not only Bleak House but even Peter Rabbit seemingly too long for a texting, tweeting, attention-deficit generation, Valerie Sanders scans her shelves for a lightweight literary canon and asks: condensed or skimmed?

When students have to pay higher tuition fees will they expect to read longer texts? This absurd, dreamy, Alice-in-Wonderland thought came to me in the middle of all our discussions recently about fee levels and student expectations, recalling a depressing memory of last year when only one student in a Thomas Hardy seminar had managed to get through The Mayor of Casterbridge. But, I reasoned, you’ve just had a three-week Easter break, and it’s not even a long novel! Their incredulous, despairing looks told me otherwise.

All Victorian novels are long, even The Mayor of Casterbridge. Did I not several years ago stop setting my favourite novel Middlemarch? Haven’t I sighed wistfully over Bleak House, but never taught it? Novels like this are just too long for busy people who have to earn money, manage partners and children, drink, blog, tweet and text.

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