This is one of an occasional series in which majors read and report on recent academic work by professors in ETFL. Doing so allows students to explore professional opportunities and possibilities, as well as gain a better understanding of the work their professors do outside of the classroom.
Last summer Dr. Monika Brown did extensive research in order to present her essay “The Reception of Middlemarch: Two Generations of Victorian Reviewers,” at the British Women Writers Conference held at UNC Chapel Hill, in June 2017. Her essay delved into the contrast of how different generations reviewed and critiqued the novel Middlemarch by George Eliot. Keeping with her personality as a positive an upbeat person, Dr. Brown decided to only look into the positive reviews of the work, and succeeded in doing so. She believes that so much critique looks at the negative, therefore she wanted to only discuss the positive aspects.
Through her essay, one is able to see the different ways in which each separate generation viewed Middlemarch. The older generation, states Dr. Brown, “continued critical practices: critique of the plot, especially the ending; a “portrait gallery” of analysis of individual characters, especially Dorothea and Lydgate, with attention to verisimilitude, and examining the novel's moral theme, announced in Eliot’s prelude, about the relative importance to the individual’s fate of social conditions/determinism and individual choices” (2-3). The younger generation however, stated Dr. Brown, “Though they share the older generation’s interest in characters, realism, and moral insights... attend more to thematic unity, structural features, and literary art” (4).
Dr. Brown was inspired to develop this essay due to two major aspects. firstly, the British Women Writers Conference’s theme of “Generations,” and secondly, that this topic is one that she has worked on before and was able to extend her research due to new technologies, such as online journal articles and databases.
Dr. Brown’s favorite part of this process was the ability to take something from the past and revitalize it, as well as the opportunity to focus on positive critique. Dr. Brown’s dissertation piqued her interest into Victorian Periodicals, which lead to the composition of this article. This essay and research fits into the work she does here at UNCP due to the fact that Middlemarch is a novel that she has taught, it keeps her up to date on Victorian Literature, and relates to other scholarship. The most challenging parts of the process, Dr. Brown stated that in order to do this type of essay, she had to keep numerous amounts of information in mind at one time, as well as the difficult task of having to select what was most important to include into her essay.