Thursday, February 13, 2014

    A personal post seems fitting after such a long hiatus. Since passing my qualifying exam and becoming ABD in early June 2013, I have been working on the first chapter of my dissertation. Focusing on Anthony Trollope's series fiction, I have found myself caught in a bizarre literary-form/lived-experience spiral.
   Trollope's series fiction, like that of nearly every series novelist since (Hardy, Dorothea Richardson, Faulkner), drives readers onwards in a serial prolongation of desire and resolution. Sure, this or that novel ends with this or that generic resolution of the novel, but we want MORE on and on and on. And Trollope gives us that. Novel upon novel, we consume.
     My chapter commenced with the thought: I will write about the multi-novel series of Trollope and Hardy and their intersections with rural government reform between 1850-1890 -- because the scope of that literary archive and its historical span made sense for a chapter. I shelved Hardy after finishing the Wessex Novels. But I became addicted to Trollope. At first I jokingly called my attempts to read the Barsetshire novels by their original part installments my "daily Trollope." Cute, innocent scholarship.
    Eight months later as I wrap up the last of Trollope's Palliser novels, the second of two six-baggy-novel series, some 7,000 pages of mid-Victorian realist bliss, I now must face the truth. Not, "how the f--- do I write about this monster of monstrous novels," but rather, "what the hell happened to the last eight months?"
   Trollope, the series novel, will do this to you. Or at least me. I started my academic career with two series novels: Salinger's Glass novels and Faulkner's Yaknapatopha novels. Faced with the challenge of learning how to be a scholar all over again, I turned to my novel security blanket -- the series. It promised what any fledgling academic writer needs: deferral, delay, the denial of closure. First chapters take a year, we are told. Don't beat yourself up, you've got a year. For me, the series novel offered the literary form of this assurance. I could take longer because I had to read more . . . and more . . . and more.
    But it works out in the end. Because there must be an end to the series. Trollope waxed nostalgic when dropping the curtain on the Barsetshire novels. The Palliser Novel's Duke's Children did the same by embedding that sentiment in the reminiscences of Plantagenet Palliser. And my chapter will be written, but only because I have gone full circle just like the novels I love. I started with the series novel again, and again, and again.
   Like any addiction, it never seems to cease. My next chapter centers on Hardy's Wessex Novels. All of them. As a series.

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