Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

  • Thursday, February 24, 2022 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm

Location: Zoom

What is a ‘chapter’ and what work does it perform in prose narrative? What kinds of durations, what experiential shapes, does a chapter tend to encapsulate? It’s not a question that novel theory or narratology has taken up, so banal or irrelevant has the chapter usually been considered. This talk proposes the chapter as a new object of analysis, and works through some of the methodological challenges and possibilities such an object presents.

Its central example is the novelistic chapter of Victorian fiction, considered both statistically and through some select examples; and its central observation is that the Victorian chapter tended toward a coordination with the timespan of the day. Some questions that this observation might open up: What is possible within a diurnal frame? What is thinkable within a unit (the chapter) that is limited to it? How was the chapter conceptualized by writers and actually implemented in the course of publication, and what does the diurnal chapter, as the most common unit within Victorian fiction, tell us about the synchronization of reading time and story time, the way chapters are naturalized and therefore rendered (almost) invisible? Finally: what longer trajectories might this peculiarity of Victorian fiction fit into—where else does the diurnal chapter appear? Studying the novelistic chapter and its way of segmenting time might produce some questions for us about the possibility, and possible usefulness, of longer historical durations when we think about literary form.


 Contact Molly Young for Zoom information.