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Serialisations in the language class

September 10, 2015 by Maria Cleary

What is serialisation? And why are we telling you about it?

In a previous blog we defined serialised stories as ‘series’, similar to our television series today. Serialised novels typically have lots of chapters and an exciting plot with lots of drama. They are real page turners, making readers hungry for the next chapter.

This sounds like the perfect menu for a tasty new meal at the beginning of the school year, starter, main and sweet course all included, guaranteed to get your students reading as they mean to go on for the rest of the school year.

Now, here’s the more serious, background history bit: the preparation for the meal.

Serialised fiction rose in popularity during Britain’s Victorian age (1837-1901), due to a combination of the rise of literacy, technological advances in printing and improved means of distribution. Many novels from the Victorian age actually first appeared in either monthly or weekly instalments in magazines or newspapers. It is generally thought that the great success of Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, first published in 1836, established the format properly.

Then, on to the next part, the reasons why we are blogging about serialisation: the recipe and the ingredients for the meal.

Dickens was a prolific writer and he was also the editor and publisher of the weekly magazine All the Year Round. This magazine featured general interest articles as well as serialised novels by various authors.

In 1860 Dickens chose to publish his novel Great Expectations in his weekly magazine All the Year Round rather than in the traditional monthly parts in other magazines in order to revive dropping sales of the weekly. The novels (not by Dickens) serialised immediately preceding Great Expectations, was not popular with readers, producing the sales drop.

Dickens’ decision to publish Great Expectations in the weekly magazine led to a more tightly written novel, without the multiple subplots which were a key feature of Dickens’ longer novels. Publication in the weekly magazine revived sales of All the Year Round and produced a novel distinctly different than if it had been published monthly.

Another great and famous example of serialisation of the time are Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories of Sherlock Holmes, originally created for serialisation in The Strand Magazine. The serialisation of Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901-02) saw sales of The Strand Magazine reach their peak. Readers even queued up outside the magazine’s offices, waiting to get the next instalment.

The meal itself.

Interestingly enough, two of this year’s Helbling Readers Classics titles, soon to be available in the Red and Blue series at level 2 and 4, are …. wait for it …. The Boscombe Valley Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle (a short story from the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, published in October 1892 and is one of 12 stories published in The Strand Magazine between July 1891 and June 1892) and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens!

Links to other examples of serialisation in Helbling Readers Classics series are:

Frances Mariani is editor of the Helbling Readers Classics and Fiction series. 

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