Saturday, March 04, 2006

The gender question

Is Middlemarch a women's book?

Big question, I know, about which we may have plenty to say later, but I had to ask because: 1. It scores high as "women's watershed fiction" but less well if at all on general, male-dominated "best novels" lists, and 2. It seems we're all women here.

For the time-being, I am seriously interested in a show of hands on a more specific question: Do you know any men who've read Middlemarch (other than my friend David)? Do they like it or are they indifferent? Do they find it all "influential" as many women readers seem to?


Anonymous Danielle said...

Not having started it yet, I can't give an opinion on whether it is a "women's book". I was thinking it is sort of weird/maybe sad (?) that there seems to be "women's books" and then all other literature. You don't really hear "men's books"--well maybe when talking about someone like Clancy. But not in terms of "literature". I guess that is why she (and other women of the time) published as "George" Eliot?

10:07 PM  
Anonymous rachel said...

Regarding the idea of "women's fiction", who better to consult than George Eliot herself. Go read "Silly Novels by Silly Lady Novelists" when you have time. Here's a link:

I have a LOT of opinions about this novel as "women's fiction", but I can't give most of them here without really big spoilers. I will limit myself to saying that I believe this novel to be broad and humane in its scope.

Also: I don't think I personally know any men besides my father who have read it, and he had it read to him aloud. I have recommended it to my friend Josh, who is actually a well-disguised woman, I sometimes think. But I don't believe he has read it yet.

11:48 PM  
Blogger Isabella said...

Great link, Rachel.

I haven't had time to read it carefully, but I find it interesting that the first 4 chapters of Middlemarch seem to qualify it as a "silly novel" by the criteria Eliot puts forth in the first paragraph of that essay.

From what follows, it seems to me that silly are differentiated from non-silly by intent of the author, which readers may not be privy to, and effect on the reader, which authors may have little control over. Tricky. But more on this later.

Danielle: I know, the labelling is unfortunate. But how else to discuss the phenomenon? I know a dozen women who think highly of Middlemarch (life-changing for some) but no men. (Granted, this study sample of people I know may not be representative... — which is why I ask.)

9:18 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

Isa: well, they do, and they don't. Poor Dodo is going to hit her head on some pretty hard reality brfore very much longer, and... oh god why do I not shut up?!? Hm hm hm hm hm!

We need some kind of spoiler policy, since we're all reading at different rates.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Raehan said...

My English Professor, who I had a humongous crush on and was married, heterosexual, all that, loved Middlemarch. I think it was his favorite novel.

5:24 PM  

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