Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in a workshop on “Popular Seriality” put together by Jason Mittell, Frank Kelleter, and the Popular Seriality research unit at the University of Göttingen. The workshop was relatively small, and so it produced a great set of conversations among scholars working on contemporary television series, twentieth-century film sequels and comic book series, nineteenth-century serialized novels, and more.
In a panel discussion at the end of the first day, someone asked, if the workshop was focused on aspects of “popular seriality,” what would constitute unpopular seriality?
“Scholarship,” someone immediately joked.
Needless to say, this struck home. I’ve written some about the blog as a return to serial form in publishing, focusing on its relationship to early forms that the novel took. Others have connected blogs doing public, political work to the periodical essays of the 18th century, including those in publications such as the Tatler and the Spectator.
In both cases, these arguments address the conventional notion of the popular, exploring the comparatively new platforms for unfolding narrative or argumentation in direct engagement with a public, however broadly understood. And in some ways, these arguments acknowledge the more politically inclined senses of popular culture as encompassing less that distributed to the people (which is more properly “mass culture”) than that arising from them; in both the blog as periodical and the blog as serial narrative we find authors able to make their way around entrenched mechanisms of production and distribution in order to get their writing directly to readers.
So I’ve been pondering what it is that makes scholarship “unpopular seriality,” and the role that blogs might be playing, and might continue to play, in helping us begin to rectify this situation. I’m going to write a bit more about this over the next few days — serializing the process of thinking through the question, because I can imagine several different directions for this exploration, and I want to give each of them enough time and space to play out.
That’s one of the ways that the blog can support serial scholarship, right there.