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

Middlemarch Marathon Hour 1: Chapter 1-2

By 8:30 PM ,

For the first hour, starting at 3pm we will be reading chapters 1 and 2. Commercial provided by your very own reading buddy, Christian Lehmann! Chapters to be read by Miriam Margolyes. Please leave responses and thoughts on this hour's reading through a comment to this post!


About Miriam Margolyes:
Miriam Margolyes is an English-born Australian character actress and voice artist. Her earliest roles were in theatre and after several supporting roles in film and television she won a BAFTA Award for her role in The Age of Innocence (1993) and went on to take the role of Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter film series.

For many years she has divided her time between Britain and Australia, and she has starred in television shows in both countries, including the Australian premiere of the 2013 play I'll Eat You Last.

Commercial 1 - David Brownell:

I've read Middlemarch at least six times--probably more--starting, I think, when I was in college, and again in graduate school. (I got a Ph.D. in English and American literature, with my primary interest in the 19th century novel.) As I reread Middlemarch this time, I'm finding some questions I want to keep in mind and return to when I'm deeper in the book. 

For example, why does Eliot start her novel with the "Prelude?" What effect does it have on the way we read Book I? Does it set a tone for the novel?

After finishing a chapter, I'm trying to go back to the epigraph at the head of the chapter and think about what Eliot is doing with it. I think she uses these quotations more than one way. What uses do you find? (The ones with no author cited are probably by Eliot.)

I notice the occasional use of "scientific" and references to scientific advances of the period, or scientists. (See p. 15: Sir Humphry Davy, and p. 56.) I want to think about the book's relationship to science. I think Eliot's fondness for making generalizations comes from a desire to make the study of human nature a science. (For one such generalization, see p. 36: "This fundamental principle of human speech ...")

Marriage is going to be a major subject in the novel. I'm trying to keep track of passages in which characters, particularly ones who aren't yet married, reveal their ideas about what marriage is. Do Dorothea and Casaubon have ideas which fit, or do they conflict? Notice the comment on p. 21 about how little a couple know each other before they marry. Keep an eye out for more on this topic. Do you agree or disagree with the characters' ideas?

A related topic is the role of women: What are they able to do? What should they do and not do? What do different men in the novel think about women's roles? See statements on pp. 9, 60, and 88.

Casaubon's first speaking (p. 17) and his proposal letter (pp. 40-41) allow us to figure out a good deal about his personality. What does the reader see that Dorothea misses?

How much can Dorothea be expected to know about human nature at the age of 18? Consider her upbringing and education. 

About David Brownell:
Bio coming soon!


Commercial 2 - Christian Lehmann:
coming soon!

About Christian Lehmann:

Christian Lehmann is currently finishing his Ph.D. in Classics (the study of Ancient Greece and Rome). His passion for Dickens arose when he read the first sentence of chapter three of Bleak House: "I have a great deal of difficulty in beginning to write my portion of these pages, for I know I am not clever." He has attended the Dickens Universe at Santa Cruz for the last seven years and looks forward to the next seventy.

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  1. "Has anyone ever pinched into its pilulous smallness the cobweb of pre-matrimonial acquaintanceship?"

    Seems to me Celia is the most interesting character so far, Dorthea and Celia are drastically different.

    Group 3 - Nathaniel, Lavonte, Daniel, Breana, Victoria

    1. Tell us more! 3-4 sentences please--why is Celia interesting to you? Is that response a more "conventional" one you think? How about the narrator?

    2. Also-- can't give credit to everyone-- so please attribute one blogger per group--
      -Name, Period #, Group #

  2. Adamaris Marty Yulimar and LillySeptember 17, 2016 at 4:23 PM

    My favorite line is on pg 13 chapter 1, Dorthea says "I suppose that is the reason why gems are used as spiritual emblems in the revelation of Saint John. They look like fragments of heaven." I enjoyed it because of the ties in religion and the gem. - Group 5 P.1 Adamaris Marty Lilly Yulimar

    1. Expand! How might it tie in to what's happening in the chapter??

    2. Also who gets credit for this post??

  3. I really liked the quote “Women were expected to have weak opinions." I liked this quote because I feel like the author could truly resonate with the quote. Because of the fact that that was they way of her time period. She was able to express the way people portrayed her.

  4. “Souls have complexions too: what will suit one will not suit another” (9).

    Group 1 period 2

    1. Another's man trash is another mans treasure. I also appreciated this line because it lets the reader know that everyone is different. Everyone is here for their own unique purpose. Also complexion usually relates to the color of something. This statement could also pertain to the general aspect of Celia or Dorothea...

  5. The start to our MiddleMarch marathon was great thanks to Miriam Margolyes!! We really appreciate you taking time out of your day to come and read to us thank you very much.

  6. In chapter 1, book 1, my favorite line is "They look like fragments of heaven". Elliot exaggerated on how beautiful the gems/garments are that their mom had left them. Both of the well educated sisters have been taking about it. I love the fact that Dorothea and celica are related yet so different, it makes the availability of both more interesting
    -Yvette Rodrriguez(p1)
    Group 6

  7. In chapter one and two the sisters Dorothea and Celia are contrasted for their views of what is truly important and how they should behave as a woman. Dorothea is the older sister who challenges society's concept of how a woman should thinks, act and present their ideas; she is regarded as voicing her "opinions without hesitation", "handsome", and intimidates man in asking for her hand. She was "open", "ardent", "not in the least self-admiring", and "her imagination adorned her sister Celia". Celia on the other hand was quite the opposite of Dorothea; she was "amiable" and "innocent-looking" while Dorothea was "knowing" and "worldly-wise" she was the woman society portrayed as ideal and perfect. I found it very interesting how George Eliot compares both sisters in a very unique way by using the jewels scene to let the audience understand what each sister values. For example, we can see Celia has materialistic desires because she kept insisting that Dorothea bring out "mamma's jewels" so that they could be divided between the two; she also seems very eager to keep the jewels while Dorothea seemed amused and did not want to keep any of the jewels for herself stating that "souls have complexions too: what will suit one will not suit another". It is very interesting how George Eliot clearly compares both sisters in this chapter and allows the audience to see how different they really are.

    -Angelica Vasquez, period 1, group 4

  8. I liked that we can see the connection between the two lovely sisters: Dorothea and Celia. We see these two young girls having different attitudes towards their self-beings. We can examine their perception to society, and how each of their characteristics portrays to. Especially the way Eliot emphasizes her tone as if she were these own-beings, personally I see these young girls having a different perspective or a different mind towards not just with handsome creatures, but an outlook to society. I extremely admire Dorothea for having a strong religious faith and how well she depicts to society, whereas Celia from whom herself she is, as if the public will always look up to her. I like how Eliot expresses the fondness from these sisters mind, she conveys the ideal with "Souls having complexion too: what will suit one will not suit another." I liked it because it signifys it with a strong compassionate, towards one's characteristic of how each will circulate throughout the novel. It made me wonder how these souls will perpetuate the story as a whole- from Dorothea having a strong belief to religious to Celia having a less connection within the religious society. That's what I think of this novel, how will religious throughly examine through each character, how will it depict against ones will?

    - Juan Pablo Blanco, Period 1, Group 1

  9. This chapter was interesting because it introduced to us two sisters who though are very physically alike could not be more mentally different which is intriguing considering that some siblings tend to behave and think similarly. We were also presented with Mr. Casaubon who by popular opinion is foreseen as a possible villian. It was also very easy to tell that the relationship between Mr. Casaubon and Dorothea was becoming stronger and would continue to do so in the chapters to come. The one question I have based off of chapter 2 is what was the deal or the meaning behind using the words manworm and horsewoman to describe people?-Yasmine & Dayanara, Period:2, Group6

  10. I found the line "All the while her thought was trying to justify her delight in the colours by merging them in her mystic religious joy" (chapter 1, page 13). I liked it because it shows us how Dorothea is different from her sister Celia in the way that Dorothea feels guilty that she doesn't find delight in earthly/materialistic objects while on the other hand Celia does. This shows that Dorothea tries to convince herself that the emeralds are "mystic" and how she's trying to find the same joy that she finds in religion in the emeralds.

    - Oswerd Xol, Period 1, Group 2

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  13. I appreciate the performance put on by Miriam Margolyes as she read, it helped with the start off of understanding the poem and being able to build the story in my mind as she read. I also liked the fact that she would pause to explain significant terms giving more background on the chapter and the meanings of things. Also I like David Brownell's commercial it really got me thinking on the different ideologies of marriage in the book and how they differ through the characters.

  14. In book 1, chapter 2 I like how the plot begins to show and we start getting an idea of what is to come. George Eliot wrote, "However, since Miss Brooke had become engaged in a conversation with Mr Cassaubon and the Vaudois clergy, Sir James betook himself to Celia, and talked to her about her sister;" I like it because it gives us information that helps build character and develop an image of a love triangle going on between Cassaubon, Dorothea, and Sir James. It makes me wonder who Dorothea might end up with and if Celia might get in the picture as well. This shows Miss Brooke is more interested in Mr Cassaubon but Sir James is still trying.

    Karla Paredes, group 6, period 1


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