This summer, the Librarian at St. John’s University asked several faculty members to submit a paragraph about books that have been very influential in their lives. My thoughts have just been published on the St. John’s Library blog.
Here’s what I had to say:
One book I find myself returning to is George Eliot’s masterful Middlemarch. Written in 1871-2, this epic novel charts the years leading up to the passage of the First Reform Bill in 1832, which initiated sweeping changes in the political and social structure of Britain. Like all great literature, Middlemarch is a book to return to again and again. In different periods of my life I have been struck by different facets of this book. As a high school student, hoping to become a writer, I was amazed by the quality of the writing, the way that Eliot drew the reader into the age she depicted so vividly. In graduate school, while beginning to work on Victorian era philosophy of science, I took note of the way in which science, and the new knowledge burgeoning in the time, is both revered and feared by the characters. And most recently, when I reread the book after suffering the loss of a close family member, I was most drawn to another theme of the book: human relationships, and the way that passion can lead either to perdition or salvation.