Active Audiences and Serial Fictions from Dickens to Soap Opera
In Consuming Pleasures jennifer Hayward establishes serial fiction as a distinct genre-one defined by the activities of its audience rather than by the formal qualities of the text. Ranging from installment novels, mysteries, and detective fiction of the 1800s to the television and movie series, comics, and advertisements of the twentieth century, serials are loosely linked by what may be called, after Wittgenstein, "family resemblances." These traits include intertwined subplots, diverse casts of characters, dramatic plot reversals, suspense, and such narrative devices as long-lost family members and evil twins.
Hayward chooses four texts—Dickens's novel Our Mutual Friend (1864-65), Milton Caniff's comic strip Terry and the Pirates (1934-46), and the soap operas All My Children (1970-) and One Life to Live (1968-)—to represent the evolution of serial fiction as a genre, and to analyze the peculiar draw serials have upon their audiences.
Although the serial has enjoyed great marketplace success, traditional literary and social critics have denounced its ties to mass culture, claiming it preys upon passive fans. But Hayward argues that active serial audiences have developed identifiable strategies of consumption, such as collaborative reading and attempts to shape the production process.
About the Author
"An excellent and much-needed study. . . . an important contribution to the study of genre as an interaction between texts and their readers."—Choice
"Hayward's section on Dickens is of substantial importance to readers of Dickens."—Dickens Quarterly
"Hayward's work breaks new ground in discussing the serial text."—JASAT
"Hayward aims to establish common features of mass-market serials across historical eras and genres, and to counteract scholarly dismissal of mass culture forms like soap operas, by elucidating audiences' active roles. She succeeds in both aims."—Nineteenth-Century Literature
"Hayward's thesis is a provocative one . . . a strong case is made here for the value of studying popular fiction in all its forms."—Ohioana Quarterly
Other Titles in SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural & Social