Episode 37: Reading Lists with Explanations

So today I put the final finishing touches (for now) on my reading lists. What you see here is exactly what I sent to my professors because I am too tired to make any distinguishing differences. Be warned, this is about 15 pages of text. Yay academic progress.

Reading Lists #1 Contemporary Serials
    The following texts serve as the best examples of serial fiction over the last fifty years in each medium. They are chosen not only because of my own interest and familiarity with these works but because they best illustrate the serial reading experience and the effects of particular installments on the rest of the narrative. Each of these texts are subdivided under different media, each with their own justification.
Webcomics: Microserialized digital graphic narratives offer a connection between author and reader that few other media can replicate. Often a one person operation, there are fewer layers of interpretation when it comes to narrative production, as compared to the director, producer, writer, editor, actor of something like a film. Webcomics may well be the most common form out there today of serial fiction on the digital landscape. While there are thousands of potential webcomics to explore, Rich Burlew’s Order of the Stick is the best example of a continuous story being told for almost a decade. With 850 comics online (as of today and more being updated) divided over 4 books, two print only prequels, another book of extras, and several PDFs alongside other ancillary texts that are all canon within the work, there is enough material to go over.
Comics: One of the more interesting dichotomies in the average reader’s reception of comic books and comic strips is that they are always the same thing while at the same time being too complex and riddled with backstory for new readers to jump in and understand the plot. Superhero comics are quite easily the most accused of this perception. Frank Miller’s Batman serves as both a reboot to the narrative to give it a new beginning but also serves to redefine the Caped Crusader’s character into already running storylines in different continuities. The events of Year One were originally published in DC Comics Batman #404-407. Alan Moore’s Watchmen is a self-contained story originally published in twelve installments but is now more commonly seen and sold as a graphic novel divided into twelve chapters. Many twists and shocks during the serial reading but as a single text the effect is lost. Brian Walker’s book is huge and covers a variety of comics, both in newspaper strip and comic book format, and how they have been developed throughout the years.
Films: Reboots, reimaginings, sequels, prequels, and other variations of installments are quite common in the film industry. Out of the many movie franchises possible, the best example is the Star Wars series. Originally a standalone film, it wasn’t until years after hitting theaters that the first film was retitled as Episode 4: A New Hope. New editions of the original trilogy have altered sequences in controversial ways, such as the infamous reedit so that Han did not shoot first, and digitally replacing old Anakin Skywalker with Hayden Christensen’s portrayal at the end of Episode 6. The prequel trilogy was one of the most anticipated films in the history of cinematography and have a mixed a reception. Rumors of a third trilogy depicting what happened thirty years after the fall of the Galactic Empire ebb every so often in the fandom as well.
Web Serials: Outside of webcomics, other forms of digital serials are developed around the Internet. Horror author Stephen King published several books originally as magazine serials and decided to do the same in a digital format with The Plant. Other forms, like blogs, videos, redubs, and fan fiction are fairly common but these are more difficult by which to discern a clear overarching example.
Print Books: The biggest selling book series of all time as of now clearly shows how contemporary serials still have the same effect even in the traditional print medium. The seven books that make up the Harry Potter brought an entire generation of readers to come together and discuss the texts as they came out and wonder collectively what would happen in upcoming installments. It was both a literary and cultural phenomenon. Interestingly enough, the actor’s portrayal in the film version actually inspired the author to change the characters themselves to better fit these versions, even though the first film came out as she had already finished the fourth book.
Graphic Novels: Often erroneously considered as the fancy and serious term for comics, graphic novels are much longer than the traditional comic book and both fall under the umbrella term of comics aka graphic narratives. The basic analogy for proper depictions is as follows: Comic book is to graphic novel as short story is to novel. Art Spiegelman’s Maus is perhaps the most famous and respected graphic novel after winning the Pulitzer award. While only the first part won the prestigious prize, the second part is just as compelling, to the point that it both installments are often bundled up and sold as The Complete Maus. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman contains multiple volumes but I am only focusing on the first three to show how varied the work can become and yet still maintain serial cohesion. The first volume Preludes and Nocturnes, ran as the first eight installments of the comic book series. Volume two The Doll’s House was published as a standalone novel that worked as a direct sequel while the third one Dream Country is a collection of short stories.
Television: Except for a few one part made for tv movies, most programming provides some sort narrative being told over several installments. Of all the television shows available, 24 provides the unique ability to depict the narrative in “real time” as one hour of the show was a very literal 60 minutes of what the characters were going through over the span of a 24 hour day. Perhaps more interestingly is that only the first twelve episodes of the first season were finished by the time the show started airing, a practice that was continued throughout subsequent seasons. Thus, there is a window for fan reception to shape the upcoming episodes that are being made. 1. Burlew, Rich. The Order of the Stick: Don’t Split the Party. Philadelphia: Giant in the Playground, 2009. Print.
2. —. The Order of the Stick: Dungeon Crawlin’ Fools. Philadelphia: Giant in the Playground, 2005. Print.
3. —. The Order of the Stick: No Cure for the Paladin Blues. Philadelphia: Giant in the Playground, 2006. Print.
4. —. The Order of the Stick: On the Origin of PCs. Philadelphia: Giant in the Playground, 2005.
5. —. The Order of the Stick: Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales. Philadelphia: Giant in the Playground, 2011. Print.
6. —. The Order of the Stick: Start of Darkness. Philadelphia: Giant in the Playground, 2007. Print.
7. —. The Order of the Stick: War and XPs. Philadelphia: Giant in the Playground, 2008. Print.
8. Frank Miller. Batman: Year One. New York: DC Comics, 2005. Print.
9. Alan Moore. Watchmen. New York: DC Comics, 1986. Print.
10. Brian Walker, Comics: The Complete Collection.
11. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
12. Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones
13. Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
14. Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope
15. Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back
16. Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi
17. King, Stephen. The Plant.
18. J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
19. —. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
20. —. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
21. —. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
22. —. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
23. —. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
24. Art Spiegelman. Maus I.
25. —. Maus II.
26. Neil Gaiman. The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes.
27. Neil Gaiman. The Sandman Volume 2: The Doll’s House.
28. Neil Gaiman. The Sandman Volume 3: Dream Country.
29. Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran. 24: Day One.
Reading List #2 Critical Theories
The following list contains the primary texts that explain the critical theories that I use to bring into academic context the works from my other lists. Since many of my readings are multimedia and multimodal in nature, a multidisciplinary approach is best suited for this type of study using a variety of critical theories and theorists. Here are the primary theories alongside an explanation as to how each fits within the spectrum of my other reading lists.
Narratology: The key distinction between a narrative that is serial in nature and one that is episodic is the fact that the former contains an overarching story throughout its installments. To better trace how the story itself changes as it is published, the fundamentals of narratology provide a solid foundation. Tzvetan Todorov, founder of narratology, places its roots in structuralism and places that rules must be maintained throughout the story, something that Mieke Bal further elaborates on in her work. Gerald Prince continues this tradition and introduces how the reader becomes more important as a narratee. More contemporary explorations of narratology, like James Mitell and Marie-Laure Ryan, will specifically refer to terms like “narrative continuity” that are used in popular culture to explain classical print texts and contemporary films and television programs alike. It is within broad narratological analysis that I study serials and the stories they present. Regardless of media, or time of publication, serials often follow similar narrative strategies or tropes to maintain the interest of the reader in between installments and other tools of the trade to tie together and fix parts of the story that contradict something that has already been published. The balance between cliffhangers, filler, and the delay of narrative closure is something that was first developed by Victorian authors in their serials and this struggle has been adapted and continues today with more contemporary forms.
Textual Criticism/Editorial Theory: This theory works directly with the figure of the author and the search for both the intended and the authorial text. Preambled by the seminal works by Barthes and Foucault on this subject, the author loses mysticism but remains an important purveyor of meaning. The field is often divided into two camps. One has the authorial/first edition text as its priority and disregards secondary texts by the author, as seen by the studies of Jerome McGann. The other area favors the intended text and looks through every ancillary and additional text by the author to find authorial intention. The latter perspective is the one on which I focus, following the works of critics like George Thomas Tanselle and Peter Schillingsburg. Additional information like that found in DVD commentaries, blogs, and other forms of social media are standard practice amongst the authors of contemporary serials and is intended to be read alongside the actual text. Letters and reviews by Victorian authors served the same function centuries ago and are now compiled and used in the creation of authorial versions of their texts. Works of serial fiction often have two very distinct forms, the separate published installments and the compilation of them in one book. The former works as the intended text to be read with enforced interruptions, while the latter is more authoritative, since it contains various edits of minor and major mistakes from the original publishing. Both in contemporary and classical serials, the serial reading experience has a very limited window in which readers can participate in, and attempts to be replicated in the authoritative/annotated version. The distinctions and similarities of both versions regardless of medium is explored in John Bryant’s The Fluid Text and shows how the serial version of a text can be defined as its first edition, though I relate it closer to what he calls a “circulating draft”.
Media Specific Analysis: Also known as Media Studies, this critical theory serves as an umbrella term for the analysis of each medium, like tv studies, film studies, etc. Since my work focuses on different serial works representative of each medium, media specific analysis is a must for this work. The distinction between the digital and analog/traditional print and the “limits” of each is one of the major points of study within this critical theory. Janet H. Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck was one of the first works to explore how new technologies could reimagine the reading of a classical work. Though her ideas are considered farfetched even by today’s standards of technology, her book has inspired many to follow suit and analyze how the medium of publication affects narrative output and reader reception. New Media critics like N. Katherine Hayles and Jay David Bolter analyze how writing practices have changed to better incorporate contemporary technology, not just with shifting everything from print to digital. While Media Specific Analysis focuses on practices and works of the last fifty years or so, it can still be applied to classical forms of printing. For example, Tim DeForest takes the importance of material culture and emerging technologies from print to film and even radio in his work.
Reader Reception Theory: Theorists like Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco, Wolfgang Iser, and Stanley Fish have written extensively about the importance of the reader in relation to the author and the literary work. The ability to react individually or come together as a reading community places readers not just as the receiver of the author’s work, but one who can determine its importance and even survival. Since serial works are published in installments, a lack of interest through sales translates into the series stopping abruptly, even if the story has a lot more information to be told. On the other hand, high levels of interest by readers make it so that additional installments continue to be made even after the narrative closure has been achieved for all of the characters. Readers’ expectations are a driving force in all forms of literature but serial fiction allows for their collective voice to reach the author before installments are published and have the potential to actively shape the narrative. Contemporary serials offer a high level accessibility between authors and readers through the form of social media. Webcomic cartoonists for example depend on a very high level on their readers, to the point that Tarol Hunt, author of Goblins, refers to them as his “e-maginary friends.”
Comics Studies: This particular critical theory almost encompasses each of the previous ones mentioned. The combination of print and image in one text pertains to Victorian serials and the illustrations that served as the cover for each installment, as well as the graphic narratives (like film, tv, graphic novels, and comics) of contemporary serials. The works of cartoonists turned theorists Will Eisner and Scott McCloud are essential towards understanding how one puts static words and images in motion through the act of reading. 1. Bal, Mieke. Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative. Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1988. Print.
2. Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2001. 1466-1470. Print.
3. —. The Pleasure of the Text. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: Hill and Wang, 1975. Print.
4. Bolter, David Jay. “Critical Theory and the Challenge of New Media.” Eloquent Images: Word and Image in the Age of New Media. Eds. Mary E. Hocks and Michelle Kendrick. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. 19-36. Print.
5. Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999. Print.
6. Bryant, John. The Fluid Text: A Theory of Revision and Editing for Book and Screen. Ann
Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002. Print.
7. DeForest, Tim. Storytelling in the Pulps, Comics, and Radio: How Technology Changed Popular Fiction in America. Jefferson: MacFarland, 2004. Print.
8. Eco, Umberto. The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts. 1979. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984. Print.
9. Fish, Stanley E. “Interpreting the Variorum.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2001. 2071-2089. Print.
10. Foucault, Michel. “What Is an Author?” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2001. 1622-1636. Print.
11. Hayles, N. Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008. Print.
12. —. Writing Machines. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002. Print.
13. Herman, David, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Narrative. New York: Cambridge, 2007.
14. Iser, Wolfgang. “Interaction between Text and Reader.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2001. 1673-1682. Print.
15. McGann, Jerome J. The Textual Condition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991. Print.
16. McQuillan, Martin, ed. The Narrative Reader. New York: Routledge, 2000. Print.
17. Mittell, James. “Film and Television Narrative.” The Cambridge Companion to Narrative. Ed. David Herman. New York: Cambridge, 2007. Print.
18. Murray, Janet H. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: The Free Press, 1997. Print.
19. Prince, Gerald. “Introduction to the Study of the Narratee.” The Narrative Reader. Ed. Martin McQuillan. New York: Routledge. 99-103. 2000. Print.
20. Ryan, Marie-Laure. “Toward a Definition of Narrative.” The Cambridge Companion to Narrative. Ed. David Herman. New York: Cambridge, 2007. 22-35. Print.
21. Shillingsburg, Peter L. From Gutenberg to Google: Electronic Representations of Literary Texts. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.
22. —. Resisting Texts: Authority and Submission. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997. Print.
23. Tanselle, G. Thomas. A Rationale of Textual Criticism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992. Print.
24. Todorov, Tzvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to Literary Genre. Trans. Richard Howard. 1973. Ithaca: Cornell, 1987. Print.
25. —. “Structural Analysis of Narrative.” Trans. Arnold Weinstein. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2001. 2099-2106. Print.
26. Eisner, Will. Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist. 1985. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. Print.
27. —. Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist. 1996. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. Print.
28. Elsaesser, Thomas and Malte Hagener. Film Theory: An Introduction through the Senses. New York: Routledge, 20. Print.
29. McCloud, Scott. Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels. New York: Harper Perennial, 2003. Print.
30. —. Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form. New York: Harper Perennial, 2000. Print.
31. —. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: Harper Perennial, 1997. Print.
32. Barnett, Brooke et al. An Introduction to Visual Theory and Practice. New York: Peter Lang, 2011. Print. Reading List #3 Victorian Serials

The practice of publishing works of fiction as serials gained tremendous popularity throughout the 19th century, especially during the Victorian era. Many classical and canonical works of literature started out as serials during that time but these texts are often read as standalone novels rather than their original multiple installment format. My research focuses on analyzing these works of literature first and foremost as serial texts, alongside editorial changes that took place between its original format and its conversion into a full length novel. The following list contains representative samples from some of the most well-known authors of 19th century England alongside secondary sources that help to illustrate the cultural context behind the production and reception of serials.

Perhaps one of the most famous authors whose name is almost synonymous with that of Victorian serial fiction is Charles Dickens. His novels are some of the most well known in the English language and most began as serials in literary magazines like Bentley’s Miscellany, Master Humphrey’s Clock, and Household Words where he served as writer and editor. While Dickens has many great novels that have been the subject of academic analysis, I focus on his first two serial works, Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, respectfully.I choose these two texts because they help show the process of narrative maturation, for the story as well as for the author, as time goes on and Dickens was honing his craft. Both novels were also shown in different formats throughout their publication, like the stage version of Oliver Twist that ran while the original installments were still being made. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that both works appeared simultaneously from February to November of 1837 and that neither had an installment in June of that period due to the death of Dickens’ sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth (Don Vann 61-62). While he is certainly not the first or the most prolific writer of serial fiction, Dickens is considered to be the codifier of many of the tropes found throughout serial publishing.

A number of different authors also provide additional texts within the serial publishing tradition. Some like William Thackeray, Wilkie Collins, and Anthony Trollope are renown for their extensive serial writing. I select some of their most well known novels, like The Newcomes, Man and Wife, and The Way We Live Now, respectively to demonstrate similarities and differences within their writing styles toward narrative production. Thackeray’s Vanity Fair also provides an interesting study of levels in authorship since he was the writer and the illustrator for the text. One need only look at one of the images that implies that Becky Sharp killed Jos, something that is barely suggested in the actual text. The illustrations that accompanied and served as the cover for many installments for Thackeray and many authors of the time show a for different forms of visual literacy for the readership to understand these serial texts.

The action/adventure genre is one that works well within the serial publishing format since cliffhangers are more easily intertwined into this type of work than say one of romance. While these texts were more popular with their intended readership of young males, many elements would carry over unto contemporary serials like those found in television shows and comic books. Two great works of serial fiction that served as an example for others to follow are Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Both texts deal with young protagonists suddenly being swept into a world of high seas adventure alongside sailors and pirates as they grow from boys into men. While this particular genre draws itself well within the serial format, it is worth noting that Treasure Island gained most of its popularity after it was published as a full novel.

The greatest example of a character centric serial wherein the protagonist goes on adventures time and time again in every story and every installment is that of Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote several collections of stories surrounding the mysteries solved by his literary detective. I focus on two of these collections. One of these texts is The Study in Scarlet, wherein the first adventures of Sherlock Holmes are told. The other selection is that of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, which has Doyle reviving his protagonist after he had officially died in a previous installment. This serves as one of the first moments of retroactive continuity being used to bring back a character by popular demand from a very vocal readership.

A number of female authors have also been selected to variety to the selection of readings. Writers like Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Ellen Wood are primarily known for their serial works. Interestingly enough, George Eliot is one of the greatest female Victorian novelists but her serial writing is considered to be of slightly lower quality than the rest of her work.

Since works of serial fiction are considered by many as a popular form of literature, it is important to go beyond the classical works of this era. Penny Dreadfuls are a type of literary magazine known for their sensational texts of relatively low quality. Two narratives from penny dreadfuls round up my primary works of literature to add variety to the selected readings and show a different style of serial. Varney the Vampire and Mysteries of London are particularly massive texts in that each contain over 200 chapters. Varney the Vampyre’s word count (around 660,000) is actually larger than that of War and Peace.

The remainder of this reading list consists of secondary texts that help in contextualizing various elements of that literary period. Some of these texts deal directly with aspects of serial publication at the time. J. Don Vann’s Victorian Novels in Serial serves as an index towards how many novels were originally published and any discrepancies between the first and subsequent printings of a particular text. Robert Patten’s article, “When Is a Book not a Book?” focuses on Dickens’ Oliver Twist and how the serial reading experience of its original publication is quite different than contemporary reception. Frederic G Kitton’s book, Dickens and His Illustrators, shows the complex relationship between levels of authorship, especially when the illustrators start taking credit for the entire premise of the book; such as in the case of George Cruikshank, illustrator for Oliver Twist, who claimed that it was his idea and drawing that made the story focus on Fagin rather than Oliver. Additional information on the importance of images for their narrative content can be found in Mary Leighton’s and Lisa Sutheridge’s article.

The remainder of the readings in this list contain further historical and cultural context towards narrative production and reader reception in that era. In addition, Michael Lund’s book and Christopher Prendergast’s book show the situation for serial fiction was like in the United States and France respectively. These texts help show that the conditions of serial fiction were not isolated to a particular geographical point in Western culture.
1. Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers.
2. —. The Adventures of Oliver Twist.
3. Thackeray, William. Vanity Fair.
4. —. The Newcomes.
5. Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure Island.
6. Rudyard Kipling. Captains Courageous.
7. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A Study in Scarlet.
10. —. The Return of Sherlock Holmes.
11. Varney the Vampyre: or; The Feast of Blood.

12. Wilkie Collins. Man and Wife.
13. —. The Woman in White.
14. Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Lady Audley’s Secret.
15. Elizabeth Gaskell. My Lady Ludlow.
16. George Eliot. Middlemarch.
17. Ellen Wood. East Lynne.
18. Anthony Trollope. The Way We Live Now.
19. Reynolds, George W.M. Mysteries of London.
20. Law, Graham. Serializing Fiction in the Victorian Press. New York & Hampshire, UK: Palgrave, 2000. Print.
21. Lund, Michael. America’s Continuing Story: An Introduction to Serial Fiction, 1850-1900. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1993. Print.
22. Hughes, Linda K. and Michael Lund. The Victorian Serial. Victorian Literature and Culture Series 8. Charlottesville: Virginia, 1991. Print.
23. Leighton, Mary Elizabeth and Lisa Sutheridge. “The Plot Thickens: Toward a Narratological Analysis of Illustrated Serial Fiction of the 1860s” Victorian Studies 50.1 (2008): 65-101. Print.
24. Kitton, Frederic G. Dickens and His Illustrators. New York: AMS, 1975. Print.
25. J. Don Vann. Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: MLA, 1985. Print.
26. Robert L. Patten. “When Is a Book not a Book?”
27. Richard Altick. The English Common Reader.
28. Andrew King and John Plunkett. Victorian Print Media Reader.
29. Prendergast, Christopher. For the People by the People? Eugene Sue’s Les Mysteres de Paris–A Hypothesis in the Sociology of Literature. 30. O’ Gorman, Francis, Ed. A Concise Companion to the Victorian Novel.


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