A Graduate Course on the Victorian Novel
Sequels, prequels, and adaptations dominate our current entertainment industry and are often cited as signs of the demise of creative innovation. However, the art of continuation has a long and rich history. In the nineteenth century, many readers celebrated continuations for adding new, original material to the novel. The Victorian novel’s signature forms—the serialized novel, triple-decker, and series fiction—each invite continuation, prompting readers to pursue the story beyond the pages in their grasp. In this course we will examine several different forms of continuations—theatrical adaptations, embedded texts, sequels, and so-called plagiarisms. We will begin by visiting the Burns library, where we will examine the original forms of our readings to explore the role of continuation in the construction and dissemination of the novel. With the aid of theories of narrative and adaptation, as well as histories of the book, we will gain a better understanding of the history of reading, the nature of the Victorian novel, and the enduring popularity of sequels.
- To identify and analyze the types, functions, and structures of continuations
- To examine the history of reading and the structure of the book industry
- To reflect on the Victorian period’s influence on our current reading culture
- To advance critical discussions in history of the book, narratology, adaptation studies, and literary criticism
- To investigate intertextual and intermedial relationships
- To develop writing and research skills
SERIAL READING PROJECT
In our first week, we will begin a reading project that will extend through the semester. We will read Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White serially—one installment per week (except for a concentrated study in weeks 6 and 7)—in its original form in All the Year Round (available at http://www.djo.org.uk/). Rather than reading each installment in isolation, we will read other texts published in the installment. This project will help us understand the intertextual nature of the weekly serial and the reading rhythm it produced. Each week you will post your thoughts about the installment on Blackboard, paying careful attention to moments that you want to be continued. We will begin each class by discussing the week’s All the Year Round (ATYR) reading, before moving on to discuss the other assigned reading.
In addition to contributing to class discussion, you will complete three assignments:
- Students will be responsible for guiding a portion of a class meeting. Working in pairs, you will lead approximately 30 minutes of class discussion. On this day, each presenter will also submit a short paper (of no longer than three double-spaced pages). This paper will be focused around a simple three-question drill. At the top of each of the three pages, you will articulate a single question, which you will then go on to explore on that page. Each paper needs to include one question addressing each of the following topics:
- A question internal to a single text assigned for that day’s reading
- A question that sets two or more of the day’s readings in dialogue with one another
- A question that sets one of the day’s readings in dialogue with one or more readings from previous class periods.
- Students will write a proposal for their seminar paper. The proposal should engage concepts from the course, but can be on topics/texts of your own choosing. This proposal should be no more than 500 words and should also include a bibliography. The proposal should state the question you will address, and explain how that question emerges from particular texts. The bibliography should include all the texts (primary and secondary) that you think will help you work out your ideas. The proposal and bibliography will be circulated to all students in the class for in-class discussion.
- Finally, students will write a seminar paper of roughly 20 pages. I encourage you to think of this paper as a draft of a potential article for publication.
Alternate Assignment Option: If you are not interested in preparing an article for publication, we can discuss other possible assignments. One option would be to create a digital edition of a text (in the public domain) that includes an appendix of continuations with your commentary. Using myebook, espresso, or another similar service, you can include media links, cover art, illustrations, etc. The edition should also include an introduction. Another possible option, if you are creatively-inclined, would be to create your own continuation. If you choose this option, you will also need to submit a paper in which you explain your authorial choices, set your creation in dialogue with other existing continuations, and engage theories from the course. We can also discuss pedagogical projects that integrate continuations into the classroom.
Possible Texts/Topics of Interest:
If you are in need of inspiration for your paper, I have listed a few texts/topics below that speak to the concepts and texts we will be discussing throughout the semester. Early editions of most of the works listed are available in the Burns or nearby libraries.
- Other Victorian sequels: Through the Looking Glass, “A Sequel to Vanity Fair,” The Untold Sequel of the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Tom Brown at Oxford, A Sequel to Don Juan, Gwendolyn: or, Reclaimed, Martin’s vagaries; being a sequel to “A tale of a tub,” Alice; or, The mysteries. A sequel to “Ernest Maltravers”
- Completions to unfinished novels (Mystery of Edwin Drood, Denis Duval, Emma)
- Series fiction: the Waverly novels, Palliser novels, Barsetshire Chronicles, Ayesha series, Allan Quatermain series
- Continuations from other periods: The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Don Quixote Part 2, The New Testament, Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Joseph Andrews, Wide Sargasso Sea, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
- Satire and Parody
- Modern film/television adaptations
- Neo-Victorian fiction
- History of reading
- Fan cultures and fan fiction
Unit 1: History of the Book and Reading
Week 1: Introduction to Forms of the Victorian Novel
- Flint, Kate. “The Victorian Novel and its Readers.” The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel. Deirdre David. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001. 17-36.
- Installment 1 of Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White in All the Year Round 31
Week 2: Victorian Reading Practices
- The complete issue of All the Year Round 32: (Installment II of The Woman in White; Henry T. Spicer’s “Real Horrors of War;” “How to Make Money;” James Macfarlan’s “The Midnight Train;” “The Elephant at Home;” “Economy in Sheepskin;” and “A Physician’s Dreams”)
- Dames, Nicholas. The Physiology of the Novel: Reading, Neural Science, and the Form of Victorian Fiction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. (selections)
- Ablow, Rachel. The Feeling of Reading: Affective Experience and Victorian Literature. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010. (Introduction)
Week 3: The Monthly Serial and its Illustrations and Realizations
- Dickens, Charles. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1838-1839) Installments 1-10 (chapters 1-33).
- Stirling, Edward. Nicholas Nickleby; or, Doings at Do-the-Boys Hall! A Farce in two acts. (1838).
- Meisel, Martin. Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial, and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth-Century England. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1983. (Chapter 13: “Novels in Epitome”)
- ATYR 33 (WIW and selections)
Week 4: The Monthly Serial and its Adaptations
- Dickens, Charles. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Installments 11-20 (Chapters 34-65).
- Stirling, Edward. The Fortunes of Smike; or, a Sequel to Nicholas Nickleby (1840).
- Dickens, Charles. Public Reading of “Nicholas Nickleby at the Yorkshire School”
- Andrews, Malcolm. Charles Dickens and His Performing Selves. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. (selections)
- ATYR 34 (WIW and selections)
Week 5: Plagiarisms
- “Pos.” The Nickleby Papers (1838) (selections).
- “Guess.” Scenes from the Life of Nickleby Married (1840). (selections)
- “James, Louis. Fiction for the Working Man. Middlesex: Penguin University Books, 1974. (Chapter 4)
- MacFarlane, Robert. Original Copy: Plagiarism and Originality in Nineteenth-Century Literature. Oxford UP, 2007. (Introduction and selections from Chapter 2)
- Genette, Gerard. Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree. transl. Channa Newman & Claude Doubinsky. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997. (selections)
- ATYR 35 (WIW and selections)
Unit 2: Narrative Structures
Week 6: Characters
- Woloch, Alex. The One vs. the Many. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2003. (selections)
- Brewer, David. The Afterlife of Character, 1726-1825. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005. (selections)
- ATYR 36-40 (WIW and selections)
Week 7: Narrative Gaps
- Prince, Gerald. “The Disnarrated.” Style 1 (1988): 1-8.
- Wolfgang Iser “The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach.” New Literary History2 (1972): 279-299.
- Brantlinger, Patrick. “What is ‘Sensational’ about the ‘Sensation Novel.’” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 1 (1982): 1-28.
- ATYR 41-44 (WIW and selections)
Week 8: Fictional Worlds
- Trollope, Anthony. Barchester Towers (1857). Vol. 1 (chapters 1-19)
- Pavel, Thomas. Fictional Worlds. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989. (selections)
- ATYR. No. 45 (WIW and selections)
Week 9: Research Interlude
Unit 3: The Series
Week 10: The Triple-Decker
- Trollope, Anthony. Barchester Towers (1857). Vol. 2 (chapters 20-34)
- Griest, Guinevere L. Mudie’s Circulating Library and the Victorian Novel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970. (selections)
- ATYR 46 (WIW and selections)
Paper Proposal Due
Week 11: The Series
- Trollope, Anthony. Barchester Towers (1857). Vol. 3 (chapters 35-54)
- Trollope, Anthony. The Warden (1855) (chapters 1-3 and 19-21)
- Poovey, Mary. “Trollope’s Barsetshire Series.” The Cambridge Companion to Anthony Trollope. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. 31-43. (selections)
- ATYR 47 (WIW and selections)
Week 12: The Return
- Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) (selections)
- Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905) (selections)
- ATYR 48 (WIW and selections)
Week 13: Recent Continuations and Adaptation Theory
- BBC’s Sherlock (2010) or Robert Doherty’s Elementary (2012)
- Leitch, Thomas. “Twelve Fallacies in Contemporary Adaptation Theory.” Criticism2 (2003): 149-171.
- Sanders, Julie. Adaptation and Appropriation. New York: Routledge, 2005. (selections)
- Saler, Michael. As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. (selections)
- ATYR 49 (WIW and selections)
Week 14: Endings
- ATYR 50 (WIW and selections)
- MacDonagh, Gwendolyn and Jonathan Smith. “‘Fill up All the Gaps’: Narrative and Illegitimacy in The Woman in White.” The Journal of Narrative Technique. 3 (1996)
- Kermode, Frank. The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1967. (selections)
Week 15: Wrap-up and Discussion of Final Projects
Final Papers Due