Downton Abbey

I feel a little shamefaced posting about Masterpiece theatre, but I can’t be the only Victorianist out there watching Downton Abbey.  I think overall the first season was a little stronger than the second, but have enjoyed every episode nonetheless.

I wondered as I was watching the first season if the disability themes were meant to be educational.  There was a fair bit of didactic content meant to teach history in the first couple of episodes.  For example, the valet would iron the newspaper and explain to the new maid that it was so the master wouldn’t soil his hands with ink.  One major plot in the first season was the scheming to get rid of the valet, Bates, on the spurious grounds that his limp made him unable to fulfill his duties.  The cook also accidentally swapped salt for sugar, endangering her job by revealing that she was going blind.  (Her sight seems to have recovered this season.)  I wondered as I watched these incidents if they were supposed to point out to a twenty-first century audience the precariousness of employment as a servant in the early twentieth century, when you could be turned out after years of service with nothing, depending on your master’s goodwill. Continue reading “Downton Abbey”

Where is the Text in Textual Materialism?

"It's a great cake. A bride-cake. Mine!" Image from Harper's weekly serialization of Great Expectations. (Scanned by Philip V. Allingham).

As a scholar working in the field of Deaf Studies who thinks daily about the fraught triangulation of written language, signed language and spoken language, I was intrigued by Bill Brown’s recent call to “extend textual materialism beyond the manuscript and the book and to expand the ways of locating physical detail in a sign system, which is how we make matter mean” (25). Brown issues this call in an introduction to a series of articles on textual materialism in the January 2010 issue of PMLA in which he traces the complementary and contradictory ways that book history, “theory,” digitality, and thing theory/material culture studies combine. Continue reading “Where is the Text in Textual Materialism?”

Serialized Reading, in Two Parts. Part II.

A Guest Post by Emily Simmons

One of the fun things about posting with a title like this one is that I knew I was coming back to it sooner or later.  Well, The Law and the Lady is finished, and we’ve had another meeting to discuss its attractions (many) and repulsions (some, yes).  Of the serialized reading experience I have little else to say. At the end of my forced hiatus I finished the novel in one gulp; it certainly wasn’t lacking in page-turning sensation.  Continue reading “Serialized Reading, in Two Parts. Part II.”

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”

Serialized Reading, in Two Parts. Part I.

A guest post from Emily Simmons

Currently I am both reading and not-reading Wilkie Collins’s The Law and the Lady.  Our Nineteenth-century reading group has undertaken an approximation of the serialized reading experience this summer with a sensation novel. The novel was originally serialized in weekly installments in The Graphic between September 1874 and March 1875.  Continue reading “Serialized Reading, in Two Parts. Part I.”