It has been well established that serialization shapes a novel’s structure. Laurel Brake argues that the “relation … of the parts and the whole … bonds the Victorian serial and the Victorian book theoretically, formally, and historically.” Periodical scholars emphasize that examining Victorian periodicals allows for a unique historical and material perspective on serialized texts, as when James Mussell calls periodicals an “alternative form” of publication that offers a view into a novel’s “absent context.” Christopher Kent observes that Victorian periodicals have a “particular unity” that is “very different from that of the book”; the two unities are “differently constructed.” The “unity” of a periodical—both in its content and its material properties—is constructed from images, texts, and imagetexts working in concert to form a united whole, so that serialized novels carry visual associations. The process of volumizing serialized novels, then, divorces them from cultural and aesthetic contexts that significantly contribute to meaning-making.

The (De)collected War of the Worlds proposes that the “absent context” of Victorian serialized novels might be made more visible through digital “alternative forms” that place texts within historical and aesthetic contexts. The project offers “(de)collection” as an alternative to “edition,” which connotes a contained codex edited and formatted to conform to specific standards. “(De)collection,” as both verb and noun, evokes the paradoxical process of bringing together (i.e., collecting) a multitude of resources related to a serialized text so that the text can be un-volumized or de-collected, which is to say, freed of the notion that critical editions can be self-contained or authoritative.

TDWW draws inspiration from projects like the Collaborative Organization for Virtual Education (COVE; FKA Central Online Victorian Educator), Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (ncse), the Victorian Web, the Victorian Women Writers Project (VWWP), Visual Haggard, and The Yellow Nineties Online, and editions published by Scholarly Editing. However, it seeks to fully emulate none. The materials incorporated in this (de)collection of Wells’s novel include scholarly annotations, text comparisons across versions/editions, visual materials (digital facsimiles of relevant periodicals, images, and paratextual ephemera), historical and biographical information, maps, and links to outside resources.

Ultimately, this “differently constructed” “alternative form” of The War of the Worlds aims to:

    1. demonstrate that choosing to reject notions of origin, firstness, and completeness and instead embrace expansiveness and interconnectedness affords opportunities to (re)discover un- or under-discussed meanings within and surrounding Victorian serialized novels;
    2. offer a valuable, accessible resource—one that is text-to-speech compatible—for scholarship and pedagogy related specifically to H. G. Wells and The War of the Worlds; and
    3. provide a model for similar accessible (de)collections that could aid in scholarship and pedagogy related to other periodical texts, especially lesser-known works.

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