Professor Zimmerman explained her serialization research for Bucknell Humanities Center

Michael Taromina, Assistant News Editor

On April 10, Professor of English Literary Studies Virginia Zimmerman shared research she conducted through the support of the Bucknell Humanities Center faculty research fellowship last year.

The BHC frequently hosts talks where the professors they fund to do research come to explain their findings to further the chance of publication. Since the COVID-19  pandemic, these talks have ceased. However, BHC officials said they are excited to resurrect them, and even more thrilled that Zimmerman was the one to begin the comeback. 

Zimmerman’s talk, titled “Time and Serial Narrative: Coming of Age in Homemade Magazines,” explored 19th and early 20th century child-authors, such as Louisa May Alcott, Lewis Carroll and the children of Robert Frost — who published stories serially. 

Serialization is the printing or publishing format by which a single larger work, often a work of narrative fiction, is published in smaller, sequential installments. Zimmerman analyzed the relationship between time, which is garnered by serialization, and narrative within this history of children’s literature.

She explained how narratives published in serial installments are fractured over time, introducing an intriguing temporal element into the text. This element is especially compelling when the text itself centers time, as in time-slip stories, particularly those aimed at a juvenile audience, characterized by its forward momentum in time. 

This talk highlights several serially published time-slip children’s stories of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and then examines children’s own creative efforts – magazines made at home by a teenaged Louisa May Alcott, the children of Robert Frost, and the boy who would become Lewis Carroll. These child-authors demonstrate robust and often humorous insight into periodical publication and the complex intersection of time and text.

One prominent text that Zimmerman deciphered in depth was Lewis Carroll’s “The Rectory Magazine.” She explained how the magazine was serialized and how her research on this specific publication was initiated due to her year to find specific “dates and month” on when this periodical was published. Her findings brought her to the realization that the production occurred within one month with short intervals, but it still is up in the air.

“Whether or not ‘The Rectory Magazine’ was serialized or did in fact appear as intervals, Carroll demonstrates a key awareness of duration as a key element of serialization,” Zimmerman said.

Another literary masterpiece brought up in Zimmerman’s talk was E. Nesbit’s “The Story of the The Amulet,” her favorite children’s narrative. Here, she discussed the timeline of its publication, the contents within the story, and how the concept of time-slip affects how children would read it and how the story is perceived as a whole.

To that, Zimmerman also brought up the slippery notion of coming-of-age, time, and serialization in her discussion of other works, such as Charles Dickens’ “The Holiday Romance” and Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.”

To end the talk, Zimmerman opened the audience, mainly her close colleagues and professors, to ask questions. Most of the questions delved into specific inquiries on Zimmerman’s research, and sparked intriguing conversations of the nature of time someone’s experience with a piece of literature, or in general, from a personal literary point of view. 

And while her research is finalized, Zimmerman made clear her interest in this topic is still extremely apparent, and will continue to search for answers.

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