Finding Middlemarch in Coventry is a new project led by Ruth Livesey and Redell Olsen, in partnership with Nuneaton Art Gallery and Museum (NMAG) and Culture Coventry (Herbert Museum & Coventry Archives), Dash Arts theatre company and Warwick Arts Centre.
During 2021-2022, this project will reimagine George Eliot’s radical artistic vision of ‘provincial life’ in the Midlands through collaborations with diverse communities as part of Coventry City of Culture. It will tell the story of Eliot and the ground-breaking literary experiment of her novel Middlemarch, published 150 years ago in 2021, with the people living in the city which it fictionalised.
The project will enable Livesey’s research on Eliot’s art of the everyday, and its problematisation of a provincial/metropolitan cultural divide in Britain, to reach new audiences through a series of co-produced outputs:
community archive workshops resulting in an online exhibition
Part-immersive theatre experience and part-mystery game ‘The Great Middlemarch Mystery’, devised by Dash Arts in collaboration with Ruth Livesey and working with community groups in Coventry
an experimental short film directed by Redell Olsen
More information about the partners and individuals involved can be found here.
The proposed activities address the needs of new non-academic partners identified during the course of the PI’s AHRC Leadership Fellowship (2019-20):
1) The development of a new George Eliot interpretation strategy by Nuneaton Art Gallery and Museum (NMAG) and Culture Coventry (Herbert Museum & Coventry Archives), for their extensive holdings concerning her life and work. This will change the story visitors to these institutions take away with them about Eliot and is a major long-term investment.
2) Innovative research-led content development complementing the Middlemarch strand of Coventry City of Culture led by Warwick Arts Centre.
Teaching George Eliot at secondary school level can be quite a challenge. Working with our partners the George Eliot Fellowship and local English teachers in the Midlands we’ve co-designed 12 lessons on George Eliot’s Silas Marner aimed at Y9 (13yr olds).
Our focus – thanks to the input of beacon teacher Wendy Lennon – is an enquiry question: ‘What is Community?’ Project Teaching and Research Associate, Colette Ramuz (an experienced secondary school head of English) has led the development of resources. The pack has been designed to build KS3 students’ analysis skills, to foster communication skills and, more specifically, to help prepare your students for GCSE English Literature Papers 1 and Paper 2. There are cross-curricular links with Art, History, Geography, RE and PSHE. The lessons have been designed with depth and detail to challenge top sets but are readily adaptable with alternative tasks for lower sets.
Individual lesson folders contains a 1 page outline Scheme of Work, a slide show for the class, and extracts from the text which form the focus of close work each session. Lesson 1 comes with a package of background notes on Eliot, her novella Silas Marner, and its contexts.
Thanks to the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, these resources are all free and open to reuse. We would also like to thank Simon Winterman, Allisha Miller, Wendy Lennon, Roberta Gillum, and the George Eliot Fellowship as well as Teacher Hub at the Department of English at Royal Holloway, University of London, for all their support.
We welcome feedback on these resources, how you plan to use them and what changes they make to how you approach teaching texts of this period. We will send a free copy of the DVD of the 1985 BBC adaptation starring Sir Ben Kingsley to the first 10 users who answer these four brief questions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also happy to share a single zip file for the scheme of work on request which we can’t do on WordPress – hence the multiple downloads!
How do you intend to use these resources?
Has this set of resources changed your thinking about approaching this text?
What might you do differently as a result of looking at these resources?
Will the approach taken in these resources change your teaching practice/planned teaching in any way?
Lesson 1: What is Community? Introducing George Eliot’s Silas Marner
Here you can read a piece I wrote for the project sponsors, the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It was great to have a chance to thank all the excellent partners I’ve been lucky to work with in Nuneaton.
This is the home page for the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded projects ‘Provincialism: Literature and the Cultural Politics of Middleness in Nineteenth-Century Britain‘ and ‘Finding Middlemarch in Coventry, 2021 – 2022‘.
In 2021-2022 we continue Eliot’s legacy as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of her novel ‘Middlemarch’, with public events in the year in which Coventry itself is UK City of Culture. Through our current project we will reimagine Eliot’s radical artistic vision of ‘provincial life’ in the Midlands through creative participation workshops and projects in Coventry including a collaborative online exhibition with Nuneaton Art Gallery and Museum and Coventry Archives, an immersive multi-location theatre experience with Dash Arts, and an experimental short film by Redell Olsen. Head over to our Events page to find out how you can get involved.
Provincialism: Literature and the Cultural Politics of Middleness in Nineteenth-Century
During 2019-2020 the project team explored how nineteenth-century writers defined English provincialism. We walked and mapped the countryside around Nuneaton, in North Warwickshire: a place made famous in the novels of provincial life by George Eliot. We brought new readers and writers to the legacy of George Eliot in her bicentenary year through talks, workshops, courses, and teaching packs. Our associated seminar series ‘Provincialism at Large’ featured literary scholars, political theorists, and art historians, working with graduate students to explore what provincialism and the depiction of provincial life meant to the Victorians in an age of imperialism.