Ex Libris Kirkland

Buy it from Amazon

Subtitle Active Audiences and Serial Fictions from Dickens to Soap Opera
First Written 1997
Genre Literary Criticism
Origin US
Publisher University Press of Kentucky
My Copy library copy
First Read December 16, 2017

Consuming Pleasures

This is a fairly academic look at how audiences use, interact with, and influence serial fiction - taking as case studies Charles Dickens and modern soap operas, among others. It's fascinating, providing a lot of 'huh-i-did-not-know-that' moments. What kills me about this book is that Hayward wrote this before the explosion of 'prestige TV' - before the Sopranos, LOST, Mad Men, GoT, etc - all the thriving examples of serial fiction with super, SUPER engaged audiences. Maybe there's a followup?

Noted on December 20, 2017

[quoting a review ..]
The form of publication of Mr. Dickens works must be attended with bad consequences. The reading of a novel is not now the undertaking it once was, a thing to be done occasionally on holiday and almost by stealth... Useful as a certain amount of novel reading may be, this [serialization] is not the right way to indulge in it. It is not a mere healthy recreation like a match at cricket, a lively conversation, or a game at backgammon. It throws us into a state of unreal excitement, a trance, a dream, which we should be allowed to dream out, and then be sent back to the atmosphere of reality again, cured by our brief surfeit of the desire to indulge again soon in the same delirium of feverish interest. But now our dreams are mingled with our daily business ... the new number of Dickens, or Lever, or Warren... absorbs the energies which, after the daily task, might be usefully employed in the search after wholesome knowledge.

Quoted on December 20, 2017

Indeed, as Terry Lovell notes in Consuming Fiction, panicked critique of new cultural forms is a time-honored tradition. She cites eighteenth-century terror of the novel's potential effects on morals and reading practices: "The moral panic it occasioned in the last quarter of the eighteenth century was merely the first of a series which occurred whenever a new cultural commodity made its debut. It was repeated in very similar terms in the twentieth century over cinema and then television, both of which were attacked as culturally debased and as tending to corrupt."

Quoted on December 20, 2017

As we shall see, these formal qualities tend to encourage particular ways of reading. Intertwined subplots work to unite disparate characters, overcoming differences of class, race, and gender and forming communities within the text that echo the reading communities outside it. Dramatic plot reversals retrospectively rewrite months of narrative, forcing audiences to acknowledge that all perspectives are partial, colored by place and context, and that we must seek knowledge of all points of view before making judgements.

[MK ed. This is why I say dickens taught me basic empathy...]

Quoted on December 20, 2017

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
Interested in talking about it?
Get in touch. You might also want to check out my other projects or say hello on twitter.