Drawing Serially

In her last post, Jennifer raised a number of possible connections between contemporary blogging and nineteenth-century serial writing. After reading a recent article by Mary Elizabeth Leighton and Lisa Surridge in Victorian Studies, “The Plot Thickens: Toward a Narratological Analysis of Illustrated Serial Fiction in the 1860s,” I think one of the ways that Victorian serial fiction may differ from contemporary blogging is in the complex and reciprocal relationship between serial writing and illustration. Continue reading “Drawing Serially”


Writing Serially

In the first chapter of his book Charles Dickens and His Performing Selves, Malcolm Andrews attends to the particular relationship that Charles Dickens had with his readers – both in his imagination and in theirs. Andrews discusses the influence of serialization on the relationship between writer and reader, drawing heavily on Hughes and Lund’s The Victorian Serial, to argue that “Dickens could use serialization as a means of intervening regularly in the lives of his readers, thereby creating in them a degree of reliance on himself…that matched his reliance on their affection and attention” (16). For Andrews, this particular and intimate reader-writer relationship set the stage for the remarkable popularity of Dickens’s public readings. Continue reading “Writing Serially”

I Dream of Luggage

Since the end of April, I’ve been houseless and thus not as productive as I was hoping I would be this summer. I won’t bore you with all of the details or complaints, but suffice it to say that my seemingly perpetual state of transition over the last few months (which has now come to a halt, thankfully, in Calgary) has been both incredibly annoying and somewhat insightful, at least regarding what I want to blog about today. Continue reading “I Dream of Luggage”

One Face From a Crowd

composite photographs
composite photographs

Fiona’s last post left me musing about Francis Galton’s composite photography. Galton proposed the process as a simple method, inspired by Herbert Spencer, for achieving a photographic average. In an article, “Composite Portraits, Made by Combining Those of Many Different Persons into a Single Resultant Figure,” Galton describes a method for exposing a photographic plate to several photographs, each containing the image of a face. The result, he suggested, “represents no man in particular, but portrays an imaginary figure possessing the average features of any given group of men” (132-133). He suggests, however, that his readers might be able recognize someone who is likely to commit a crime, based on that person’s resemblance to the composite photograph. Continue reading “One Face From a Crowd”

The Tensions of Neo-Victorianism

I recently taught Alasdair Gray’s Poor Things (1992) in an introductory-level English class. It is both a neo-Victorian novel and a postmodern rewriting of Frankenstein. There are many narrative strands, some of which refute one another, and it is a great example of what Linda Hutcheon calls “historiographic metafiction.” One of the narratives tells the story of Bella Baxter, a woman who is created by a love-deprived doctor named Godwin Baxter. Baxter finds a pregnant woman’s body after she has committed suicide by drowning and replaces her brain with that of her unborn fetus. She is now (creepily) the Victorian man’s dream: the body of a woman with the brain of a child. Continue reading “The Tensions of Neo-Victorianism”