Middlemarch for Book Clubs: the beta launch

OxfordJust over a year ago, I got somewhat exercised over a news story claiming that Middlemarch is the kiss of death for book clubs. My annoyance was exacerbated by the number of links it got from other sources, which added up to quite the anti-Middlemarch buzz for a while.

My first response was a post on this blog that included a list of 10 tips to help book clubs that wanted to read Middlemarch but felt they could use a little support. In that post I also made a bold pronouncement: “I’ve decided, therefore, to put together an online site to encourage and support reading Middlemarch–whether in book clubs or on your own.” I was and am well aware that there’s no shortage of information about George Eliot and Middlemarch already available, but the work of finding and filtering with an eye to what might be useful and illuminating for book clubs (rather than, say, scholars) is not insignificant, and having relevant basics gathered in one place might — or so I thought and hope — simply be convenient.


At long last, I have a full (if not necessarily finished) version of that site now up for people to take a look at. As you’ll see if you visit it, it’s not a very fancy thing — it’s just a free WordPress site. I chose what I hope is a clean, easy-to-read theme and set up what seemed to me like simple but useful categories. At this point I feel very aware of what is not there (many more topics could be covered under ‘contexts,’ for instance) and also of how what is there reflects my own interests and idiosyncrasies as a reader and teacher of the novel. Depending on the response to this draft version, I could certainly end up adding more material. But I’m not sure I want to try to neutralize my own perspective: good discussions arise from encounters between different people’s minds, and I wanted the site to convey the sense that there’s a person behind it. That’s why I let myself be kind of chatty, including in the questions.

There are lots more excuses explanations I could offer for what I’ve done so far, but I think I’ll leave it at that for now. I welcome feedback, here or at the site, particularly from people who might some day — or have already — chosen Middlemarch for reading with their own book clubs!


10 thoughts on “Middlemarch for Book Clubs: the beta launch

  1. Amateur Reader (Tom) June 14, 2013 / 11:22 am

    First response, after poking around the new site: I want to read Middlemarch again!


  2. Rohan Maitzen June 14, 2013 / 11:50 am

    Ha – perfect! My work here is done! (If only…)


  3. Ali June 14, 2013 / 10:42 pm

    Thank you so much for developing this wonderful site, Rohan! What a treasure trove of information it is! I already perished it a bit and added several books about George Eliot to my amazon wish list! I want to reread Middlemarch next year, and I can’t wait to use this information.


  4. Ali June 14, 2013 / 10:43 pm

    Oops meant to write “perused it” not “perished it!”


  5. Rohan June 15, 2013 / 3:52 pm

    Thanks for the encouragement, Ali! One thing you might have noticed is that the links don’t consistently go to any one bookseller: I couldn’t decide how to handle this detail so mostly went to original publishers. For many people I know Amazon links might be most convenient: any opinion?


  6. Jeffry A. House June 15, 2013 / 5:20 pm

    Wow! You’ve included lots of amazing content there; thanks for doing all the work! Since my wife and I are–right now!–reading MM, I tiptoed around some of the later chapter discussion, but was much stimulated by the commentary about the earlier chapters, as well as your thoughts on The Woman Question and Ms. Elliot.

    I knew George Elliot included those epigraphs for a reason! We have to relate them to the chapters in which they appear! This is harder than it seems, though, so I propose a rule that Book Clubs must do this interpretive work, but individuals (and couples) are exempt.

    Again, thank you for doing this; I hope it helps thousands of readers to enjoy the novel more.


  7. Rohan June 16, 2013 / 10:36 am

    I’m so glad it looks useful, Jeffry! I puzzled over the issue of spoilers in the discussion questions — perhaps I should say specifically somewhere that I decided to assume people would go over them after reading each book.

    Sometimes I can’t figure out the connection for the epigraphs either — but I find even the exercise of wondering can be productive. At the very least, it’s nice not to just skip over them: often they are interesting bits in their own right!


  8. Simon Lavery June 17, 2013 / 2:40 pm

    Good luck with this admirable venture. I felt quite inspired by the material on your site to go back to MM, which I last read many years ago as an undergrad. Thanks for taking such trouble to put all the material together.


  9. Rohan Maitzen June 18, 2013 / 10:01 pm

    Thanks so much for your comment, Simon: if I’ve inspired you to go back to the novel, that’s inspiring for me!


  10. Ali June 27, 2013 / 12:49 pm

    Hi, Rohan. I think links to amazon would be best because I went to find the books there


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