English 159 - Winter, 2020

Topics in the Novel

    Topic: Victorian Serial Fiction

Class Information

Instructor: Hughes, William
CRN: 55333
Time: MWF 3:10-4:00
Location: 1116 Hart


    When Charles Dickens published The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club in 1836 he did not know that the serial form in which the text was issued would come to define an era of publishing. Serialized narratives issued on weekly, monthly, or quarterly schedules became wildly popular during the Victorian period. Many of the best-known Victorian novels were first issued as magazine installments, even though today we tend to read them in volume form and ignore the context from which they arose. Furthermore, these texts were being written as they were being published, and this affected their form and reception. For example, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dickens?s final novel, was left incomplete because he died after publishing only six installments of it. Additionally, serial novelists wrote with the serial interval in mind and often included a summary or a cliffhanger because of this publication method. In many cases it is necessary to understand the serial context of these novels in order to make sense of their form. In this class we will reconstruct the context for several Victorian novels by researching the periodicals in which they first appeared. Heart of Darkness, for example, first appeared in Blackwood?s Edinburgh Magazine, a monthly periodical that also published miscellaneous criticism, reviews, essays, and various kinds of fiction. We will read digital facsimiles of Blackwood?s in order to approximate the novel?s serial context. Throughout the term we will also be reading Middlemarch in the eight installments in which it was originally published, one installment every week or so. Simultaneously, we will be reading a number of texts that span the Victorian period. In addition to a final critical essay, and an analysis of a novel?s periodical context, students will complete a short case study of a single magazine installment, analyzing the paratexts, advertisements, and images that accompany the narrative.


    In-class writing
    Periodical Context Analysis Paper
    Single Installment Case Study
    Final Critical Essay


    The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens
    Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
    Middlemarch, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
    The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
    The Mysteries of London, George W.M. Reynolds