George Eliot’s novella Silas Marner, the Weaver of Raveloe was central to the high school English curriculum in the United States for much of the twentieth century. Its status had risen during a period of cooperation between high schools and colleges about standards for admission to the latter at the end of the nineteenth century. Yet even after standardized tests had replaced it as a key to college admissions, Silas Marner remained in high schools to furnish an idealized image of education, in which a nonbiological parent successfully replaced unsuitable biological ones. Although the pedagogical moment that enshrined this work has passed, its history raises questions regarding the value of relevance in high school reading, the role of teaching aesthetic judgment, and the connections between high school and college teaching of literature.

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