Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The afterlife of fiction: Reprinting the nineteenth-century British novel
by Aitken, Kristen Tate, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2008, 262; 3317647
Abstract (Summary)

Despite growing attention to the material history of the nineteenth-century British novel, what I call the "afterlife of fiction"—the reprint history of major novels in the nineteenth century—has been virtually ignored. The industrialization of printing brought enormous changes to the structuring principles of the literary field. Despite these changes, publishers and authors remained loyal to the format of first-edition fiction established in the 1820s and 1830s. It is only when we examine reprints that we see authors and publishers responding to the dramatic changes in the literary marketplace, experimenting with different formats and prices. Examining these reprints in detail provides us with a fuller picture of the literary field in the nineteenth century and allows us to envision new interpretive strategies for familiar works.

I examine a range of reprinting practices across the nineteenth century, beginning with an investigation of the popular fiction reprint series of the 1830s and 1840s. These series established a "reprint canon" of early-nineteenth-century fiction that kept now-canonical novels such as those by Jane Austen, as well as seemingly outdated subgenres, alive well into the Victorian period. Second, I trace the impact of the industrialization of printing through an examination of the multiple collected editions of the work of Charles Dickens. Dickens's underlying unease with industrial publishing, I argue, can be traced thematically in his novels, as he shifts his attention from convivial oral storytelling to complicated and oblique textual transmission. Next, I explore the Victorian novel as a global product, focusing on the international market for Anthony Trollope's novels. Trollope's British publishers largely ignored both the economic potential and the new models of the global marketplace, even as Trollope explored the spread of British literature and culture across the globe in his novels and travel writing. Finally, I consider the collection of the novel in an author's complete works, using George Meredith as my primary example. Meredith's sudden popularity at the end of the century and his publishers' response to that popularity, I argue, are related to a growing division in the literary marketplace between elite works and products for the masses.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Marcus, Sharon
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 69/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: British and Irish literature
Keywords: Austen, Jane, Book history, British, Dickens, Charles, Meredith, George, Nineteenth century, Novel, Reprint history, Trollope, Anthony
Publication Number: 3317647
ISBN: 978-0-549-65737-8
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