Web Writing Project for Middlemarch

This assignment sheet for the students' web writing projects on Middlemarch, like that for their projects on Great Expectations, encouraged them to conceptualize their projects both collaboratively and hypertextually. With the experience of the shorter Dickens projects behind them, the students had an easier time selecting projects in terms of their potential interpretive relevance to the novel. Among the topics chosen were: inheritance laws, nineteenth-century medicine and medical education, the 1832 Reform Act, Eliot's feminism, the functions of the novel's epigraphs, the social impact of the railroads, and Henry Brougham and "useful knowledge." With such focused topics, students were able to conduct research more efficiently, finding the best and most relevant sources quickly. While they still struggled to bring their contextual information to bear on the novel in sustained interpretive analyses, they did a better job in this second project. More students also worked collaboratively on related topics and found connections between their work and that of others.

Over the next six weeks we will construct a Web for Middlemarch. Today we'll be talking about what the Web should contain, and while we'll use the structure of The Dickens Web as a model and a starting point, we will obviously want to customize our new Web for Eliot's novel. I've already asked you to be thinking about what you would like to do for your Middlemarch Web Project; a proposal is due next Monday. If you want to work on a topic similar to the one for The Dickens Web, that's fine.

This time, your writing project should add the equivalent of at least 10 pages of material to the Web, and it must incorporate outside sources (whether criticism, biography, history, letters, etc.). Once again, your project must involve textual analysis and interpretation and must be linked to other parts of the Web. For this project you also have the option of working with another person or other people. For example, if two of you decide to work together on the novel's representation of the Reform Bill debates of the early 1830s, one person could focus on obtaining historical information while the other looks for relevant literary criticism and biographical information. If four people were interested in Eliot's life and its relations to the novel, one might examine her "marriage" to Lewes and the novel's treatment of marriage, another might look at her religious views and the novel's depiction of religion, another might focus on the novel's use of science in light of Eliot's knowledge of science and Lewes's scientific work, while another might concentrate on Eliot's views about women and her own experiences as a woman in relation to the novel's female characters. The only restrictions here are that each person must write his or her own project, and each person's project must include analysis and interpretation of the novel. But knowledge and sources can be shared, research conducted jointly, connections established with others.

Your draft should be word processed and include the following:

  1. A physical description of the project. Put this on a separate page. Describe how many writing spaces you are creating and provide titles for them. If you are placing them within other, more general writing spaces, be sure to say so. You may also create writing spaces related to your topic that you do not intend to fill but that you think a member of a future class might want to.

  2. The material you have written for the project. This is the main part of the draft and should be at least 5 pages (the completed version of it will have to be at least 7 pages). Depending on how you've chosen to configure your material in the Web, this may be one document or it may be more than one. If you're doing more than one, be sure to keep them separate and to indicate clearly which document goes with which writing space. And remember, this material must include external sources of some sort.

  3. Description and explanation of any links within your material or between your material and that being added by someone else. Do this on a separate page or pages. This is not required, but I strongly urge you to do it; as you learn more about what others are doing, think of ways to connect your project with theirs. This should be especially easy for those of you working on related topics, like the various aspects of the depiction on women. The links should be substantive links that deal with content issues. Identify each as a basic link (connection of writing spaces) or a text link (connection of a piece of text to either another piece of text or a writing space); describe what is being linked to what; explain in what specific way(s) the link will affect a reader's understanding of all or part of Middlemarch. Such an explanation must refer to specific events and/or passages in the novel--general statements like "a reader will have a better understanding of, or greater background for, the place of education (or religion or the Reform Bill or the epigraphs to the chapters or whatever) in the novel" are not acceptable.

  4. A Works Cited list. Do this on a separate page. Entries should be complete and follow MLA format. In the finished project you will have to link the references in your writing spaces to their full citations in the collective bibliography.