In the early 1800s, books were largely unillustrated. By the 1830s and 1840s, however, innovations in wood- and steel-engraving techniques changed how Victorian readers consumed and conceptualized fiction. A new type of novel was born, often published in serial form, one that melded text and image as partners in meaning-making.
These illustrated serial novels offered Victorians a reading experience that was both verbal and visual, based on complex effects of flash-forward and flashback as the placement of illustrations revealed or recalled significant story elements. Victorians’ experience of what are now canonical novels thus differed markedly from that of modern readers, who are accustomed to reading single volumes with minimal illustration. Even if modern editions do reproduce illustrations, these do not appear as originally laid out. Modern readers therefore lose a crucial aspect of how Victorians understood plot—as a story delivered in both words and images, over time, and with illustrations playing a key role.
In The Plot Thickens, Mary Elizabeth Leighton and Lisa Surridge uncover this overlooked narrative role of illustrations within Victorian serial fiction. They reveal the intricacy and richness of the form and push us to reconsider our notions of illustration, visual culture, narration, and reading practices in nineteenth-century Britain.
A literary scholar and investment banker applies economic criticism to canonical novels, dramatically changing the way we read these classics and proposing a new model for how economics can inform literary analysis.
Every writer is a player in the marketplace for literature. Jonathan Paine locates the economics ingrained within the stories themselves, revealing how a text provides a record of its author’s attempt to sell the story to his or her readers.
An unusual literary scholar with a background in finance, Paine mines stories for evidence of the conditions of their production. Through his wholly original reading, Balzac’s The Splendors and Miseries of Courtesans becomes a secret diary of its author’s struggles to cope with the commercializing influence of serial publication in newspapers. The Brothers Karamazov transforms into a story of Dostoevsky’s sequential bets with his readers, present and future, about how to write a novel. Zola’s Money documents the rise of big business and is itself a product of Zola’s own big business, his factory of novels.
Combining close readings with detailed analyses of the nineteenth-century publishing contexts in which prose fiction first became a product, Selling the Story shows how the business of literature affects even literary devices such as genre, plot, and repetition. Paine argues that no book can be properly understood without reference to its point of sale: the author’s knowledge of the market, of reader expectations, and of his or her own efforts to define and achieve literary value.
During the 19th century, throughout the Anglophone world, most fiction was first published in periodicals. In Australia, newspapers were not only the main source of periodical fiction, but the main source of fiction in general. Because of their importance as fiction publishers, and because they provided Australian readers with access to stories from around the world—from Britain, America and Australia, as well as Austria, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, and beyond—Australian newspapers represent an important record of the transnational circulation and reception of fiction in this period.
Investigating almost 10,000 works of fiction in the world’s largest collection of mass-digitized historical newspapers (the National Library of Australia’s Trove database), A World of Fiction reconceptualizes how fiction traveled globally, and was received and understood locally, in the 19th century. Katherine Bode’s innovative approach to the new digital collections that are transforming research in the humanities are a model of how digital tools can transform how we understand digital collections and interpret literatures in the past.
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