Daniel Stein, "The Politics of Serial Storytelling: American City Mysteries and Popular Culture in the Antebellum Era"

April 18, 2013
All Day
Smith Lab 1048

The success of European feuilleton novels such as Eugène Sue's Les Mystères de Paris (1842-43) and George Reynolds's The Mysteries of London (1844-46) led to the emergence of an American popular genre of serial novels with political ambitions: the city mysteries by authors such as George Lippard, Ned Buntline, and George Thompson. The city mysteries combined revelatory sensationalist prose with melodramatic narrative techniques in order to propose socially-conscious moral reform agendas through the medium of popular literature. The talk will focus on the connections among serial storytelling, genre development, and political agitation, suggesting that the city mysteries performed vital cultural work in the antebellum era by politicizing the American public, negotiating conflicting conceptions of national identity, and popularizing serial forms of narrative that would shape modern American culture in the decades to come.

Daniel Stein is a research associate in the American Studies program (English Department) at the University of Göttingen, where his interests include comics and graphic narratives, African American literature and culture, jazz literature and jazz historiography, autobiography studies, teaching methodology, and theories of American media and popular culture since the 19th century. He is the author of Music Is My Life: Louis Armstrong, Autobiography, and American Jazz (2012). He is a co-editor, with Shane Denson and Christina Meyer, of Transnational Perspectives on Graphic Narratives: Comics at the Crossroads (2013) and, with Jan-Noël Thon, of From Comic Strips to Graphic Novels: Contributions to the Theory and History of Graphic Narrative (forthcoming June 2013).

This event is co-sponsored with Popular Culture Studies.