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THE SHORT STORY COMPOSITE Acumen
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Copyright Kathryn Grace Matheny 2012, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. While the story cycle form has been popular for centuries as seen in works like The. Decameron and One Thousand and One Arabian Nights it is especially important to modern. Anglo American literature Twentieth century short story composites by James Joyce. Sherwood Anderson and Ernest Hemingway represent high points not simply for the. genre but also for modernist literature Despite the centrality of these texts to the genre. and to the period the connection between time and form has often gone unexplored. Indeed short story composite theory is still a bit unfocused defining itself in reaction to. the genres with which the composite is often confused especially the novel While it is. important to disentangle the short story composite from these other genres paradoxically. it is counterproductive even harmful to do so without acknowledging the ways in which. they do undeniably overlap Particularly a refusal to draw comparisons between. modernist novels and short story composites represents a missed opportunity to consider. the field of modernist narrative holistically, Clearly a more nuanced articulation of short story composite theory is necessary It. would provide clarity for composite works and help articulate the structural properties of. composite narrative more generally a concern central to understanding modernist. narrative practice Through examining works that range from high to low to popular I. argue that the short story composite encompasses a variety of forms and modes of writing. but displays similar central characteristics organic to the period The first two chapters. work to situate the debate within various dovetailing contexts including the history of the. short story genre in the nineteenth century as well as the twentieth century shift of literary. and critical production to the academy Another chapter will also identify the concept of. textual autonomy as an especially problematic aspect of composite narrative theory. determined as it is by those contexts that shaped the genre and its criticism Finally a final. chapter interrogates the relationship between modernity and narrative through the lens of. WWI fiction Writers discussed include Joyce and George Moore Anderson and. Hemingway Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder Sarah Orne Jewett John Steinbeck and. Willa Cather and John Dos Passos William March and e e cummings. DEDICATION, For Kathy Koenen Alissa Matheny and Roger Matheny who never made me. believe this was foolish or impossible, ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. This project would not have been possible without the guidance of my committee. and the support of my family and friends, I am the most grateful to Dr Fred Whiting for taking on a dissertation that ranges.
over so many fields of the discipline He helped me shape my ideas but more than that he. encouraged me to shape my own ideas and to have confidence in my ability to articulate. them His discernment patience and wit were crucial to the success of this project. I also thank the rest of my committee for their time and energy Dr Philip Beidler. had many useful comments on the shape and management of the project Dr Jolene Hubbs. provided a fresh perspective on my critical and rhetorical practices Dr James McNaughton. even in the early stages pointed me in productive directions and challenged me to dig. deeper Finally Dr Heather White never failed to remind me what it means to be a. confident scholar, Just as important however have been the perennially supportive attitude of my. family and the help of my friends who equipped me to face day to day challenges Dr. Austin Whitver has been the best sounding board a person could have and Brian Jones and. Sara Whitver provided excellent enduring essential moral support. ABSTRACT ii, DEDICATION iii, ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iv, INTRODUCTION 1. 1 The Divided Consciousness and the Legacy of the Short Story in Modernist. Narrative 22, 2 Narrative Control The Modern Artist and the Curious Collaboration of Gertrude Stein. and Thornton Wilder 85, 3 The Complex Nature of Textual Autonomy in Modern Narrative 139. 4 Dismantling the Machine Reassembling the Parts WWI Fiction and the Ends of. Composite Narrative 187, CONCLUSION 241, REFERENCES 245.
Introduction, The narrative form known as the short story cycle or short story composite1. occupies a shadowy position in contemporary criticism When the term is invoked to. describe a narrative tendency that is to serve as an adjective indicating a text s formal or. narrative idiosyncrasies it passes without objection and interrogation and without. contributing anything particularly helpful to our understanding of the work For example. James Nagel uses the term rather loosely in his introduction to The Contemporary American. Short story Cycle It is a convention that needs to be recognized and understood as not. simply ancillary to the more significant novel but as integral to literary history with an. ancient origin and a set of narrational and structural principles quite distinct from other. fictional modes 2 As admirable as this defense is Nagel is describing a convention and a. fictional mode one which stretches back thousands of years the term is merely an. adjective useful for classification When discussion turns to the short story composite as a. full fledged genre however it quickly becomes clear that there is a reason for the term s. typically broad use a widely applicable and theoretically rigorous theory of the short story. 1 While critical consensus seems to favor the use of short story cycle I will employ the. accepted but less popular label short story composite as it better reflects the multifaceted. nature of the genre s narrative structure which cannot be boiled down to cyclicality or. sequentiality, 2 James Nagel The Contemporary American Short story Cycle The Ethnic Resonance of Genre. Baton Rouge Louisiana State University Press 2001 10. composite has yet to be fleshed out There are many reasons for this not least of all the. nature of the genre itself Encompassing numerous formal strategies and narrative. approaches it does not lend itself to easy explanation not even in a critical environment. that all but dogmatizes multiplicity and ambiguity Still J Gerald Kennedy finds the critical. neglect of the genre inexplicable conjecturing Perhaps the very ambiguities that. complicate formal definition have likewise deterred theoretical reflection 3. A good illustration of the scope of the genre and the scope of the problem can be. found in the works of William Faulkner The Unvanquished published in 1938 has. sometimes been described as a story novel Arguably it shadows a central protagonist. and focuses on the exploits of a single family in Mississippi during the Civil War Its stories. are arranged chronologically and they sometimes follow each other in time so closely that. they might be chapters in a book yet each story is an independent fully rounded whole. Taken together they resonate in a way they otherwise might not The work originated in. serial publication with stories presented singly and in a slightly different order Only one. story An Odor of Verbena was especially written for the collected version ostensibly to. provide closure although several stories were revised so as to create more connections. between them 4 Go Down Moses on the other hand is a disparate collection of short stories. perhaps an incongruous accumulation of story clusters Published just four years after The. Unvanquished it follows several protagonists most but not all of which form branches on. one sprawling family tree despite their widely dissimilar races and socioeconomic. 3 J Gerald Kennedy introduction to Modern American Short Story Sequences Composite. Fictions and Fictive Communities ed Kennedy Cambridge Cambridge University Press. 4 Forrest Ingram Representative Short Story Cycles of the Twentieth Century Studies in a. Literary Genre The Hague Mouton 1971 106, positions Their narratives place them in settings from the country to the town to the. backwoods and though the stories are arranged in roughly chronological order the. tendency of the narrator to at any point range associatively over the expanse of the family. mythology creates a sense of dislocation in time and even setting Like its earlier. counterpart Go Down Moses was published serially with the exception of two stories. Was and The Fire in the Hearth which provide the rest of the stories with a contextual. introduction The Unvanquished and Go Down Moses represent different aesthetics the one. friendly to the general periodical reader5 and the other more inaccessibly modernist and. while one is progressive where the other operates on a principle of juxtaposition both can. be called short story composites These texts each trace the development of a family and. they were produced in the same way by combining pre existing pieces with new framing. stories which help tie them together 6, The way these stories are joined the way they cohere as works of art and the. degree of structural tension involved is the root of the genre question There is not much. tension to speak of in The Unvanquished echoing the beleaguered but mostly unified nature. of the book s featured clan the Sartoris family from Bayard to his independent cousin. Drusilla to ex slave Ringo his brother figure In comparing The Unvanquished with. Faulkner s novel about the family Sartoris Forrest Ingram argues Each story develops its. own central action but the significance of The Unvanquished accumulates from story to. 5 The stories save An Odor of Verbena were written in a simpler style prompting critic. Daniel Singal to exclaim How the reader is left to wonder could the same author who had. just risen to the heights of Modernist insight in Absalom Absalom be responsible for such. a vintage Civil War potboiler William Faulkner The Making of a Modernist Chapel Hill. N C University of North Carolina Press 1997 121, 6 For an account of the complicated composition history of Go Down Moses see Singal 261.
story through the achievement of successively higher viewpoints embodied in the. gradually maturing reflections and actions of Bayard Satoris 7 He also claims the. connection is not one of the strands of action but of strands of significance of myth. overlaying the discrete actions 8 Go Down Moses on the other hand provides nothing but. tension perhaps fitting for an account of the contentious multiracial McCaslin dynasty The. stories are so divergent that Daniel Singal ascribes this to artistic failure Part of the time. brilliant but in places conspicuously flawed it almost seems to consist of two books. written by the same author at different stages of his career 9 It has been easy to relegate. these works to other genres Go Down Moses serving as an excellent collection of modernist. short stories and The Unvanquished read as a novel specifically as a bildungsroman. Readers are especially eager to read short story composites as fragmented novels. including those as fractured as Go Down Moses In fact Faulkner himself called that work a. novel perhaps because he was bereft of any other way to indicate that it should be taken. seriously as a whole not merely as the sum of its parts 10. This kind of whole however is of a different type than that of the novel which is the. crux of the problem for short story composite theory John Gerlach describes the contrast. In a story cycle character begins to dissolve into theme people are not as. important as the forces which move them Time begins to become cyclical not. linear no longer under the sway of the strong force of sequential plot and individual. 7 Ingram 134, 8 Ingram 134, 9 Singal 262, 10 For a convincing reading of the work as a novel see Sandra Lee Kleppe Faulkner Welty. and the Short Story Composite in The Art of Brevity Excursions in Short Fiction Theory and. Analysis ed Per Winther Jakob Lothe and Hans H Skei. Columbia University of South Carolina Press 2004 172 80. character aspects that are so important to our sense of a novel The novel would. seem to stem from the Romantic and post Romantic conception of the individual. while the story cycle harks back to those older conceptions of man as actor in a. cosmic drama 11, The short story composite s de emphasis dispersal or lack of developmental focus allows. for other more holistic structuring devices Despite the critical consensus that conflating. the short story composite and the novel is inaccurate and damaging there are still those. who make theoretical arguments in support of such a reading Maggie Dunn and Ann. Morris suggest referring to the short story composite as the composite novel which would. allow for easier comparative analysis with works traditionally assigned to the novel genre. They argue that the use of short story in the genre descriptor not only implies inferior. status in the generic hierarchy but also prescribes or at least suggests generic limitation 12. Thus the lower position of the short story genre is allowed to dictate their view of the. short story composite rather than take it as all the more reason to come to the genre s aid. to elevate it on its own terms Other post structuralist criticism tends to follow Kennedy in. treating the short story composite like an unusual species of short story collection he uses. the genre term short story sequence to describe collections of th. adjective useful for classification When discussion turns to the short story composite as a full fledged genre however it quickly becomes clear that there is a reason for the term s typically broad use a widely applicable and theoretically rigorous theory of the short story

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