I could probably manage running something simpler, and I have my eye on doing another nineteenth-century novel in instalments. Not another epistolary novel with a back-and-forth time scheme, those are the ones which are much more work, simply two or three chapters a week posted straight, in the style of Carmilla but in a dedicated community. Many nineteenth-century novels were originally serialised, so this would be quite close to the original reading experience.
At first I thought of Wilkie Collins, say The Moonstone or The Woman in White. Both of these have multiple narrators, which would allow the fun of having different character journals again. However, something I'd quite like to try this time round is linking to Librivox online free recordings of the text, so that people could listen to their chapters instead of reading them if they chose. The folks at Librivox are in middle of recording both of those novels, and I'd quite like to leave them until they're available as audiobooks.
My next thoughts were Austen's Mansfield Park and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, both popular texts which give plenty to talk about, and both available on Librivox. At the moment, I'm leaning towards the Austen, perhaps running the Bronte afterwards. Here's why.
* Austen is incredibly popular, so I'm not worried about attracting readers. However, MP is one of her less well-known novels, so people are less likely to have already done it to death in class or whatever. The heroine, Fanny Price, isn't as sympathetic as other Austen heroines, but you don't read MP in order to sympathise with the heroine (most people prefer the charming and slightly amoral Crawfords instead). You read it because it's absolutely fascinating . The relationships are complex and not a little screwy, including lots of strange proxy wooings with some hints of lesbianism and lots of of barely-sublimated incest, there's plenty of sharp-cutting satire, the younger characters attempt to put on a play and all sorts of scandal ensues, there are class issues all over the shop including a highly-praised portrayal of a struggling sailor's family, and there's a joke which refers to the practice of sodomy in the navy.
* There are some lovely resources out there which we could integrate into our discussions. One of my favourites is the full e-text of Lovers' Vows, the play which the novel's characters decide to give an amateur performance of. The play is short, amusing, intriguing, and incredibly useful for understanding MP. At the moment, I'm thinking of having the occasional week's break for discussion posts, during which I could open up the community posting access, before going back to the usual format where the mods post the novel extracts.
* The chapters are of much more uniform length than in the Bronte, and generally a lot shorter. The novel is about the same length as Dracula, just over 3/4 the length of Jane Eyre, and has 48 chapters instead of JE's 38. MP chapters are about the length of the longer diary entries in Dracula, though thankfully with shorter paragraphs! JE chapters start at that length but go up to double that. That's quite a large chunk of reading to be doing at once on a screen.
* There's a good e-text I can copy from which makes the italics stand out even when skimming. This makes life easier for me, and anyone whom I might talk into co-modding the place, so it's more likely to run smoothly.
So what do people think? Would a serialised reading of Mansfield Park attract people? Is there anyone interested in helping me run this? ETA: co-mod now found in the person of elfbystarlight. For the students among you, is it worth waiting another week or so for people to finish exams, or could we start more or less immediately? I'd probably set up a community for serialised novel readings, so that once one novel is done, another could be begun if people wished. How many chapters a week would people like? Two or three strikes me as good. We can call the character journal mansfield1814 in line with the usual form we've used for these reading groups, but we're currently a bit stuck on names for the community. Any suggestions?