone: The Romance of Eternal Retrospect”; “Sexuality and the Dual Representation of Erotics”; “Parading Shifts and Science: Redefining the Nature of Legate’s Plot”; “Motivation for Action: The Historicity of Dorothea’s Consciousness.” NAI seniors contributed questions and comments during the Q and A session, connecting their insights and impressions about novel to the new ideas inspired by the papers. this unique, rare, multi-generational community of “acquired knowledge”! (Side note—one of the pictures features a chain of literary study enabled by this partnership: UCLA Professor, UCLA Graduate Student, UCLA Undergraduate Student, NAI Scholar—a representative feat from this vision of interconnected English classrooms!

“Turn to Stone: The Romance of Eternal Retrospect” Powerpoint Presentation by Ashley Hope

NAI Seniors: Please write your feedback as a response to this post.  What questions or thoughts you had during the conference?  Tell us about one or two hallenging, thoughtful, provocative papers: quotes that were close read, how the presenters phrased something,  the pecifics of argument, a visual they used? (200 words, due midnight 12/1)

USC English 452 Radical Victorians Collaboration Masterpost

Reading Victorian Novels in Community: 
USC NAI/English 425 Partnership
{an experiment in collaborative literary discovery}

Posts under this event:

Science and Literature

Microscopic Fictions: Close Reading Seminars

Versa Style and Middlemarch

"True Ease in Writing comes from Art, not Chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance."
Alexander Pope

In October, Versastyle, an LA based hip-hop dance company brought urban dance into our classroom for a week long intensive with students creating culminating performances
based on the notion of "family". In keeping with the premise that "creativity" comes from the connections from unexpected fields, students will connect their twenty first century identity and concepts with the 19th century counterparts
in this blog.

Versa Style and Middlemarch Post instructions: Please link the ideas from our dance intensive (the notion of family, of the individual in relation to their society “the a.k.a”) to our novel. Select a quote from Book 4 that depicts some aspect of the “family” or “community” and provide a close reading of the passage. What does this depiction of family reveal about the novel’s larger questions and contextual concerns? How are families linked and how are these links tested, challenged and transformed? Additionally comment about the intensive-- your takeaways and more specifically, how is being a “dancer” like being a “reader”?  - 200 words.

NAI Seniors Set Sail With Darwin and Literature

NAI Seniors Set Sail With Darwin and Literature with Professor Devin Griffiths and English 452!Here are the highlights from our collaborative classroom sharing with Professor Griffiths’ Radical Victorians seminar! NAI Seniors took their study of George Eliot and science literally outside their classroom into the learning space of their higher-ed counterparts. Beginning with the inciting question, “Where does creativity come from?” Professor Griffiths guided all the NAI students and his own USC students (plus chaperones of parents, staff and community members) through an investigation about the overlap between the arts and the sciences —from the micro level of Darwin’s use of personification and analogy in his writings, to the macro level of the ingenuity of the American liberal education. Students looked at epigraphs, Darwin’s pigeons, a USC student-produced video on “Darwin: The Gentle Radical,” and astoundingly poetic passages from the Origin of the Species (including his famous closing sentence that they close-read that morning in Ms. Barrios’s class)

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

Professor Griffiths engaged the seniors with fascinating connections between William Paley’s (an 18th century natural theologian) watchmaker analogy and Darwin’s own analogies between domestication and natural selection. A wonderful letter from Emma Darwin made clear the emotional and spiritual dilemma Darwin personally experienced in his own pursuit of knowledge. NAI seniors witnessed USC students in action as they dissected passages and even jumped in with their own responses. They even got a bit of a bio of Prof. Griffiths’ former work, in what else—biology!

An exciting day spurred on by George Eliot’s own remarkable work marrying the arts and the sciences! Check out our flickr album for film clips and our blog for student responses to the class.


Coming soon on MiddleLab:
An exciting new collaboration with Professor Jonathan Grossman’s UCLA English 185 Senior Capstone Seminar—crosstown rivals meet in the “middle”(march)! UCLA seniors give NAI seniors a sneak peak into their research projects on Middlemarch (15 pages) as the latter gear up for theirs (5 page essay submissions to the DP HS Essay Contest). A fieldtrip to UCLA to attend Professor Grossman’s Middlemarch Mini-Conference will be a highlight event of scholarly exchange!

Science & Literature: A Special Lecture

Science & Literature: A Special Lecture by Professor Griffiths/ USC NAI AP English Lit Students + English 425 USC Students

September 27 Tuesday 1230-150 THH 207


*George Eliot, Middlemarch "Pier Glass" Passage (Ch 27) & "Introduction to Lydgate" (Ch 15)

*Devin Griffiths, Darwin & Literature

*Diana Postlethwaite, George Eliot & Science

*English 425 Course Readings this week on Scientific Radicalism -- Alfred Russell Wallace’s “On the Tendencies of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type”, The Origin of Species, chaps. 1-4. Wilberforce’s review in QR.

*Other Resources
British Library articles on science in Middlemarch

Microscopic Fictions: Close Reading Seminars

Microscopic Fictions: Close Reading seminars on the “Cadwallader” Microscope Passage/ USC NAI AP English Lit Students + English 425 USC Students
October 24 Monday and October 26 Wednesday 750-915 AM USC


*George Eliot, Middlemarch

From Chapter 6

Now, why on earth should Mrs. Cadwallader have been at all busy about Miss Brooke's marriage; and why, when one match that she liked to think she had a hand in was frustrated, should she have straightway contrived the preliminaries of another? Was there any ingenious plot, any hide-and-seek course of action, which might be detected by a careful telescopic watch? Not at all: a telescope might have swept the parishes of Tipton and Freshitt, the whole area visited by Mrs. Cadwallader in her phaeton, without witnessing any interview that could excite suspicion, or any scene from which she did not return with the same unperturbed keenness of eye and the same high natural color. In fact, if that convenient vehicle had existed in the days of the Seven Sages, one of them would doubtless have remarked, that you can know little of women by following them about in their pony-phaetons. Even with a microscope directed on a water-drop we find ourselves making interpretations which turn out to be rather coarse; for whereas under a weak lens you may seem to see a creature exhibiting an active voracity into which other smaller creatures actively play as if they were so many animated tax-pennies, a stronger lens reveals to you certain tiniest hairlets which make vortices for these victims while the swallower waits passively at his receipt of custom. In this way, metaphorically speaking, a strong lens applied to Mrs. Cadwallader's match-making will show a play of minute causes producing what may be called thought and speech vortices to bring her the sort of food she needed.

From Chapter 27 
Let the high Muse chant loves Olympian: 
We are but mortals, and must sing of man.
An eminent philosopher among my friends, who can dignify even your ugly furniture by lifting it into the serene light of science, has shown me this pregnant little fact. Your pier-glass or extensive surface of polished steel made to be rubbed by a housemaid, will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions; but place now against it a lighted candle as a centre of illumination, and lo! the scratches will seem to arrange themselves in a fine series of concentric circles round that little sun. It is demonstrable that the scratches are going everywhere impartially and it is only your candle which produces the flattering illusion of a concentric arrangement, its light falling with an exclusive optical selection. These things are a parable. The scratches are events, and the candle is the egoism of any person now absent—of Miss Vincy, for example. "

On May 24 and May 27, USC students in Professor Griffith's English 452 Radical Victorians class visited our classroom to lead close-reading seminars on the above passages. Professor Griffiths closed our session with a reading of these scientific parables, guiding us to see how Eliot's novel might have been proposing even more radical ways of perceiving and understanding our world.  Post your comments to this session here!