Middlemarch for Book Clubs: Update

I have started building the ‘Middlemarch for Book Clubs’ site I boldly promised to create in response to the whole ‘Middlemarch kills book clubs’ story that got so much linkage a week or so ago. Here is a list of the pages and subpages I’ve set up so far. Let me know if you think they look sensible, and also if (based on your experience either as a reader or as a member of a book club) you think I should include something else or go in a different direction altogether. As part of my preparation, I’ve been looking around at other online book club guides, and Amateur Reader is right that the Faulkner site for Oprah’s Book Club is pretty nice. (The ‘How to Read Faulkner’ section is actually fairly similar in spirit and even in some specifics to the ‘top 10 tips’ I posted before, some of which, of course, will show up on the new site.) My own instinct is that the tone of such a site will be at least as important as the content, and then after that what matters most is the organization: after all, it’ s not hard to find information on all of these topics on your own if you go looking. So my goal is not to create original content so much as an atmosphere that’s inviting and a structure that’s useful. That’s a project that plays to my strengths, at least based on my recent course evaluations: apparently I am both conspicuously enthusiastic and unusually well organized.

Middlemarch for Book Clubs: A Preliminary Outline


Getting Started

Tips for Success

Choosing an Edition

George Eliot






The ‘Woman Question’

Discussion Questions

The Big Picture

One Book at a Time



Electronic Editions of Middlemarch

Other Writing by George Eliot

Writing About George Eliot and Middlemarch

Other Related Resources


9 thoughts on “Middlemarch for Book Clubs: Update

  1. Colleen May 27, 2012 / 10:20 pm

    It seems sensible and sensibly straightforward to me!

    Do you imagine participating a lot in the Forum? On the one hand, I think readers would benefit greatly from your expertise…but any worries about being overwhelmed? Is that a naive question in a world in which books like The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Grey are the most widely read books?


  2. arawn eibhlyn May 28, 2012 / 12:06 am

    I have started “Middlemarch” a few times & set it aside. However, I have a new project for this year to read authors writing during the industrial revolution. Elliott is definitely on the list. Perhaps you have thoughts on her work in that context.


  3. Rohan May 28, 2012 / 3:35 pm

    That’s a good question, Colleen. I have no idea if anyone ever will actually visit or use the site, but I couldn’t imagine it without a forum of some kind that I would be involved in–at least to the extent that I reply to comments on this blog. If it ended up being too busy for me to handle, well, wouldn’t that be awesome, for one thing! And then who knows: other people might want to be involved as moderators or respondents of some kind.

    Arawn, perhaps I should add “Social” to my list of contexts there would be some information about. I don’t know if it makes sense to think about Eliot as someone who wrote during the industrial revolution (though I’m never sure when that exactly starts or ends) but certainly the timing of the novel itself makes it relevant. Thanks for the suggestion!


  4. JoVE May 28, 2012 / 5:32 pm

    I think prioritizing tone and structure is absolutely the way to go. If indeed you create a space so welcoming and useful that the forum gets busy I’m sure you will have some frequent users of the forum who you will be happy to invite to be moderators or mentors or some such and who will be pleased to be invited to take on that kind of role.

    Maybe you could put some kind of holding space under contexts for social or socio-economic. You are looking for links after all, and things might turn up. Or others might start to contribute ideas and whatnot to these various sections.


  5. Colleen May 29, 2012 / 9:24 am

    Hi again, I wonder if something about the novel’s structure and/or the history of the novel might be useful? I just wonder if some readers find Middlemarch overwhelming because of this. I don’t but I prefer a lot of “branches” in my fat books. This might be far too much work though.

    Also, yes, it would be fantastic if the forum was busy…I’d be happy to help out if it is. 🙂


  6. Ali May 29, 2012 / 11:20 am

    I would most definitely use this site, Rohan! I think this is such a great idea, and I think your outline looks very helpful. I read Middlemarch about five years ago, and I want to reread it within the next few years. Such a site would be helpful to me as I reread the book so that I have an improved understanding of it the second time around.


  7. Amateur Reader (Tom) May 30, 2012 / 11:38 pm

    This looks great already. Sort of the Norton Critical Edition adapted for more general use & taking advantage of being on the internet.

    Earlier I offered to edit your content, if that would be helpful. I meant proofread! What do I know about editing. But whatever you put up, I can – and will – read it carefully.


  8. Sarah May 30, 2012 / 11:42 pm

    I got through Middlemarch listening to an audiobook years ago, but the idea of a forum dedicated to it makes my heart like a singing a bird. (Although there may be a secret Casaubon-related part of me that wants other people to think Middlemarch is Mount Everest, so I can glory in my perspicacity in ranking it among my three favorite novels and loving it so much because of its layers and hidden themes.)


  9. Rohan June 1, 2012 / 6:50 pm

    Thanks, Tom! I’m also now planning a “Sources and Recommended Further Reading” page, and following Colleen’s suggestion, something about the history of the novel and its structure, though that might come in under ‘the big picture.’ When I actually start writing content, all help will be most welcome.

    Sarah, thanks for the encouragement about this project. Listening to the novel would post its own challenges, I expect, given how long the sentences sometimes are. But I know from reading it aloud myself that you hear the humor a lot better that way, too. And that reminds, me, then, that under my list of editions I should include audio books. I have never looked into what the options are for that, but now I will.


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