Learning Objectives

To provide students with a deeper understanding of novelistic form; to introduce students to novel theory and think about its applications to specific texts; to improve students’ reading, writing, analytical, and research skills. 



Texts for Purchase

Middlemarch, George Eliot, Penguin Classics

  • PLEASE purchase the Penguin Classics edition of Middlemarch, so that we all share the same pagination. It will make our lives much easier.

Course Reader

  • The course pack is available for sale at AV & Reserve counter (Main Library, 1/F) at HK$214.00 per pack. Please make sure that your enrolment has been approved before purchasing the course pack. No refund can be arranged.




There will be three contact hours per week on Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. Although each session will include a lecture, much of the class will be run as a discussion seminar with students sharing their thoughts on that week’s assigned reading.

For each class, you will read a portion of the novel Middlemarch (usually around 90 to 100 pages) and one or two excerpts from a theoretical text (or, in some circumstances, excerpts from another novel). This is a class about the novel and novel theory – as with any class about novels, there will be a substantial reading load. You will learn a lot from this class and (I hope) enjoy it, but you should not take this class if you are not willing to read.




Class Participation and Attendance – 15 percent
Reading Quizzes – 10 percent
Short Presentation Paper/Blog Entry – 20 percent
Final Paper – 55 percent (including annotated bibliography, rough draft, reverse outline, and final paper)

Participation and Attendance
Students are expected to come to class prepared to participate actively in seminar discussions. Please arrive on time and prepared for each class by completing all the readings and be ready to share any relevant comments or questions. Students are expected to bring the assigned texts to class, so that we can analyze and refer to specific passages during class meetings. Students are expected to attend all seminar sessions. If you have four unexcused absences, then you will receive a barely failing grade for participation. If you have five or more unexcused absences, you will receive a grade of zero for participation. Legitimate excuses for missing a class or a deadline include serious illness, serious injury, and family tragedy, and require documentation. If you are absent, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed.

In addition to attendance, I will be tracking students’ lateness to class. Arriving late more than once or twice over the semester will affect your participation grade. If you arrive more than ten minutes late more than twice in the semester, each additional incident will be counted as an unexcused absence.

Class participation will be calculated based upon the following scale (with the use of + and – to reflect variations):

A – Student actively and fruitfully participates in class discussions and contributes original, thoughtful ideas and comments in class. Student demonstrates a full grasp of the assigned reading materials.

B – Student regularly participates in class discussions and demonstrates that he or she has read the assigned readings.

C – Student participates in class but may not do so regularly or may provide comments that are not quite to the point of the discussion. Student has read the majority of the readings.

D – Student rarely participates in class and appears not to have done most of the readings.

F – Student does not participate in class discussions and/or does not attend class. Student has not done the readings.

Reading Quizzes
There will be periodic quizzes to confirm students are reading the assigned pages in Middlemarch. These quizzes are not designed to trick or challenge you. You will score well as long as you have completed the reading in an attentive manner.

Short Presentation Paper/Blog Entry
Students are required to write and post one blog entry over the course of the semester. At the beginning of the semester, students will sign up for a week of their choice and will be responsible for posting their blog entry by Tuesday at noon. The blog entry will be no longer than 600-800 words and should raise a problem or a question about the reading for that week and then seek to answer that question through an analysis of a specific passage (no longer than 100 words) in one of the readings for that week. Students will be graded on the quality of their blog entry and their willingness to discuss it with their peers in class. Students not presenting are invited to read the response in advance of Tuesday’s class. (Please note: Depending on student enrollment, this assignment may have to be adapted.)

Final Paper
Students will write a final paper on Middlemarch that engages with at least two theoretical texts from class and two outside secondary texts. Students will go through an intensive drafting process before submitting their final paper, which will be 10-12 pages in length.
Late papers are excusable due to emergencies. If, for a compelling reason, you are unable to submit a paper on time, get in touch with me before the deadline (the earlier the better) to see if we can work out a different due date. Inexcusably late papers will be treated as follows: one day late results in the loss of two grade levels, which means that what would ordinarily be an A+ becomes an A-, etc.



Offce Hours

I can be reached by email at jvaldez@hku.hk or by phone at 3917 2754. I will hold office hours on TBA in Run Run Shaw Tower, Room 8.37, and I am also available by appointment.




This course will actively use Moodle; please check Moodle at least once per week to see the discussion questions for each week’s assigned reading.



Tentative Schedule(subject to change before semester begins)

Introduction: What is a Novel?
September 6 – Introducing George Eliot: Students will read excerpts from George Eliot’s “The Natural History of German Life” and Chapter VII of Adam Bede in class. There is no need to read in preparation for this first session.

The Form of the Novel
September 13 – Rise of the Novel?: Read up to p. 94 of Middlemarch, end of Chapter 10 (Book One); excerpts from Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe

September 20 – Novelistic Character: Read up to p. 191 of Middlemarch, end of Chapter 19 (Book Two); excerpt from Alex Woloch, “Minor Characters”

September 27 – Bildung and Coming of Age: Read up to p. 286 of Middlemarch, end of Chapter 30 (Book Three); excerpt from Franco Moretti, The Way of the World and a very short excerpt from György Lukács, The Theory of the Novel

October 4 – The “Baggy Monsters”: Read up to p. 377 of Middlemarch, end of Chapter 37 (Book Four); excerpts from Ralph Rader, “The Comparative Anatomy of Three ‘Baggy Monsters’: Bleak House, Vanity Fair, Middlemarch”; look at the website, Reading Like a Victorian, http://victorianserialnovels.org;

The Novel and Community
October 11 – The Dialogic Imagination: Read up to p. 473, end of Chapter 47 of Middlemarch (Book Five); excerpt from Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination

October 18 – Reading Week

October 25 – The Novel and the Nation: Read up to p. 570, end of Chapter 56 of Middlemarch (Book Six); excerpt from Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism

November 1 – The Political Unconscious: Read up to p. 662 of Middlemarch, end of Chapter 64 (Book Seven); read excerpt from Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious
* Final Essay Assignment Distributed in Class

November 8 – Gender and Sexuality: Read up to p. 750 of Middlemarch; excerpts from Eve Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire and Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction

The Novel and the World
November 15 – The Modernist Novel: Finish Middlemarch; excerpts from Henry James, The Art of the Novel and Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

November 22 – The Novel, Exported: Franco Moretti, “Conjectures on World Literature”
*  Annotated Bibliography Due in Class

November 29 – Toward World Literature: Eileen Julian, “The Extroverted African Novel”
* Rough Draft Due in Class (must be at least six pages in length)

Week of December 4 – Draft Consultations, by Appointment

* Final Paper Due on Monday, December 11 – hard copy to the School of English office and electronic copy on Moodle



Last updated: 29 August 2017