Episode 22: Late Night Revelations and Trying to Understand Them

There are many reasons to do something important through the tried and tested method of pulling an all nighter. I really respect people that function in a competent manner in the am hours after the sunrise but I apparently do my best work before that moment. As my productivity levels need to increase like crazy in order to make taking comps this September a realistic goal I am considering becoming nocturnal once again much like I did durning thesis writing. Probably saving that trump card until mid April at least. Anyway, I prefer all nighters because of the one thing that no other method of writing/reading/studying has ever provided has given me. Fun fact: sleep deprivation at some moments gives the same effect of being high out of your mind. Now I’ve never taken any kind of drug beyond the prescription kind that has actually been prescribed to me, so I have no idea what being high or drunk feels like. What I do know is that every so often, all nighters suddenly lead to an awesome revelation. Apparently intellectual exhaustion summons my muse. Two pretty awesome quotes have come from said moments, both having to do with my research in serial fiction.

The first came after a long night of thesis chapter writing two years ago. During those months I would work from midnight to 6am on a fairly constant basis to then sleep until noon. After one such night I was getting a glass of water as my parents were getting their coffee. My mind wandered as my responses to their questions were simple and mostly monosyllabic. Then it suddenly hit me:

The serial remains in narrative flux until the final installment is published.

It sounded like brilliance collided with simplicity. It seems perfectly obvious now, especially if you have been cordial enough to hear my explanations on serial fiction and/or read this blog. But then I was starting out with all this research and friends and professors alike were doubting whether or not I could pull off the epic crazy fun thesis I had planned. The sentence illustrated my ideas perfectly. Anything can happen so long as the story has not finished. The author has powers that go beyond any kind of expectation that readers or logic could surmise. It becomes extra crazy with webcomics, where the entire narrative is often a one person operation with no editors or executives. Add in the point that one could technically make additional installments long after the final official chapter has been written means that the story is never over and closure can never really be achieved. I’m pretty sure that fans of something like Harry Potter are losing more sleep than myself thinking about how JK Rowling can write a sequel whenever the Hell she wants and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

A few days ago I had another such revelation after working on stuff with the URI Grad Conference. By the way, the conference is looking amazing and I hope that you local readers definitely go and help out. I actually got some sleep in when somewhere between rest and dream the following suddenly dawned on me.

The temporal nature of serial fiction and periodicals require a visual component (big headline, illustration, etc) that goes beyond the standard print format to make a more immediate and contrasting realization of the most recent installment.

I have been putting a lot of thought into how serials are multimodal/multimedia in nature. There is something extra that the standard novel doesn’t have. There is certainly a business aspect of having readers clearly see that this is not yesterday’s newspaper or last month’s comic or the previous installment in a poular book series. Again, this seems obvious and logical but it’s academic value lies when the serial version suddenly becomes compiled into novel format. You see, Victorian serials had illustrations as a fairly common part of the narrative. But if you ever peruse the classic literature section in your nearby library/bookstore you will rarely find the same works with any sort of image. You need to find the super authoritative defninitive critical edition to get the original illustrations from the serial version of each installment. Vanity Fair by Thackeray for example has really good illustrations, one of which did suggest that a character’s natural death was actually a murder, did not show up in the book version I saw. Only through crazy Internet stuff did I even get the idea to bring up the images in an MA class where we were studying the novel. Let’s see what inspiration brings us next.

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