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Reviewed by:
  • Transnationalism and American Serial Fiction ed. by Patricia Okker
  • Cynthia L. Patterson
Transnationalism and American Serial Fiction. Edited by Patricia Okker. New York: Routledge, 2012. 256 pp. $141.00.

Expanding her earlier work on serial fiction, as witnessed in Social Stories: The Magazine Novel in Nineteenth-Century America (2003), Patricia Okker has here edited a fascinating collection that highlights works found in American magazines published in ten different languages from the 1820s through the 1960s. The eleven chapters in this volume cover some monolingual and some bilingual [End Page 193] publications and include two separate chapters treating African American and English-language magazines, plus one chapter each devoted to French-, Spanish-, German-, Swedish-, Italian-, Polish-, Norwegian-, Yiddish-, and Chinese-language magazines.

In her introduction to the volume, Okker notes that "one of the central claims of this book is that these circulating stories and the periodicals in which they were distributed helped sustain—and transform—the transnational communities in which they arose" (3). Okker is quick to point out that, in spite of the digitization boom, nearly all of the serial stories analyzed in this volume are available, and in translation, for the first time. Moreover, although most of the magazines treated were quite popular in their linguistic communities, locating extant copies can prove to be very challenging, as libraries often failed to catalogue their holdings. However, Okker argues, the serial fiction in these publications proved essential to sustaining circulation of these magazines, regardless of how limited that circulation might have been. Organized chronologically, these essays broaden significantly our understanding of serial fiction published in the United States.

In Chapter One, "Caught between Continents: The Local and the Transatlantic in the French-Language Serial Fiction of New Orleans' Le Courrier de la Louisiane, 1843-45," Clint Bruce examines a series of four feuilletons (short tales) published in the daily bilingual newspaper. Bruce argues that the editor, Jerome Bayon, used the feuilletons in his first eighteen months at the helm to showcase local writers and shore up Creole identity in the face of an influx of non-French speaking immigrants to New Orleans that already threatened to marginalize Creole culture. Chapter Two, "Tracking the First Latino Novel: Un matrimonio como hay muchos (1849) and Transnational Serial Fiction," begins by rehearsing what author Kirsten Silva Gruesz calls the "cult of firsts"—attempts by scholars to mark the first African American novel, the first Mexican American novel, and so on. While cautioning against this cult of firsts, Gruesz nonetheless offers up her own trajectory of U.S. Spanish-language first novels suggested by the recent spate of scholarship in this area, adding to the list two earlier serial novels published in the New Orleans Spanish-language daily, La Patria. Gruesz focuses on one of these, the "A Marriage Like Many Others" of the chapter title, to draw connections between this serialized novel, stage melodrama, other sensational fiction, and the circulation of Spanish-language fiction in other similar periodicals.

Jean Lee Cole returns to the issue of African-American fictional firsts in her Chapter Three examination of Martin R. Delany's Blake: Or, the Huts of America, twenty-six chapters of which were first published in the Anglo-African Magazine in 1859, with the totality of the novel published again in the Weekly Anglo-African between November 1861 and May 1862. In "Mobility and Resistance in Antebellum African American Serialized Fiction," Cole argues that what sets Delany's serialized tale apart from its predecessors is the mobility of [End Page 194] its characters. In "Prose Pictures of Kleindeutschland: German-Language Local-Color Serials of the Late Nineteenth Century" (Chapter Four), Peter Conolly-Smith examines short fiction published in the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung, called by Conolly-Smith "the oldest and most successful German-language newspaper." The author of many of these tales, Johann Rittig, specialized in stories focusing on the habits and customs of German-Americans living in "Kleindeutschland" ("Little Germany"). Conolly-Smith argues that the editor of the paper enlisted original tales from Rittig to deflect attention from the fact that he was being sued by German publishers over his practice of republishing tales from German periodicals without paying a royalty...


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