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Victorian Serial Novels

Victorian Serial Novels

Victorian Novels: The Carleton ReMix

March 29-August 31, 2010
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It may be the age of anything else people like, but assuredly it is the age of novels.
– Alfred Austin, 1874

Victorian novels, published well over 100 years ago, were more popular than today’s bestsellers. They shaped Victorian readers, education, printing practices, and social history, and they are renewed with every reader and reading, reprinted in new illustrated editions and as graphic novels, and reinterpreted in film versions, from faithful BBC adaptations to Tim Burton’s 2010 3D film of Alice in Wonderland.


In winter 2010, Carleton students from across the curriculum recreated Victorian novels by re-imagining key characters, re-creating illustrated serial editions of these literary classics, and re-animating Victorian social practices through book design and photography. This exhibition celebrates the creative collaborations between students in Susan Jaret McKinstry’s Victorian Novel class, Linda Rossi’s Photo I class, Laurel Bradley’s Curatorial Seminar, and Studio Art Professor Fred Hagstrom. Immensely popular, Victorian novels were often published monthly in illustrated serial editions of about 32 pages each, and then in three volume form. The students examined illustrated Victorian editions and artists’ books in Special Collections to see diverse possibilities for “the book” as a physical object that could take many forms, from leather-bound, gilt-edged Victorian codices to sculptural artists’ books. Fred Hagstrom, Professor of Studio Art, taught the Victorian Novel students how to make a double-pamphlet binding, and several students went back to the studio to learn additional binding techniques. Designing a form, selecting text from a Victorian novel, and deciding on illustrations, they created the fabulous illustrated serial editions you see here.

This exhibition is part of the “Book Arts” series, 2009-2010, sponsored by Viz (Visualizing the Liberal Arts). The related exhibit “Artists’ Books: Radical Messages, Revolutionary Means” in the Art Gallery was curated by the Curatorial Practices Seminar students.