Afterword [1][Record]

  • Lauren M. E. Goodlad

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  • Lauren M. E. Goodlad
    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

At the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, which I was fortunate to visit just before writing this afterword, a recent installation set out to illustrate the artist’s impact over a period of fifty years. Displaying Warhol’s works alongside those of 60 other artists, the exhibit featured a grouping entitled “Consuming Images: Appropriation, Abstraction, and Seriality.” As the accompanying catalogue explained, “Warhol’s democratic tendencies” made him a “promiscuous” consumer who “granted equal stature to all of his images regardless of their sources, from popular culture to art history” (Rosenthal et al. 183). Exemplifying this viewpoint were iconic works such as Warhol’s Baseball (1962) and Marilyn Monroe’s Lips (1962), Gerhard Richter’s Administrative Building (1964), as well as Andreas Gursky’s more recent Prada I (1996). The latter features an arrangement of designer shoes, backlit and displayed on the shelves of a platform in a tasteful shade of pale green. Viewing these works, I readily noted the give-and-take between artists “consumed by images” and determined to consume them in return through artful “appropriation” and “abstraction” from the worlds of sports, government, Hollywood, and designer fashion (183). But what was the element of “seriality,” I wondered? If that was harder for me at first to discern, it was doubtless because the term “seriality” had acquired particular resonances through my work on serial novels—those quintessentially Victorian artifacts—and, more recently, serial television, which, as Caroline Levine shows in the introduction to this special issue, has become a noteworthy feature of our turn-of-the-millennium culture. It is worth clarifying, however, that while the importance of seriality to Victorian studies is, by now, obvious to me, that realization did not grow out of my early training as a scholar and teacher. To be sure, my years in graduate school in the early 1990s coincided with the strong textual focus of the new historicism as opposed to the material object emphasis of, say, book history. Nonetheless, impressive scholarship on Victorian seriality was already available, including N. N. Feltes’s classic Modes of Production of Victorian Novels (1986); Linda Hughes and Michael Lund’s The Victorian Serial (1991); Robin Myers and Michael Harris’s Serials and Their Readers 1620-1914 (1993); and, eventually, Graham Law’s Serializing Fiction in the Victorian Press (2000) with its important focus on the newspaper serialization of non-realist genres. I suspect, therefore, that my inattention to seriality was less to do with methodology than with less mutable features of Victorianist study. As a graduate student preparing for oral examination, I reached such a fever pitch of reading that I took on The Princess Casamassima in little more than a day, hardly pausing to notice that the first readers for this baggy monster had patiently awaited the fourteen installments published in The Atlantic Monthly between September 1885 and October 1886. In the late 1980s, when I did my first stint as a teaching assistant, professors of the Victorian novel did not hesitate to devise undergraduate surveys in which students read triple-deckers such as Our Mutual Friend (May 1864-November 1865), The Eustace Diamonds (July 1871-February 1873), and Daniel Deronda (February 1876-September 1876) at a rate of about one every three weeks. As a new-minted assistant professor in 1995, I asked my students to read Bleak House (March 1852-September 1853) in four weeks. More than a decade later, while taking a break from the essays in this special issue, I turned to a piece in the New Yorker, in which George Packer describes his determination to readThe Way We Live Now. Noting that it took him almost as long to read this leviathan as it took Anthony Trollope to write it ...