Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI)

Daniel Deronda and George Eliot’s Jewish Journey

Course Number


Study Group Leader (SGL)

Jeff Kichen


This course will take place virtually on Zoom. Participation requires a device (ideally a computer or tablet, rather than a cell phone) with a camera and microphone in good working order and basic familiarity with using Zoom and accessing email.

10-Week Course

Feb. 29 - May 9. No Class April 25.


In this course, we will read and discuss George Eliot’s most daring novel, Daniel Deronda, which addresses the role of women in 19th century Great Britain, the nature of marriage, class distinctions, and most controversially, the “Jewish question.” Regarding the latter, we will explore how Eliot, in writing to Harriet Beecher Stowe, wished to “rouse the imagination of men and women to a vision of human claims in those races of their fellow-men who most differ from them in customs and beliefs,” a highly relevant issue today. While we follow the intertwined fates of the novel’s two main characters, Gwendolen Harleth and Daniel Deronda, we will address the question posed by a 19th century Jewish European critic: “Who taught this foreign woman about the ways and lives of the Jews?” We will do so by reading and discussing excerpts from her letters and her Daniel Deronda Notebooks as well as consider the possible influence of her life companion, George Henry Lewes. We will also view the 2003 BBC-produced video Daniel Deronda and consider how the filmmakers adapted and appropriated Eliot’s novel. Towards the end of our course, we will consider the 19th century response to Daniel Deronda by both literary critics and the Jewish communities in Great Britain and across Europe. Then we will look at examples of late 20th and early 21st century criticism, including critics and proponents of modern Zionism. We will conclude our course with a discussion of Daniel Deronda’s relevance for today. 

Group Leadership Style

Roughly the same amount of lecture and discussion.

Course Materials

Required Books for Purchase:  The Cambridge Introduction to George Eliot, Nancy Henry, Cambridge University Press, 2008, ISBN:9780521670975. Daniel Deronda, George Eliot, Oxford University Press, 2014, ISBN: 9780199682867. Movie to View: Daniel Deronda, BBC Production, 2003. Other required readings will be posted on the class google website.

Preparation Time

I anticipate preparation time will average 3 to 3.5 hours per week, although the first two sessions will be around four hours.


 Jeff Kichen has been a BOLLI SGL since 2013. He has led BOLLI courses on the history of health care reform, the history of medicine; literature courses on Toni Morrison, George Eliot, Lafcadio Hearn; Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno, Reinhold Niebuhr, Professional Wrestling and Politics. He is currently Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Worcester. He co-edited the college text Advancing Health Through Education and was formerly Vice-President of Strategy and Planning for the Massachusetts Medical Society and Director of Health Care Policy at The Roche Associates.  He has degrees in public health and history.