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date: 24 November 2017

Serialization and Victorian Literature

Summary and Keywords

Serialization, a publication format that came to dominate the Victorian literary marketplace following its deft adoption by marketing master Charles Dickens in the 1830s, is a transcendent form. It moves across not only print formats and their temporal cycles of distribution (daily or weekly installments in periodicals, monthly part-issue numbers, volumes), but also historical time and place. The number and varieties of serial publications multiplied during the middle of the 19th century due to the improved technology of printing, the cheaper cost of paper production, and the abolition of taxes on advertising. Moreover, serialization continues to be a staple in popular culture today; the long-form serial on television may be the most obvious descendent of the Victorian novel issued in parts. The history of the Victorian serial in its many forms spans from its roots in the 18th century to its reconfiguration following the advent of radio, television, and the internet. The most prevalent accounts of the serial have focused on the economics of the literary marketplace and print culture including the sharp increase of periodicals at midcentury. In recent years, scholars have come to understand the serial as a reflection of historically specific concepts of time and space, as an important location of experimentation and collaboration, as a book technology that fosters critical thinking and active reading, and as an object of transatlantic, even global, circulation. New studies of serial forms include digital approaches to analysis, web-based resources that facilitate serial reading, and comparative work on 21st-century media that underscores the continued role of serialization to create imagined communities within cultural life.

Keywords: newspaper, part-issue publication, periodical, economics of publishing, temporality, synchronic reading, collaboration, transatlantic publication, Charles Dickens, digital humanities

Charles Dickens is the chief Victorian writer identified with the serial form; all fifteen of his novels were first published serially—nine in monthly part-number issues and six in weekly installments. While the number and varieties of serial publications multiplied during the middle of the 19th century due to the improved technology of printing, the cheaper cost of paper production, and the abolition of taxes on advertising, the serial form has a backstory. Seriality is a transcendent form, moving across not only print formats and their temporal cycles of distribution (daily or weekly installments in periodicals, monthly part-issue numbers, volumes), but also historical time and place. As explained by seriality scholar Mark Turner,

The terms “serial” and “serialization” suggest a range of complex genres, forms, and economic processes. Most basically, a “serial” is any publication that is published by design at regular intervals, of whatever periodicity, but research into serials takes many forms, with attention to specific literary forms/genres (serial fiction or poetry, monthly miscellanies, children’s magazines, etc.), material objects/commodities (a part-issue or number of a magazine, say), readerly experiences (in relation to gender and class, or familial reading, perhaps), and particular economic models for the publishing industry, authors and readers alike.1

The Iliad and The Odyssey as epics function as serial stories. And although Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) was not printed in serial form, the character’s journey through different stages of development from infancy to old age, with chapter breaks, is both an early bildungsroman and serial narrative.2 Defining the serial form in relation to portions of a larger whole—whether a novel or a poem or an essay series—issued in segments over time with enforced pauses, 18th-century British publishing offered an array of serials for readers to consume. These developed, over time, into the more regularized serial form commonly associated with the novels and periodicals of the Victorian era.

Serial History

Even before the 18th century, fiction, such as Don Quixote (1605–1615), appeared in newspapers.3 The Middle Eastern and Asian folk tales initially compiled in Arabic in the early 17th century under the title Arabian Nights were issued in English in Britain in the early 18th century through anonymous translations as the Arabian Nights Entertainment (1706). This story cycle is the serial form inside and out: Scheherazade depends on the essential serial ingredients of repetition, suspense, and pauses to stay alive by holding the sultan in her narrative thrall. It was publisher George Parker’s idea to serialize the stories in 445 installments in the 1720s in his newspapers, first in the London News and continuing the stories in the Penny Post. Three of the stories—including “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves”—are regarded as “orphan tales” or later narratives inserted into early English versions that were absent from the stories originally in Arabic. These “orphan tales” underscore seriality as a participatory format; printed parts, whether regarded as fragments or segments of wholes or perpetually deferred endings, invited sequels, rewritings, and other forms of engagement, especially appealing to women writers. Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot weave in many allusions to The Arabian Nights in their serial novels. And Dickens, as editor of Household Words in which he serialized Gaskell’s Cranford (December 1851–May 1853) and North and South (September 1854–January 1855), referred to her as “my Scheherazade.” David Brewer, writing about 18th-century fiction, uses the phrase “imaginative expansion” to characterize how readers viewed texts as both “fundamentally incomplete” and as “common property” so that any print material was part of a “fictional archive” inviting readers to continue the story.4

Seriality in the 18th and 19th Centuries

Part-publications of fiction flourished in the 18th century, even if the parts were not standardized into the formats of, say, Dickens’s twenty monthly parts of three or four chapters apiece, and instead a portion of a novel might break off mid-chapter, midparagraph, or even midsentence to fill the space in the newspaper or magazine. Many 18th-century novels like Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa (1748), with its epistolary form appearing in seventeen volumes, or Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1759–1767), which appeared in nine volumes, also make clear the variety, duration, and reach of seriality. Establishing a pattern that later Victorian magazines would capitalize on, 18th-century periodicals used serial novels to launch the publication and capture an audience; Thomas Smollett’s first installment of The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves (January 1760–December 1761) ran in the inaugural issue of British Magazine, and Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews appeared in All Alive and Merry (1748). The magazine format issued throughout the calendar year offered a print platform conducive to lengthy novels. Charlotte Lennox’s periodical The Lady’s Museum included, among an array of essays on history, science, and education, her own serialized novel Harriot and Sophia (March 1760–January 1761).5

Moving into the 19th century, the examples of serials increase and become more diverse. They include novel series, with the enforced breaks between discrete volumes, as in Walter Scott’s series of historical novels published from 1814 to 1832, dubbed the “Waverly novels” due to Waverly, the first to appear, in 1814. Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus, a satirical novel on contemporary criticism and philosophy, was first printed in serial form in Fraser’s Magazine in 1833–1834. Yet another genre, a nine-part biography of William Hogarth by George Augustus Sala, ran monthly in Cornhill Magazine (February 1860–October 1860), titled William Hogarth: Painter, Engraver, and Philosopher. All of these creative works, issued in segments, set the stage for the explosion of the Victorian serial novel.

The serial publication of Dickens’s Pickwick Papers (1836–1837) was a landmark in the history of Victorian novels published by numbers. Nearly all Victorian novelists initially published in serial format, either in stand-alone part issue numbers or as installments within magazines, with the volume versions coming alongside the final installments. A partial list of these novelists include Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Rhoda Broughton, Wilkie Collins, Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, H. Rider Haggard, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, William Morris, Margaret Oliphant, Anthony Trollope, H. G. Wells, and Ellen Price Wood. Even those novels not published serially are structured by this mode of a story with enforced breaks, such as Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

Two serialized novels take up the topic of women reading popular fiction, often published in parts and alleged by critics, like Thomas Arnold, to distract vulnerable wives and daughters from their domestic responsibilities. Arnold delivered a sermon in 1839 in which he charged that the want of seriousness in his students at Rugby was due to “the peculiar mode of publication” of serial novels printed “so cheap, and at regular intervals.”6 Another French serial, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1856–1857), pinpoints the immersive reading habits of Emma Bovary as partially responsible for her adultery, while Braddon’s The Doctor’s Wife (serialized monthly in Temple Bar in 1864), an Anglicized version of Flaubert’s novel, focuses on Isabel Gilbert’s voracious reading of romances and her confusion of imaginary characters with actual people in her life.

Of course, these Victorian novels circulated widely beyond Great Britain, sometimes pirated by publishers in other countries, most notably American serializations of Dickens’s novels, which appeared in multiple periodical venues from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine and Frederick Douglass’s Paper to regional newspapers such as the Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, which ran some installments of Little Dorrit before dropping the novel midstream.7 In Japan in the 1840s, serial novels appeared in English in circulating newspapers. The spread of the feuilleton serial (or “leaves” attached to newspapers) in France—such as Eugene Sue’s The Wandering Jew and Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, serialized in French newspapers in 1844—influenced a similar print format in Russia, where, to note only two examples, both Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1875–1877) and Feodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (1879–1880) were issued in newspaper installments. The same applies to American 19th-century literature with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin released in the abolitionist newspaper The National Era in installments over forty weeks in 1851–1852, and at the same time circulated in Britain in multiple formats including serials. The hefty print history of the serial form around the world, especially in the 19th century, makes clear its versatile mobility.

Although popular novels are most closely aligned with the serial format in accounts of 19th-century serialization, other genres appeared in this mode of publication including essays, biographies, and poetry. Nonfiction essays were serialized during the 19th century. Autobiographical accounts published periodically include Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, printed in two parts in the London Magazine (September and October 1821), and John Newman’s spiritual autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua in seven weekly pamphlets issued on Thursdays (April 21 to June 2, 1864), with an appendix as the eighth part (June 16, 1864). The shilling monthly Cornhill Magazine, with its first issue in January 1860, carried many big serial novels including Anthony Trollope’s Framley Parsonage (January 1860–April 1861),8 George Eliot’s Romola (July 1862–August 1863),9 Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters (August 1864–January 1866),10 Wilkie Collins’s Armadale (November 1864–June 1866), Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd (January 1874–December 1874),11 and Henry James’s Daisy Miller (June 1878–July 1878). At the same time, George Smith’s periodical also carried George Henry Lewes’s essays on natural history including Darwin’s theory of evolution, titled Studies in Animal Life (1860); Matthew Arnold’s essays on culture and aesthetics, Culture and Anarchy (1867–1868); and John Ruskin’s treatise in four articles on economics and social welfare, Unto This Last (1860). While conducting Belgravia, Mary Elizabeth Braddon ran a series titled “Sensationalism in Science” by R. H. Patterson from 1868 to 1869. While not a novel serial consisting of a continuing story with enforced pauses, these prose publications also encouraged readers to take in an argument or history in installments over a monthly or weekly schedule. Many periodicals had series on various topics that brought readers back for the next segment.

Poems too were issued in serial form. In the 18th century, James Thomson’s The Seasons capitalized on calendrical time with each volume printed a season at a time in consecutive years, although not in the order of the annual seasons: Winter in 1726, Summer in 1727, Spring in 1729, and Fall first issued in the complete volume in 1730. Narrative poems were especially suitable to the serial form given the publishing of a story in parts with regular interruptions. Lord Byron’s Don Juan was issued in installments with the first two cantos appearing in 1819 and the final cantos in 1824. Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, consisting of twelve narrative poems on the legend of King Arthur, was published in varied portions and printed in different ways, not always in the final sequence of the book form, from 1859 to 1885, as different parts were expanded or revised. Robert Browning’s verse novel, The Ring and the Book, comprising twelve “books,” was printed in four consecutive volumes in 1868 to 1869. Also a narrative long poem, The City of Dreadful Night, by James Thomson, appeared in four parts in the National Reformer from March to May 1874. Not a narrative but still informed by a structure of intervals, Tennyson’s elegiac In Memoriam, a cycle of over 130 lyrical poems lamenting the death of the poet’s friend Arthur Hallam and meditating on whether and how a life matters, chronicles the grief process through three years with the passing of each season.

Seriality and New Media

Changes in media technology shape the history of the serial, from periodical publications in the 18th and 19th centuries to the advent of radio, television, and the internet in the last century. Periodical publication, a dominant print format for all kinds of serials in the 19th century, continued through the next century. With a title that recalls one of Dickens’s magazine serials, Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin, which eventually spanned nine novels with stage and television adaptations, originally were serial installments issued in the San Francisco Chronicle from 1976 to 1983.12 Some 20th-century serials in the new media became known as soap operas because they were originally sponsored in the United States by soap companies. The Guiding Light, for instance, was backed by Proctor and Gamble when the series first aired on American radio in 1937, and then on television from 1952 to 2009. British versions of the soap-opera serial include EastEnders, which has aired on the BBC since 1985. In the early decades of television, series with self-contained episodes were common, like Amos ‘n Andy, which began as a nightly radio serial (1928–1943), followed by a weekly comedy (1943–1955) before its television adaptation (June 1951–April 1953).13 A few other examples of the episodic television series include I Love Lucy (1951–1957), Father Knows Best (1954–1960), Bonanza (1959–1973), and Perry Mason (1957–1966). Rather than a continuing, complicating narrative, these episodes could be watched alone without reference to what came before or after; only the characters and setting provided the continuity. While characters might grow and change and storylines expand in other ways, such as in sitcoms like All in the Family (1971–1979), these serials tend to function as discrete episodes without cliffhanger plot designs.

Also from the mid-1960s forward, there were other kinds of serials than those closed or contained episodes, such as Peyton Place (1964–1969), Dallas (1978–1991), and Dynasty (1981–1989), in which narratives and characters continue to evolve across episodes, but lack the suspenseful plotting familiar from Victorian serials and from some television serials that emerged at the turn of the 21st century. Known at first as primetime or evening soap operas, these serials were a hybrid or hinge between the episodic and the expanded narrative serials that have exploded across television and online subscription services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.

The long-form serial on television may be the most obvious descendent of the Victorian novel issued in parts. This intricately plotted serial narrative emerged on the American television screen with The Sopranos, which debuted in 1999 and ended in 2007 with its eighth season. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact timing of this new form of serial in popular culture, the year The Sopranos first aired coincided with the advent of Web 2.0, or the internet network that made possible a new kind of social and cultural media community. Unlike the earlier episodic series, this 1999 crime drama developed its lead character Tony Soprano over time and through his relationship with his psychotherapist as the plot twists around his domestic family including wife, son, daughter, and mother, and his criminal family of mobsters. The sequencing of the weekly installments and then the seasons set the stage for this new kind of television serial along with the plethora of cable networks in the early 21st century. Most often compared to the Dickens multiplot novel is HBO police drama The Wire (2002–2008); several scholars have written about the similarities.14 Given the operations of suspense bolstered by the serial form, it is not surprising that police and crime dramas have taken advantage of television serialization like Broadchurch (2013–), The Killing (2011–2014), or Top of the Lake (2013).15

The television serial, as elaborate interlocking episodes of a continued story, like Mad Men (2007–2015), where police drama is not the focus, still take advantage of the unfolding over time to craft intricate characters with shadowy backstories or developing attributes. Treating television serials like the literary form can yield some surprising results, such as Sean O’Sullivan’s analysis of The Sopranos with its “sonnet season” of approximately fourteen episodes with the volta or dramatic turning of the plot line occurring around the eighth or ninth installment, much like the shift in the fourteen-line Petrarchan sonnet form.16 Innovations with serialization for nonprint media continue with Serial, a podcast that tells a true story, focusing around a disappearance or controversy, over the course of the season.17 One of the most singular experiments with the serial form on television was HBO’s In Treatment in which each half hour weekday segment follows the therapist Paul Weston’s session with the client with a Monday, Tuesday, and so forth appointment. In the first season, once Laura, whose sessions aired on Mondays, discontinues therapy, no episode appears on that day, as the serial form blurs internal and external time.18 These new developments around serialization also speak to different ways of theorizing or conceptualizing the serial project.

Theorizing the Serial

Why is Vanity Fair so long? Why is War and Peace such a “baggy monster”?19 Why is David Copperfield a “great fat book”?20 Undeniably there is a connection between serialization and narrative length, and a common explanation has been the economics of serial publishing. Dickens’s novels are so long and windy, the story goes, because he was paid by the word. For this reason, the story continues, he wrote as many words as he could. There is some truth in this explanation. Serial publication in the wake of Dickens’s Pickwick Papers was lucrative—for both authors and publishers—creating a tight relationship between the marketplace and Victorian literary output. The economic analysis is just one of many ways to theorize the serial, however. In recent years, scholarship has expanded in order to theorize the serial as a reflection of historically specific concepts of time and space, as an important location of experimentation and collaboration, and as an object of transatlantic, even global, circulation.

Serial Publishing and the Marketplace

Serialization, particularly as practiced by the master marketer Dickens, was a major watershed moment in book publishing. Book historians have demonstrated the close relationship between dividing a novel into installments, lowering the purchase price, and the proliferation of new readers during the 19th century.21 Bill Bell notes, for example, that the serial emerges in the 1830s as “a low capital, high yield commodity.”22 Roger Hagedorn extends this when he asserts that serial narratives were “the ideal form of narrative presented under capitalism” due to their ideological alignment with “a social system which perpetually defers desire in order to promote continued consumption.”23

Serialization also fueled the development of periodicals. Fiction had been serialized in daily provincial newspapers in France, in feuilletons, since 1836.24 In England, Scotland, and Ireland, general-interest magazines such as Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Dublin University Magazine, Fraser’s Magazine, and Bentley’s Miscellany had been providing readers with serial fiction sporadically since the 1820s and consistently since the 1840s.25 By the 1860s, magazines disseminated installments of novels on a monthly or weekly basis, served as advertising organs for the major publishing houses, and supplied a burgeoning literary market with new readers. This new generation of magazines included Dickens’s own Household Words, as well as Temple Bar Magazine, Belgravia, St. Paul’s Magazine, and Cornhill.26 The result, according to Laurel Brake, was an economy of print in which the same work could be sold multiple times. Serialization served as a method of pre-publishing the same work that would be sold again in volume form.27 This system continued to operate well after the close of the Victorian period, although the purely economic benefits of serialization ceased to be a motivating factor. Modernist writers denounced the aesthetics and market-driven orientation of the previous generation, but continued to bring out new works, such as James Joyce’s Ulysses, by installment within “little magazines” and to circulate serialized versions of existing works, such as Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas, in the periodical press.28

In tangible ways, the commercial aspects of serialization created the reading masses that Wilkie Collins memorably referred to as “The Unknown Public.”29 According to Collins, who analyzes a sample of penny-novel periodicals in his essay, “[a]ll five are sold at the same price of one penny; all five are published regularly once a week; all five contain about the same quantity of matter. The weekly circulation of the most successful of the five, is now publicly advertised (and, as I am informed, without exaggeration) at half a Million.” While Collins is not a trained economist, it is not accidental that his sentence yokes together the purchase price of “one penny” and the huge number of readers, “half a Million.” Moreover, as Collins describes his investigation into the identity and proclivities of this “unknown public,” he reinforces the connection between serialization and the demands of the marketplace. Shopkeepers selling penny periodicals pitch their wares in terms of quantity, not quality. “What a lot of print for the money!” they exclaim, in order to make the sale.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon adopts the same discourse in relation to new readers—and writers—when introducing a sensation author in her serialized novel, The Doctor’s Wife (1864):

Sigismund Smith was the author of about half-a-dozen highly-spiced fictions, which enjoyed an immense popularity amongst the classes who like their literature as they like their tobacco—very strong. Sigismund had never in his life presented himself before the public in a complete form; he appeared in weekly numbers at a penny, and was always so appearing; and except on one occasion when he found himself, very greasy and dog’s-eared at the edges, and not exactly pleasant to the sense of smell, on the shelf of a humble librarian and newsvendor, who dealt in tobacco and sweetstuff as well as literature, Sigismund had never known what it was to be bound. He was well paid for his work, and he was contented. He had his ambition, which was to write a great novel; and the archetype of this magnum opus was the dream which he carried about with him wherever he went, and fondly nursed by night and day. In the meantime he wrote for his public, which was a public that bought its literature in the same manner as its pudding—in penny slices.30

Like Collins, Braddon, dubbed the Queen of the Circulating Library, acknowledges a pronounced nexus among serialization, the cost of fiction, and a new reading public.31

Close ties among serialization, mass media, and capitalist ideology emerged again in the 21st century. Web-based subscription services that provide serial installments for electronic devices, such as Mousehold Words or Daily Lit, keep the literary market healthy by promoting mass literacy. Introducing Victorian-style serial reading to 21st-century readers, the editors at Mousehold Words underscore the historical connection among the low cost of serial installments, “steady income” for authors, and “steady readership.”32 The current publisher of Daily Lit, which purchased the flourishing start-up company in 2013, follows closely in the footsteps of its Victorian predecessors, as it quickly moved from free content to a model that includes fee-based access to serialized fiction by emerging writers.33 In a similar partnership, media company Pandora’s acquisition of the right to distribute a popular podcast, Serial, saw an immediate rise in its stock prices.34 This podcast had logged more than 100 million downloads in November 2015. The widely watched HBO television series The Wire (2002–2008) has been analyzed as an experiment in “capitalist realism.”35

The Time and Space of Serialization

Economic analyses of serialization have tended to denigrate the literary qualities of the resulting works by foregrounding the crass forces of the marketplace and emphasizing the serial’s role as a “cheap luxury” that reinforces middle-class capitalist ideology.36 However, the application of alternative theoretical frameworks for understanding serialization reveals the value of serial works as significant cultural artifacts with sophisticated and innovative narrative strategies that invite complex meditations on time and space.

Writing on the serialized fiction of the 18th century, Tom Keymer notes that the authors of Clarissa, Sir Launcelot Greaves, and Tristram Shandy “ingeniously exploited [serialization] as a creative as well as commercial resource.”37 The distribution of the massive epistolary novel Clarissa via installment created suspense while also enhancing a sense that events and characters unfold and develop over time. In Smollett’s hands, serialization became an instrument of wit, as “chapter breaks become determinate units of time as well as space, and opportunities for the manipulating novelist to procrastinate, withhold, and frustrate.”38 Sterne engaged deeply and directly with the temporality of serialization in Tristram Shandy. As Keymer notes, “the duration, phasing, and interruption of the reading” are essential to fully experiencing the power of this comic novel of excess.39

Serialization continued to invite meditations on time and space in the Victorian period. In The Victorian Serial, a groundbreaking study, Linda Hughes and Michael Lund argue that the temporal qualities of serialization in the Victorian period mirror that era’s attitudes toward time. These attitudes were complicated, for “time at once contracted and expanded” during this era as a result of technological innovation, on the one hand, and geological discovery, on the other.40 Moreover, as Gillian Beer has demonstrated in Darwin’s Plots, the geological record, itself, produced competing understandings of time. For uniformitarians such as William Whewell and Charles Lyell, the geological record supported a theory of evolution through slow and incremental change. In contrast, proponents of natural theology, such as William Paley, argued that only catastrophic events such as floods, earthquakes, or other major disruptions originating from divine forces could explain the earth’s history.

Publication by installment captures a dual rhythm of limited parts and extended story. According to Hughes and Lund, the serial took sides in this debate, despite the tension within its form. The slow development of a novel over a significant period of time, often nearly two years, mirrored a widely accepted narrative of “personal development” over the course of one’s life.41 Moreover, the seemingly steady serial promoted a comforting uniformity and served as a “model of steady, continuous, consistent development rather than abrupt, cataclysmic, revolutionary change.”42 Formally, Victorian serialization tended to reinforce a deeply held belief in the consistent forward march of progress on both micro and macro scales, although recent scholarship in the age of mass digitization of periodicals has suggested the existence of many “unruly” or irregular serials.43

While Victorian serialization modeled for readers a linear pathway into the future, its practice in the periodical press simultaneously provided a “sideways” model of synchronous reading.44 According to Hughes, a culture of serialization promoted “interactivity” among texts, as multiple novels were simultaneously published in parts over time and editors arranged intertextual connections among fiction, nonfiction, and the news of the day. Today’s readers can experience synchronous reading of “stacks” of serialized fiction via the website “Reading like a Victorian,” a digital humanities project curated by Robyn Warhol. The period from 1864 to 1866, for example, provides a “stack” that includes Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? in part issues, Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend in part issues, Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters in the Cornhill, and Collins’s Armadale also in the Cornhill.45 Serials, when viewed in this temporal frame, create a vast network of interlinked texts full of latent possibility as individual readers forge individual connections within these “stacks.” Accordingly, they follow the same premise that Jerome McGann, author of Radiant Textuality, has applied to other texts; they “contain within themselves, as it were, multiple versions of themselves: not just many meanings, but many (often divergent and even contradictory) lines of possibility and development that appear to us (perhaps) only in latent or relatively undeveloped forms (for various reasons).”46

Scholarly projects that explore synchronous reading underscore the ways in which serialization serves as a site for theorizing both temporality and spatiality. Serialization of texts—whether fiction, poetry, or essay—creates a liminal, in-between space that straddles the material world, on the one hand, and a reader’s imaginative world, on the other. The 18th-century periodical, for example, was deeply imbricated with coffeehouse culture.47 Similarly, many periodicals of the 19th century adopt the spatiality of the Victorian city.48

Some Victorian periodicals adopted the spatiality of the city in obvious ways. It was common, for example, to name London periodicals after physical landmarks in an effort to brand them. Westminster Review, established in 1824, invoked the aura of London’s cultural elite. St. Paul’s Magazine, edited by Anthony Trollope, situated itself by association under the shadow of the cathedral and in the center of town.49 Temple Bar, edited by George Augustus Sala, established its location at the gate to the city, proudly proclaiming itself “a London magazine for town and country readers.” Operating with the same logic, Belgravia adopted the name of a fashionable residential neighborhood and championed writers of “light literature” such as Mary Elizabeth Braddon in order to sell a particularized lifestyle and identification with an elevated socioeconomic status.50 Cornhill, edited by William Makepeace Thackeray, identified with an urban financial district in town and cultivated a readership of those who fancied themselves more serious. Strand Magazine, which featured Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series, also sought to connect its virtual space with a physical counterpart on the London map. Other periodicals, such as Illustrated London News and London Society, identified more generally with the city itself.

What emerges from the periodicals’ blending of material and imaginative registers (a blending of “fact” and “fancy,” in Dickens’s idiom) is a theoretically complex and distinctively hybrid space. Serialization creates a static material structure comprising regularly published part issues. However, it also invites readers to dynamically inhabit and navigate this structure, which is just one part of a larger network of texts. This embedded duality creates a hybridity that destabilizes typical binary structures that would oppose the material and the imagined worlds, or the author and the reader, or fiction and nonfiction. In this way, the serial resembles Michel Foucault’s heterotopia, a space that “juxtapose[es] in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible,” or Homi Bhabha’s elusive “third space,” an intermediate, liminal, hybrid space that is “neither here, nor there.”51

Indeed, the formal qualities of serialization, whether present in edited periodicals or part-issue novels, have been described as both “open” and “closed.” According to Margaret Beetham, writing specifically of Victorian periodicals, the serial form is rigidly structured, or “closed,” in important ways.52 There is a pre-set number of pages in each installment or issue of a journal, for example, and a fixed schedule for publication. Writers were accordingly required to write a particular number of words each week or month, and shape installments for that format. At the same time, serialization incorporates distinctly “open” qualities. Because a text continues over time, with enforced interruptions, it is necessarily fluid. Serial fiction is experienced by readers who are simultaneously exposed to historical events and the vagaries of everyday life. When readers repeatedly oscillate between the world of a serialized text and their lived experience, the boundaries between the two become permeable. As Susan David Bernstein has theorized it, in relation to the psychoanalytic concept of transference, “the serial form itself encourages the back-and-forthness of transference and countertransference, just as these regular pauses and returns also shape our own affective oscillations between fiction and the world.”53

Serial Collaboration

Perhaps this permeability, and the resulting destabilization of hierarchical frameworks, accounts for the distinctively collaborative qualities of serialization. As Catherine Delafield has demonstrated in Serialization and the Novel in Mid-Victorian Magazines, this form invariably involves the cooperation of many individuals: writers, illustrators, editors, compositors, printers, and even readers. Certainly any reading endeavor prompts some collaborative meaning-making, as readers engage with a text, but the potential for collaboration is heightened in the case of serials, which interrupt immersive reading and thereby set the stage for interactive moments. One way to see the collaborative nature of serial publication is to consider the multiple “paratexts” surrounding an individual work, the editorial features that shape our understanding and interpretation of content.54 Victorian serials, whether published in stand-alone part issues or within periodicals, typically include prefaces or other elements of contextualization controlled by the editor or publisher, as well as distinctive typography that shapes one’s interpretation of the content. To give one example, Thomas Hardy’s novel The Return of the Native (1878) feels like a sensation novel when serialized in Belgravia because of the editorial reputation of that periodical, its luxurious typography, and the sensational qualities of the companion articles. When read today as a single-volume book with a different constellation of paratexts, such as an academic press and academic footnotes, the same story emerges as tragedy.55

Another key moment of collaboration involves illustration, widely recognized as a key feature of Victorian serialization. Dickens’s watershed serial Pickwick Papers, for example, began with a series of illustrations. It later grew into the novel that fostered Dickens’s fame. A subsequent illustrator for Dickens, George Cruikshank, famously claimed that he should be given credit as the coauthor of Oliver Twist.56 Dickens’s characterization of Fagin, Cruikshank argued, originated with his illustration and not the other way around. Print-culture scholars Mary Elizabeth Leighton and Lisa Surridge have written extensively on the importance of illustration to serial fiction, providing a theoretical framework for understanding the many relationships that an illustration might have to the text. According to Leighton and Surridge, Victorian serial illustrations play a variety of roles. They can be “proleptic, anticipating the events of the letterpress to come . . . or analeptic, referring to a previous scene in the letterpress; repetitive, representing similar but different scenes; iterative, representing habitual or repeated action; extradiegetic, representing scenes that do not appear at all in the letterpress; or even interpictorial, referring to other illustrations in the text or in other print media.”57 This range of function suggests meaningful collaboration, as illustrations work to augment and modify the experience of reading serially.

While the collaboration of readers is ephemeral (taking place mentally during the experience of reading), and the collaboration of illustrators is complementary, the open-ended nature of serialization also leads to actualized collaboration. It is well known that Richardson, Dickens, and Trollope all modified aspects of their novels in response to comments by members of the serial-reading public. Direct collaboration occurred, as well, when an author died before completing a novel. The editors of the Cornhill stepped in with closing words when Gaskell died before completing her serialized novel, Wives and Daughters. Similarly, Walter Besant became coauthor of Collins’s novel Blind Love when Collins died in medias res. Perhaps most famously, hundreds of readers sought to “solve” The Mystery of Edwin Drood when Dickens died after writing only half of the anticipated twelve installments. In each of these cases, the temporal exigencies and openness of the form created a need for collaboration.

“Imagined Communities” and Global Circulation

The rhythm of serialization, with its strictly controlled access to ongoing installments, created a vibrant community of readers in the Victorian era. Periodicity turned reading into a shared pastime by synchronizing the consumption of texts. Monthly publication created a space between serial installments, which allowed the exchange of speculation about the unfolding story as well as an opportunity for reviews of individual installments. The highly publicized “Magazine Day”—the day when new monthly serials were released to the public—created a distinct cultural event, and “[r]eaders of a serial publication, no matter where they lived, could feel connected with others and in tune with the rhythms of Paternoster Row.”58 Thus, Laurel Brake explains, “Magazine Day” became a bonding event, and “the regularity and public nature of these issue days created numerous and large communities of readers, all of whom were reading the same publications at roughly the same time all over the country.”59

The circulation of serials also helped to form transnational communities with shared cultural touchstones. Americans were famously eager to learn the fate of Dickens’s Little Nell, and waited at the docks for installments of The Old Curiosity Shop to arrive from England.60 The common practice of near-simultaneous serialization of British novels in American periodicals further cemented a sense of shared literary culture. American readers, for example, had access to serialized installments of Dickens’s Bleak House in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine and Frederick Douglass’s Paper from April 1852 to December 1853.61 Similarly, Collins’s The Moonstone appeared in Harper’s just one month after it appeared in All the Year Round (January 4 to August 8, 1868), and Hardy’s The Return of the Native appeared in Harper’s just one month behind its appearance in the London magazine Belgravia (January to December 1878).

Finally, as Benedict Anderson has persuasively argued in Imagined Communities, print material, particularly newspapers, participated in the work of creating a sense of national identity during an age of empire.62 Expanding on this point, English serial novels circulated the globe in this cheap format, due in part to the absence of international copyright laws until the end of the 19th century, creating a sense of shared experience among British subjects living in India, Australia, Canada, and southern Africa.63 Readers in Australia shared the experience of Little Dorrit in the Melbourne Leader in 1856, and Collins’s The Moonstone in the Queenlander beginning in July 1869.64 Dickens’s Great Expectations made its way to South Africa, appearing in the Eastern Province Herald of Port Elizabeth from March 5, 1861, until its discontinuance due to legal action.65 In this imagined community, readers would “never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.”66

Serial Studies in the 21st Century

Technological advances, particularly in the area of digital studies, have enhanced our understanding of Victorian serialization and opened up new questions for further analysis. In the wake of Franco Moretti’s advocacy of “distant reading,” a radical alternative to the traditional method of close reading, scholars have begun to experiment with quantitative tools. A study of Dickens and Eliot by Susan David Bernstein and Catherine DeRose, using data derived from a computer-assisted text-analysis program called Docuscope, has suggested perceptible and quantifiable differences between the rhetorical strategies used in weekly and monthly serialization. Monthly serials written by Dickens are more likely to focus on character, this study found, whereas weekly serials by Dickens spend more time “positioning readers temporally, spatially, and concretely within the story world.”67 Digital tools have similarly been used by Katherine Bode in her study of Australian serial literature, Reading by Numbers: Recalibrating the Literary Field. Bode’s digitally enhanced analysis of the online archive, AustLit, clarifies the relationship between serialization and the publication practices of local Australian authors.

Growing recognition among media scholars of seriality as a dominant cultural practice in the 21st century has similarly fostered historical, theoretical, and comparative work on serialization.68 While John Plotz has cautioned scholars to maintain “a healthy suspicion of any claim that too easily seems to discover in the work of a previous era the exact precursor or exemplary analogue of a current media form,”69 the correspondences between Victorian serialization and television dramas such as The Wire or Game of Thrones or In Treatment invite continued study of this publishing form.70 Jennifer Hayward initially noted the resemblances between Dickensian serial installments and the ebb and flow of soap operas in Consuming Pleasures. Discrete narrative patterns within television serials of the 2000s identified by David Auerbach in “The Cosmology of Serialized Television” prompt further comparison with Victorian studies of plotting in the long-form serial narratives of Dickens, Gaskell, Trollope, and Thackeray.71 What are the affinities between Auerbach’s “steady-state” or episodic model and Pickwick Papers (April 1836–November 1837) or Cranford (December 1851–May 1853)? What similarities exist between his “expansionary” or unresolvable model and the classic Victorian “baggy monster,” or Trollope’s massive novel series, or famously unfinished serials such as The Mystery of Edwin Drood (April to September 1870) and Wives and Daughters (August 1864–January 1866)? And what intriguing links might we forge between Auerbach’s “big crunch” model, with its emphasis on a coherent ending that weaves together all plot strands, and the narrative structures of long-form realist novels such as Bleak House (March 1852–September 1853) or Vanity Fair (January 1847–July 1848)? Rather than render Victorian serials a quaint ancestor in the media world, these studies have revitalized interest in the form, as demonstrated by the proliferation of (neo)Victorian digital projects and blogs such as The Drood Inquiry, the Serial Experience Project, Reading Like a Victorian, and Serial Readers.

The ubiquity of serialized storytelling in 21st-century mass media, foregrounded by the wildly successful podcast Serial, demonstrates the continued role of serialization to create imagined cohorts within cultural life. Contemporary serial drama, like the 19th century’s serial fiction, grants its viewers “access to a communally shareable imaginative world.”72 These spaces are not physical, but instead “imagined space, both literally and within society, in which series were/are believed to be consumed.”73 Importantly, seriality as a form is at the heart of this community, and the airing of new episodes, according to schedule, creates an updated version of Magazine Day. Although it is now possible to wait until the end of the season and immersively watch all episodes, serial consumption is the locus of their cultural dominance.74 As Janina Rojek perceptively notes in her study of serialization and cultural hierarchies, even today,

series are discussed and received against the backdrop of other series (of similar genres, or the same station), past and present, creating an insider discourse of the teleliterate. In order to be up-to-date for the “watercooler talk,” viewers have an interest in watching series simultaneously with their broadcasting, rather than wait for serial boxes to appear, which still keeps up the serial structure as a structuring concept in everyday life and connects viewing practices with hierarchization processes. The idea of the “watercooler talk” presupposes that viewers take an interest in discussing series amongst each other as insiders and in the community as viewers of “quality” programs.75

As Rojek and others have underscored, seriality has emerged in the first decades of the 21st century as a “trans-epochal phenomenon.”76 Principles of narrative anchored in the long-form serial narratives of the Victorian era continue to emerge in various mass media, offering novel ways to understand temporality and history, to forge communities, and to encourage active reading or viewing of literary and cultural texts.

Discussion of the Literature

Much of the scholarship on serialization attends to the ways in which this form embodies notable shifts in the cultural landscape and connects the serial form to historical and social contexts. Richard Altick’s seminal study, The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800–1900 (1957), provides a firm foundation for subsequent studies. The Victorian Serial (1991), by Linda K. Hughes and Michael Lund, connects the serial form to fundamental values of Victorian culture including the dominant narrative of progress. The 1993 essay collection Serials and Their Readers, 1620–1914, edited by Robin Myers and Michael Harris, provides an overview of the economics of serial publishing. Much of this work adopts an interdisciplinary perspective, often tied to the history of the book and Victorian studies. For example, Laurel Brake lays out a theoretical framework for studying serialization that can be applied not only to fiction, but also to history, science, art, music, and theology in her book Print in Transition, 1850–1910 (2001). Mark Turner’s extensive work in this area, including his essay “Telling of My Weekly Doings: The Material Culture of the Victorian Novel” in A Concise Companion to the Victorian Novel (2005), examines the social experience of serialization in relation to various serial rhythms and the duration of periodicity. In The Reenchantment of Nineteenth-Century Fiction: Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, and Serialization (2005), David Payne argues for the Victorian serial as a symbol of modernity. These sources are particularly useful as tools to expand our understanding of 19th-century publishing practices and the intersection of print culture and daily life.

Within the field of serialization studies, there is a well-developed body of scholarship dedicated to particular authors. Dickens’s serialized novels have been extensively explored in terms of narrative structure and cultural impact. Robert L. Patten explains in the essay “Publishing in Parts,” in Palgrave Advances in Charles Dickens Studies coedited with John Bowen (2006), how this format influenced Dickens’s own narrative art, his relationship with readers, and his fame. Hughes and Lund have produced similar scholarship on Elizabeth Gaskell in Victorian Publishing and Mrs. Gaskell’s Work (1999). Prolific serial writer Anthony Trollope is the focal point of Mary Hamer’s Writing by Numbers: Trollope’s Serial Fiction (1987) and Turner’s more recent Trollope and the Magazines (2000). In a similar vein, Carol Martin has studied the impact of serialization on the works of George Eliot in George Eliot’s Serial Fiction (1994).

Although less attention has been paid to poetry in the developing body of scholarship on the Victorian serial, articles have been published on serial poems. Hughes has analyzed seriality in the work of Robert Browning in her 1989 article, “Of Parts and Periodicity: Robert Browning and Victorian Serials,” and Geoffrey and Kathleen Tillotson analyzed Tennyson’s Idylls of the King as a serial poem in a chapter of their 1965 book, Mid-Victorian Studies.

While many scholars have been interested in serialization from a historical perspective rooted in politics, economics, and culture, or in connection with a particular author’s oeuvre, others have delved into the formal aspects of serialization as holding a very specific relationship with time and space. Tom Keymer, focusing on 18th-century novels, has been interested in periodicity and the ways in which enforced pauses allowed experiments with form. Turner’s 2002 article, “Periodical Time in the Nineteenth Century,” explores synchronicity as well as disparate temporalities as serials are printed and consumed. Hughes and Robyn Warhol have each explored the concept of synchronous reading through the respective concepts of “sideways” reading and reading in “stacks.”

Studies of serialization within the context of Victorian periodicals have underscored the collaborative elements of this publishing format. Catherine Delafield’s Serialization and the Novel in the Mid-Victorian Magazines (2015) stresses the ways in which writers, illustrators, editors, readers, and others all contribute to constructing the serial text. The relationship between serial publication and illustration has been studied in more extensive detail by Philip Allingham, Patten, Mary Elizabeth Leighton, and Lisa Surridge. In “Robert Barnes’ Illustrations for Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge as Serialised in The Graphic” (1995), Allingham develops the concept of visual telegraphing. Similarly, Patten argues in “Serial Illustration and Storytelling in David Copperfield,” a chapter in The Victorian Illustrated Book (2002), that illustrations visually mediate reading. Leighton and Surridge have elaborated theories of visual plotting and applied them to specific novels such as The Moonstone and Wives and Daughters.

Serialization as a global phenomenon is a topic of interest within the field, too. Maria Adamowicz-Hariasz has written about the roman-feuilleton and the transformation of the 19th-century French press in her essay within the 1999 edited collection Making the News: Modernity and the Mass Press in Nineteenth-Century France, edited by Dean De la Motte and Jeannene M. Przyblyski. Similarly, David Coward has discussed the roman feuilleton and the growth of popular fiction in France in his 2002 book, A History of French Literature: From Chanson de Geste to Cinema. Alexander Stern has written on the German counterpart, as well, in his essay “The Art of Thinking in Other People’s Heads,” published in the Winter 2017 issue of Humanities. Moving to a transnational context, J. Don Vann and Rosemary T. VanArsdel’s edited collection on Periodicals of Queen Victoria’s Empire (1996) explores the circulation of British novels in India, Australia, Canada, and southern Africa. Graham Law’s Serializing Fiction in the Victorian Press (2000) also touches upon the topic of global exchanges. Most recently, Lauren Goodlad has expanded this area of research in her book The Victorian Geopolitical Aesthetic (2015), particularly in the final chapter, “The Mad Men in the Attic: Seriality and Identity in the Narrative of Capitalist Globalization.”

Correspondences between the literary landscape of the mid-19th century and the landscape of new media in the 21st century have produced a large number of cross-disciplinary and transhistorical studies. As early as 1997, Jennifer Hayward’s research in Consuming Pleasures juxtaposed three distinct serials—Dickens’s novels, comic strips, and television soap operas—to examine different dimensions of time-sharing communities of readers or viewers. Warhol extended this line of inquiry for serialization by theorizing affect in Having a Good Cry: Effeminate Feeling and Pop-Culture Forms (2003). Since that time, there have been numerous studies that expand the connections between contemporary media and Victorian studies, including a special issue of RaVoN dedicated to “Television for Victorianists” and guest edited by Caroline Levine (April 2013). Bruce Robbins, Sharon Marcus, Lauren Goodlad, Caroline Levine, and Sean O’Sullivan have all written on the television series Mad Men. Frank Kelleter has written on the popular serial The Wire and its paratexts in Serial Agencies: The Wire and Its Readers (2014). In Complex TV (2015), Jason Mittell has added to this body of scholarship by theorizing the pleasures of complex serial poetics.

Digital humanities projects that intersect with serial studies have burgeoned. James Mussell discusses the impact of digitization on the field of serial studies in his 2012 book The Nineteenth-Century Press in the Digital Age, using as an example the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition. Susan David Bernstein and Catherine DeRose have written of the usefulness of a computer-assisted text-analysis program called Docuscope in the work of understanding serial fiction. Finally, projects such as Warhol’s Reading Like a Victorian website encourage the practice of serial reading in an effort to better understand the impact of this publication format on the experience of reading.

Further Reading

Allen, Rob, and Thijs van den Berg. Serialization in Popular Culture. New York: Routledge, 2014.Find this resource:

Altick, Richard. The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800–1900. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Brake, Laurel. Print in Transition, 1850–1910: Studies in Media and Book History. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, U.K.: Palgrave, 2001.Find this resource:

Brake, Laurel, Aled Jones, and Lionel Madden, eds. Investigating Victorian Journalism. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, U.K.: Macmillan, 1990.Find this resource:

Delafield, Catherine. Serialization and the Novel in Mid-Victorian Magazines. Farnham, Surrey, U.K.: Ashgate, 2015.Find this resource:

Hayward, Jennifer. Consuming Pleasures: Active Audiences and Serial Fictions from Dickens to Soap Opera. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997.Find this resource:

Hughes, Linda K., and Michael Lund. The Victorian Serial. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1991.Find this resource:

Jordan, John O., and Robert L. Patten. Literature in the Marketplace: Nineteenth-Century British Publishing and Reading Practices. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995.Find this resource:

Law, Graham. Serializing Fiction in the Victorian Press. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, U.K.: Palgrave, 2000.Find this resource:

Mittell, Jason. Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling. New York: New York University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Mussell, James. The Nineteenth-Century Press in the Digital Age. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.Find this resource:

Myers, Robin, and Michael Harris, eds. Serials and Their Readers, 1620–1914. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Turner, Mark. Trollope and the Magazines: Gendered Issues in Mid-Victorian Britain. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, U.K.: Macmillan, 2000.Find this resource:

Vann, J. Don, and Rosemary T. VanArsdel, eds. Periodicals of Queen Victoria’s Empire. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.Find this resource:


(1.) Mark Turner, “The Unruliness of Serials in the Nineteenth Century (and the Digital Age),” in Serialization in Popular Culture, eds. Rob Allen and Thijs van den Berg (New York: Routledge, 2014), 17.

(2.) Linda K. Hughes and Michael Lund note, in The Victorian Serial (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991), that more Victorians read Pilgrim’s Progress than any other book besides the Bible, and that even the church calendar year has a serial structure. The Victorian Serial, 5.

(3.) Nicholas Seager, “The Novel’s Afterlife in the Newspaper, 1712–1750,” in The Afterlives of Eighteenth-Century Fiction, eds. Daniel Cook and Nicholas Seager (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 111–132. Seager includes many of the examples below.

(4.) David Brewer, The Afterlife of Character, 1726–1825 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 2.

(5.) See Katie Lanning, “Volatile Forms: Publication and Publics in the Contentious Eighteenth Century” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin, 2016). Lanning’s third chapter focuses on Lennox’s The Lady’s Museum.

(6.) Quoted in Hughes and Lund, The Victorian Serial, 2–3. Hughes and Lund point out that Arnold’s criticism came shortly after Frederick Marryat’s Phantom Ship had completed its seventeen installments in New Monthly Magazine, the completion of the serial run of Nicholas Nickleby, and in the midst of the periodical publications of Thackeray’s Catherine in Fraser’s Magazine and Harrison Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard in Bentley’s Miscellany.

(7.) All twenty part numbers of Bleak House appeared in Frederick Douglass’s Paper, in weekly installments, from April 1852 to December 1853. Douglass also issued his own novel, The Heroic Slave, in his periodical. See Daniel Hack, Reaping Something New: African American Transformations of Victorian Literature (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017).

(8.) Framley Parsonage is the fourth of the six novels in Trollope’s series Chronicles of Barsetshire. This serial version included illustrations by John Everett Millais.

(9.) Frederic Leighton’s illustrations accompanied the serialization of Romola.

(10.) George Du Maurier provided an illustration along with an ornamental design of the initial letter of the opening chapter for each installment of Gaskell’s novel. Although Gaskell died in November 1865 before the final parts were published, she had written them even if she did not revise or approve the copyedited version. Interestingly, Gaskell typically wrote without chapter divisions, let alone serial parts.

(11.) Helen Paterson was the illustrator for this novel’s serialization.

(12.) A Tale of Two Cities was serialized from April to November 1859 in the weekly periodical All the Year Round, edited by Dickens.

(13.) The original radio series was created, written, and portrayed by two white men, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, although the story focused on two older black men from Georgia who move to Chicago; the adaption for television provided the first series of roles for African American actors. The NAACP launched a protest over racist characterizations, which eventually led to the cancellation of the series.

(14.) See Noah Berlatsky, “‘The Wire’ Was Really a Victorian Novel,” The Atlantic, September 10, 2012, Web; Jasper Schelstraete and Gert Buelens, “‘This Game is Rigged’: Dickens, The Wire, and Money,” Dickens Quarterly 30.4 (December 2013): 288–298; Patrick Jagoda, “Wired,” Critical Inquiry 38 (Autumn 2011): 189–199; and Caroline Levine, “The Wire,” in Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), 132–150.

(15.) Broadchurch is a British crime serial originally airing on ITV and then BBC America; The Killing was originally developed from a Danish series that began in 2007; Top of the Lake, set in New Zealand (season one) and Australia (season two), was aired on BBC 2 in the United Kingdom, on BBC UKTV in New Zealand and Australia, and the Sundance Channel in the United States.

(16.) Sean O’Sullivan, “Broken On Purpose: Poetry, Serial Television, and the Season,” Storyworlds: A Journal of Narrative Studies 2 (2010): 59–77.

(17.) Serial comes from the creators of the popular PBS show This American Life, which, however, is a series of stories, but not a serial per se as Serial clearly is. The program form makes manifest how we apprehend even current events in parts as they unfold in real time.

(18.) The first season of In Treatment aired in 2008 in the United States. It was based on the Israeli serial Be Tipul, with its first season in 2005. There have been adaptations on Czech, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese, and Argentinian television.

(19.) Henry James, “Preface,” in The Tragic Muse (New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1908), x.

(20.) Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, ch. 16.

(21.) See, for example, Richard Altick, The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800–1900 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1998); Laurel Brake, Print in Transition, 1850–1910: Studies in Media and Book History (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, U.K.: Palgrave, 2001); Norman Feltes, Modes of Production of Victorian Novels (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986); and Robert L. Patten, “Serialized Retrospection in The Pickwick Papers,” in Literature in the Marketplace: Nineteenth-Century British Publishing and Reading Practices, eds. John O. Jordan and Robert L. Patten (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 123–142.

(22.) Bill Bell, “Fiction in the Marketplace: Towards a Study of the Victorian Serial,” in Serials and Their Readers 1620–1914, eds. Robin Myers and Michael H. Harris (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1993), 125–144, here 125.

(23.) Roger Hagedorn, “Technology and Economic Exploitation: The Serial as a Form of Narrative Presentation,” Wide Angle 10.4 (1988): 4–12, here 12.

(24.) Interestingly, this practice of syndication did not catch on in England or the United States until the 1870s. Charles Johanningsmeier, Fiction and the American Literary Marketplace: The Role of Newspaper Syndicates in America, 1860–1900 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 48–50.

(25.) For an extensive discussion of the development of serial fiction within Blackwoods, see David Finkelstein, Print Culture and the Blackwood Tradition (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006).

(26.) For additional examples with full page facsimiles, see Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition, a digital humanities project sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Birbeck, University of London, King’s College London, the British Library, and Olive Software.

(27.) Brake, Print in Transition, 88–89.

(28.) Eric Bulson, “Ulysses by Numbers,” Representations 127.1 (Summer 2014): 1–32; Naomi Black, “Women Must Weep: The Serialization of Three Guineas,” in Editing Virginia Woolf: Interpreting the Modernist Text, eds. James M. Haule and J. H. Stape (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, U.K.: Palgrave, 2002), 74–90. See also Sean Latham, “Serial Modernism,” in A History of the Modernist Novel, ed. Gregory Castle (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 254–269.

(29.) Household Words 18 (August 21, 1858): 217–222. For a detailed analysis of the “relation between a form of publication and the growth of a reading public,” see Brake, Print in Transition, 94–95.

(30.) Mary Elizabeth Braddon, The Doctor’s Wife (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 11–12.

(31.) Statements within the periodical press in this time period confirm that the character of Sigismund Smith is representative and not exceptional. For example, Philip Quilbert wrote in an article in the January 1869 issue of The Galaxy,

So it turns out that serial-novel writing has become a regular branch of the literary calling, and even a distinct profession in itself. . . . Hundreds of writers are engaged in this calling, and turn out their novel per annum as regularly and methodically as a builder builds a house, haply planning all at the first, but developing it day by day, instead of bringing it before the public at one stroke. Literature too . . . has grown to wear more of a business or commercial aspect than in days gone by (132).

Janina Rojek’s article “Previously on the Quality Debate: Serialization and the Continued Practice of Cultural Hierarchization,” COPAS—Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies 15.1 (2014): 1–19,

This passage is quoted in here 14.

(33.) “DailyLit, Plympton Join Forces,” Publishers Weekly (February 13, 2013), Web.

(34.) Trey Williams, “Pandora Snags Exclusive Rights for Popular Serial Podcast,” (November 2, 2015), Web.

(35.) Leigh Claire La Berge, “Capitalist Realism and Serial Form: The Fifth Season of The Wire,” Criticism 52.3–4 (Summer/Fall 2010): 547–567; See, also, RaVoN 63 (April 2013), Web, a special issue on “Television for Victorianists” guest edited by Caroline Levine.

(36.) Feltes, quoted in The Victorian Serial, 4.

(37.) Tom Keymer, “Reading Time and Serial Fiction Before Dickens,” Yearbook of English Studies 30 (2000): 34–45, here 36.

(38.) Keymer, “Reading Time and Serial Fiction Before Dickens,” 43.

(39.) Keymer, “Reading Time and Serial Fiction Before Dickens,” 45.

(40.) Hughes and Lund, The Victorian Serial, 5.

(41.) Hughes and Lund, The Victorian Serial, 5.

(42.) Hughes and Lund, The Victorian Serial, 6.

(43.) Mark Turner, “The Unruliness of Serials,” 11–32.

(44.) See Linda K. Hughes, “SIDEWAYS! Navigating the Material(ity) of Print Culture,” Victorian Periodicals Review 47.1 (Spring 2014): 1–30.

(46.) “IVANHOE: A Game of Critical Interpretation,” Romantic Circles (December 2004), Web.

(47.) Brian William Cowan, “Mr. Spectator and the Coffeehouse Public Sphere,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 37.3 (Spring 2004): 345–366.

(48.) Hughes, “Sideways!,” 2.

(49.) For an extended treatment of this point, see Mark Turner, “Periodical Time in the Nineteenth Century,” Media History 8.2 (2002): 183–196.

(50.) Cynthia Bandish, “Bakhtin’s Dialogism and the Bohemian Meta-narrative of Belgravia: A Case Study for Analyzing Periodicals,” Victorian Periodicals Review 34 (Fall 2001): 239–262, here 239.

(51.) Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics 16.1 (Spring 1986): 22–27, here 25; Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994).

(52.) Margaret Beetham, “Towards a Theory of the Periodical as a Publishing Genre,” in Investigating Victorian Journalism, eds. Laurel Brake, Aled Jones, and Lionel Madden (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, U.K.: Macmillan, 1990), 19–32.

(53.) Susan David Bernstein, “In Treatment with George Eliot,” RaVoN 63 (April 2013), para 2.

(54.) Gérard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

(55.) Julia McCord Chavez, “The Return of the Native as Transatlantic Sensation; or, Hardy Sensationalized,” in Transatlantic Sensations, eds. Jennifer Phegley, John Cyril Barton, and Kristin N. Huston (Farham, U.K.: Ashgate, 2012), 239–256.

(56.) George Cruikshank, The Artist and the Author (London: Bell and Daldy, 1872).

(57.) Mary Elizabeth Leighton and Lisa Surridge, “The Transatlantic Moonstone: A Study of the Illustrated Serial in Harper’s Weekly,” Victorian Periodicals Review 42.3 (Fall 2009): 207–243, here 210. For additional analysis of Victorian serial illustration, see Mary Elizabeth Leighton and Lisa Surridge, “The Plot Thickens: Toward a Narratological Analysis of Illustrated Serial Fiction in the 1860s,” Victorian Studies 51.1 (Autumn 2008): 65–101.

(58.) Michelle Allen-Emerson, “On Magazine Day,” BRANCH collective.

(59.) Brake, Print in Transition, 88.

(60.) Christoper Flynn, Americans in British Literature, 1770–1832: A Breed Apart (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2008), 9.

(61.) Daniel Hack, “Close Reading at a Distance: The African Americanization of Bleak House,” Critical Inquiry 34.4 (Summer 2008): 729–753, 732.

(62.) Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 2006).

(63.) J. Don Vann and Rosemary T. VanArsdel, eds. Periodicals of Queen Victoria’s Empire: An Exploration (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996).

(64.) Graham Law, Serializing Fiction in the Victorian Press (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, U.K.: Palgrave, 2000), 75.

(65.) Mary Hammond, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations: A Cultural Life, 1860–2012 (Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate, 2015), 153.

(66.) Anderson, Imagined Communities, 7.

(67.) Susan David Bernstein and Catherine DeRose, “Reading Numbers by Numbers: Digital Studies and the Victorian Serial Novel,” Victorian Review 38.2 (Fall 2012): 43–68, here 56.

(68.) Rojek, “Previously on the Quality Debate,” 1; John Plotz has argued, similarly, for understanding “serial TV as a dominant cultural form” (“Serial Pleasures: The Influences of Television on the Victorian Novel,” RaVoN 63 (April 2013), para. 16).

(69.) Plotz, “Serial Pleasures,” para. 30.

(70.) Bernstein argues, for example, that the experimental serial format of HBO’s In Treatment “encourages our transference between internal and external temporalities” in much the same way that George Eliot’s Victorian serials controlled temporality to create “an affective experience that moves back and forth between [fiction and life].” See, “In Treatment,” paras. 3, 10, 11.

(71.) Auerbach’s categories include “the steady-state” or episodic model, the “expansionary” or unresolvable model, and the “big crunch” or ending-focused model. David Auerbach, “The Cosmology of Serialized Television,” The American Reader (2013), Web.

(72.) Plotz, “Serial Pleasures,” para. 8.

(73.) Rojek, “Previously on the Quality Debate,” 5.

(74.) The term “binge watching” was coined in 2013 and replaced “marathoning” for immersive television viewing made possible by new recording platforms. Heather Freeman’s “Binge-Watching and Addicted Reading: Serial Forms as Consumer Discipline” (presented at the American Comparative Literature Association conference on March 18, 2016) traces this shift from athletic to eating disorder metaphors.

(75.) Rojek, “Previously on the Quality Debate,” 15.

(76.) Rojek, “Previously on the Quality Debate,” 16.